Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel on Thursday countered Russian president Vladmir Putin’s New York Times letter with a submission of his own to the Russian newspaper Kommersant.
“My grandparents were born in Russia, so for me, the relationship between our countries is not just about policy; it is about my family history,” Israel wrote, addressing his words to the people of Russia.
“That is why I was so fascinated to read President Putin’s op-ed in The New York Times opposing the potential of a limited military strike with the goal of degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capability,” he continued. “When my grandparents lived in Russia, the prospect of your leader using our cherished freedom of press in America would have been unfathomable.”
A spokeswoman for Israel said he had not heard back from the publication yet, but that it was submitted during the early hours of the morning in Russia.
In his piece, Israel lays out the Obama administration’s case against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The New York Democrat said the U.S. had to take a proactive role because the international community has ignored evidence that Assad had gassed his own people. Without action, the chemical weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists, Israel wrote. He insisted that a statement must be made because rogue regimes and terror groups who are watching to see if there would be repercussions for violating international law.
Putin’s op-ed, in which he chastised the U.S. for the proposed strike against the Assad regime in Syria, was met with backlash from Capitol Hill and the White House. In particular, lawmakers were infuriated by Putin’s insistence that American exceptionalism was “dangerous.”
Isreal wrote that he holds “the exceptionalism of my country dear.”
“Finally, let me address President Putin's opposition to the notion of American exceptionalism,” he said. “As an American, I hold the exceptionalism of my country dear. I also know of the many exceptional achievements our two countries made together, such as defeating Nazism and discovering Space.”
Israel called a potential diplomatic solution, in which Syria hands over its chemical weapons to United Nations inspectors and signs a global treaty denouncing their use, a “positive development,” but said if the Assad regime fails to follow through on the proposal, that a U.S. military strike must remain an option.
“If your leaders are serious about truly creating a regimen to control and contain chemical weapons in Syria under international supervision in a transparent, verifiable and effective way, then we will be able to add this to the latest example of exceptional achievements partnered by our two nations,” Israel concludes.
“Your president has told the United States that he is interested in doing this. Now we await his words turning into deeds.”