12 Sep 2013 09:55 PM EST
- by Alex Mangini, Staff Writer; Image: Leon Panetta on The Today Show (Image Source: NBC)
Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin's surprise editorial in The New York Times on the ongoing situation in Syria, accusing the former KGB man of trying to “weaken the United States” with his criticism.
“Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us,’” Putin wrote, encouraging a “return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”
The editorial has been criticized itself for its timing, coming just before Secretary of State John Kerry is set to speak with Russian representatives over a strategy. According to Panetta, this was a designed move by Putin to put pressure on the United States.
“I think it’s pretty clear the whole purpose of that was to try to weaken our resolve and to try to make sure that we would not fulfill our pledge to conduct military action if we have to. So I think he was trying to, in his own way, weaken the United States in the effort to negotiate these issues,” Panetta said on NBC’s “Today.”
“First and foremost, I think we have to understand President Putin should be the last person to lecture the United States about our human values and our human rights and what we stand for."
“We know what we’re fighting for in the world. and I think his effort to try to, you know, do this by a column in The New York Times is just not going to work. We know who the Russians are,” Panetta said.