VALDAI, September 19 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent op-ed in the New York Times was his own idea, he told a Valdai discussion club session on Thursday.
“The idea came to me quite by chance,” Putin said, during a question and answer session after his speech about Russia’s identity and values.
“I saw that President Obama brought the discussion about the possibility of attacking Syria to Congress and the Senate…I just wanted to convey to those people, who will have to form their own opinions on this problem, our own position – my own position.”
The president’s article, entitled “A Plea for Caution from Russia,” was published on September 11. It outlined Putin’s arguments against a military strike on Syria and expressed Russia’s commitment to a “civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”
Putin thanked the New York Times for agreeing to stretch its usual word limit and publish the piece “uncut,” and explained how it went through several rewrites.
Its publication was, he said, delayed until after Obama’s September 10 televised address. Obama concluded his speech by saying that “when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”
Putin took issue with this phrase, and rewrote his op-ed to say “it is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional.”
The op-ed seemed to hit a nerve, prompting media analyses and comments from lawmakers. US Senator Bob Menendez said it made him “almost want to vomit.”
US Senator John McCain called the article “an insult to the intelligence of every American” and responded with his own op-ed on Russian news outlet Pravda.ru’s website, published Thursday, accusing the Russian president of corruption, repression and bigotry.
At Thursday’s Valdai meeting, Putin said that McCain's article demonstrated a "deficit of information" about Russia, and said the US politician would be welcome to participate in discussions at the Valdai Club.
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Russia has surged ahead on the foreign policy stage, but this is not enough to remain a great power. The tough-minded policies and masterful diplomacy of Russia’s leadership have maximized the country’s position in the world, and are now the main source of its international influence and prestige. Russia’s foreign policy in the next decade depends entirely on what happens at home.