Just before Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, he blasted the Obama administration on Wednesday for what he termed its propaganda on military action against Syria. “We talk with these people,” he said about Secretary of State John Kerry, the administration’s chief political spokesperson making the case for war. “We assume that they are decent. But he lies. And he knows that he lies. That’s pathetic.”
Putin has always been a bare-knuckles political brawler with a penchant for saying politically incorrect things about enemies — he once said of Islamist terrorists in Chechnya, for example, “If you are willing to become a radical Islamist and be circumcised, I invite you to Moscow. I will recommend that they perform the operation so that nothing can sprout there again.” Now, however, he’s directly challenging the authority of the United States – and he’s winning. President Obama has always wanted to be perceived as a global leader. Instead, it’s his chief international rival, quasi-dictator Putin, who has seized the reins.
Obama has been left to complain. “Do I hold out hope that Mr. Putin may change his position on some of these issues?” Obama asked in Sweden on Wednesday. “I’m always hopeful, and I will continue to engage him.” Just a few weeks ago, Obama mocked Putin’s posture during their meetings, likening it to a “bored kid in the back of the classroom.”
But it is Obama being schooled. Putin has stated that he would be open to action against Syria if shown proof that Assad ordered the chemical attack there. But on Wednesday, he said of John Kerry, “Of course he lied. And that’s not pretty.”
The G20 summit has been set not around national security issues, but on tax issues and economic recovery. Nonetheless, it will be Putin setting the agenda on his home turf, especially given that the visiting team is led by a floundering quarterback.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).