Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last week urging Americans to consider diplomatic options before deciding to take forceful measures against the Syrian government.
Putin believed the civil unrest in Syria has nothing to do with democracy, repackaging the struggle as an internal conflict.
The Russian president then expressed his concern that outside intervention could harm civilians and possibly Israel.
Instead of ending his plea by underscoring the importance for mutual trust between Russia and United States, Putin decided to chide President Obama for calling America exceptional. His reasoning is that all countries, despite their differences, have exceptional qualities.
If a country labels itself as an exceptional nation, it can create a brute confidence that will impose its forces on to others, something Putin criticized the U.S. for in the Middle East.
“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” Putin said.
Perhaps the Russian president does not want to view America as exceptional because it reaffirms everyone else’s view that his country is unexceptional.
Many Russian experts have speculated that Putin’s actions, which have antagonized the United States through delaying action on Syria and granting Edward Snowden asylum, was an attempt to distract the Russian electorate from the nation’s stagnating economy.
Though Putin wants the United States to work through the United Nations Security Council, he failed to mention that his country is one of the Syrian government’s largest arms suppliers, and that the Russian government has had a cozy relationship with the Assad family for four decades.
That may be the reason why his government has vetoed any resolution that would have had a chance at curtailing violence in Syria.
If Putin was really concerned about the plight of the Syrian people, why then did he not support the Turkish proposal to create safe zones for civilians trying to escape the conflict?
Because the Russian President decided to take aim at the notion of American exceptionalism, his op-ed had the opposite effect of aggravating Russian-American relations instead of easing it.
Putin said he carefully studied President Obama’s address to the nation, though a few more hours in the Kremlin library would not hurt. These facts alone are enough to give him a head start.
Only in an exceptional nation is it possible for a newly sworn in president to receive the Nobel Prize on the prospect that he might advance the cause of world peace.
Only in America is it possible to advance the issue of race while seeing negative trends in race relations.
Only in an exceptional nation is it possible to have the best institutions for higher education in the world, while having a significant amount of underemployed college graduates.
Only in America is it possible to have the best medical care in the world, before figuring out how to pay for it.
These facts are not contradictions, they are what make us exceptional.
Even though some may have found the Russian President’s op-ed to be incendiary, it should be mentioned that his words were only possible because freedom of expression is a constitutional right in the United States.
Putin should take note from America because if President Obama had written a similar piece to a Russian publication, it would not have been published.