September 12th, 2013
07:40 PM ET
7 years ago

Gingrich: Putin is a dictator and a thug

(CNN) – Americans shouldn't let Vladimir Putin's opinions get under their skin because the Russian president is a one-time KGB officer whose primary interest is nationalism, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday.

"While we have to deal with him as the president of Russia, we don't have to respect his views. We don't have to respect his opinions," said Gingrich, co-host of CNN's "Crossfire."

"And frankly, we should laugh at him when he tries to lecture America about exceptionalism, because he ain't exceptional. He's just one more in a long tradition of dictators and thugs."

Putin rattled some Americans, including high-profile figures in Washington, when he argued in a New York Times op-ed against U.S. military intervention in Syria. In the final paragraph, he took issue with the idea of America being the proverbial shining city on a hill.

"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," he wrote.

His comment was a jab at President Barack Obama who said in a speech on Tuesday America has an obligation to respond to situations like the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"That's what makes us exceptional," Obama said.

Some were not amused by Putin's advice.

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez said on CNN the piece made him almost want "to vomit," and House Speaker John Boehner said he was "insulted."

Read: Vladimir Putin's comments on American exceptionalism, Syria cause a fuss

But Gingrich said Putin shouldn't be taken seriously.

"This is a guy who, for public relations purposes, wrestles bears. He shoots tigers, stripped to the waist, to prove he's a tough guy," he said.

The former House speaker pointed to Putin's history as a former intelligence officer for the KGB, where he worked from 1975-1992.

Gingrich also argued Putin was behind the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the conflict in Chechnya has killed thousands.

He expressed doubt the opinion piece was even written by Putin, saying it was likely penned by a Washington speechwriters.

"You can go through and read that document and you could find at every single stage find that it's a lie," Gingrich said. "For us to take it seriously is a sign that we have forgotten who Vladimir Putin is."

Filed under: Crossfire • Newt Gingrich • Russia
soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. Mike

    So now we have degraded ourselves to name calling. Really? Grow up already!

    September 12, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  2. Mark

    I often disagree with Newt. But over the years, I have discovered that I also often agree. On this point, he is absolutely right.

    September 12, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Gingrich is absolutely, positively correct about Putin.

    September 12, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  4. Steve Jobs

    I don't think the US Government is in any position to tell us what we should think. Not after that NSA nonsense.

    September 12, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  5. dan

    Pretty pathetic when Russia has more credibility than the US. Gingrich will say whatever AIPAC tells him to say.

    September 12, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  6. Vote

    It does not matter what president had done in the past but people of Rusia love him and elected him. Gingrich should had no part of attacking his personal life. No one was able to come up with any political resolution which to avoid war except president Puttin. Gingrich should keep his big mouth shut.

    September 12, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  7. TiredofThis

    "And frankly, we should laugh at him when he tries to lecture America about exceptionalism, because he ain't exceptional."

    Putin never claimed to be exceptional...

    September 12, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  8. norma jean

    OH come on Gingrich....... so Russias leader is a ""dictator and a thug".".....We've worked with a lot of those through the years just trying to keep out little corner of the world working!!!! You know that!!......In this particular case it may be our best option to turn to Mr, Putin for some assistance. It could be even to his long term advantage to take this position.DO WE REALLY HAVE ANOTHER CHOICE AT THIS TIME???

    September 12, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  9. mountainlady

    Good grief! This is awful!! I actually have to agree with Newt Gingrich on something! What is the world coming to?

    September 12, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  10. Susan

    Well then, by all means, let's not wait another day and attack Syria immediately and not care what side we end up hitting/hurting. Too bad our enemy makes more sense then our President or you for that matter. Any chance you are more concerned about losing wealth or seeing WW3 start up?

    September 12, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  11. Susan

    ...or for that matter YOU.

    September 12, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  12. GubnitSPY

    Tell you what Mr Grinch, you have no room to point fingers. pot meet kettle.

    September 12, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  13. erwin erwin

    Gingrich: Putin is a dictator and a thug...i bet he would not say that to his face...

    September 12, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  14. Gazork

    Please don't send Gingrich to Russia on a diplomatic mission.

    September 12, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  15. betty

    Never thought I would agree with Gingrich but he is on the money about Putin. No American should agree with him or take him seriously.

    September 12, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  16. Steve

    I trust Putin more than Obama and his little Side kick McCain.

    September 12, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  17. C. Escobar

    Chechnya always was a part of Russia, exactly the same as Texas. USA started wars in 8 countries in 12 years. So who is a real thug here?

    September 12, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  18. Bud

    Putin might be a dictator and a tough guy with bravado but, he sure put the brakes on Obama whom is a fraud and a liar. Can we call it a draw?.

    September 12, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    President Obama wasn't rattled by Putin – because our president knows that Putin is just trying to show he's a tough guy – even though Putin has been put in his place by the threat of American military action and "persuaded" to finally reign in his monster in the Middle East.

    September 12, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  20. scranton

    Well put Newt.

    September 12, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  21. NoBS

    English is not Putin's 1st language. I think what he mean't is that the US is not more important that other countries. Equality is a must in order to have peace. We need to not think we are "holier than thou". I believe that the fact that our politician's use religion sometimes to explain things, like Bush did, are making other countries that are not bible reading christian's cringe the way we cringe at say, Iran's, Ayatollay Khomeini(sp) type BS, where we cite BS instead of facts. Putin is going by facts most of the time though we don't agree with him.

    September 12, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  22. Herlocker

    Last week Assad said his country doesn't have chemical weapons. Doubtful they would give them up now. This is a play for time.

    September 12, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  23. Evergreen

    Putin is playing to the Russian people. He knows if he bashes America via the President some Americans will clap and cheer like trained seals. If the President appears weak to some maybe it is because he is walking around with a thousand knives in his back. Congratulations GOP you were h3ll bent on weakening this President. And you have the nerves to call youreelves real americans and patriots.

    September 12, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  24. Evelyn Connaway

    Gingrich calling Putin a liar – it takes one to know one. I think our stupid politicians should shut their big mouths and quit calling leaders of other nations names. It damn sure isn't a way to win friends and influence people. They have the same communication system America does and knows every derogatory remark that is made about them and their country – and people get their nose out of joint if they say something about America and its citizen. Putin is right, we are no different than people in other countries. Some are good and some are bad. We are no better, just as good as, but no better than citizens of other countries! Yes many of us believe in human rights, but we have many and especially some politicians who do not practice what the preach. They don't believe in all citizens of the United States having the same rights as they do. They need to take a good look in the mirror!

    September 12, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  25. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    I was beginning to respect this man (Newt Gingrich) and now comes this BS.

    Whatever we may say the fact remains that Putin is wildly popular in Russia, and he is doing a tremendous job of keeping race on track (economy, foreign policy etc.).

    The fact that he's a real tuff man and likes to show off (or the media and people want to see more of that!) has nothing to do with his policies.

    Yes, he's a former KGB agent, but he's also hugely pragmatic leader and a astute thinker.

    Putin was dead right in dealing with the ROGUE Republic of Georgian, and the TERRORIST Chechans.

    America in fact needs a leader like Putin!

    Enough of your BS Mr. Gingrich!

    September 12, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
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