White House press secretary Jay Carney on Thursday gave a blistering response to an op-ed from Russian President Vladimir Putin which mocked the idea of American “exceptionalism” and warned the U.S. not to strike Syria.
“Unlike Russia, the United States stands up for democratic values and human rights around the world,” Obama’s top spokesman said in response to Putin’s piece, published in the New York Times.
Carney called it a “great irony" that Putin's op-ed was the byproduct of freedom of expression, saying such rights did not exist in Russia. But he added that White House officials “were not surprised” by Putin’s confrontational tone.
The verbal slugfest between Moscow and Washington came as Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart in Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday in hopes of brokering a deal forcing Syria to turn over its stockpile of chemical weapons.
The Obama administration has charged Syrian President Bashar Assad with using chemical weapons against civilians in his country's two-year brutal civil war. Obama had been pressing Congress to authorize a strike against Syria to punish Assad for crossing his "red line," but embraced the Russian proposal earlier this week amid weak support from lawmakers and the public for military action.
When asked if Obama trusted Putin, a constant thorn in his side, Carney was noncommittal.
“We’ll see what happens,” he responded.
Obama on Thursday at the White House said he was "hopeful" the Geneva talks would "yield a concrete result."
Assad on Thursday said Syria would turn over its chemical arsenal to international control and would sign a treaty banning such weapons, but the White House said that pledge did not go far enough.
“Words don’t count when it comes to the Assad regime,” Carney said. “Actions count."