Feature

20 best Twitter reactions to Vladimir Putin's dovish New York Times op-ed

When your global nemesis trolls you this hard, the only response is a dash of snark

Russian President Vladimir Putin has an op-ed in Thursday's New York Times, urging the American people and their representatives to exercise caution in Syria.

It's a mixture of high-minded idealism ("No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations"; "We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement"), lecture on international law ("We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.... Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council"), and appeal to self-interest ("There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters.... Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria?).

There are also special shoutouts to various American political constituencies ("...Strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope..."; "Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored"), a dash of obfuscation ("There is every reason to believe [poison gas] was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons..."), and just plain button-pushing ("In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes").

It is, in some ways, a masterpiece of political persuasion. Then there's Putin's parting shot:

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism.... It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy.... We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal. [New York Times]

The White House put a positive spin on Putin's op-ed, with a senior White House official telling CNN's Jake Tapper that most of the Russian president's bluster is "irrelevant," but that his committing in ink to stripping the Assad government of its chemical weapons (CW) is a big deal:

He put this proposal forward and he's now invested in it. That's good. That's the best possible reaction. He's fully invested in Syria's CW disarmament and that's potentially better than a military strike — which would deter and degrade but wouldn't get rid of all the chemical weapons. He now owns this. He has fully asserted ownership of it and he needs to deliver. [White House official, to CNN]

It's fair to say that most commentators didn't see Putin's message to America in such a rosy light. Here are some of the best responses to Putin's op-ed, dished out in 140-character ripostes:

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