09/12/13 — Putin's punch: Russian president's letter a clue -- run from deal.

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Putin's punch: Russian president's letter a clue -- run from deal.

It is not American arrogance that makes the letter that appeared in The New York Times this week from Russian President Vladimir Putin so worth a sharp look.

And it is a warning for any American who thinks that foreign policy and diplomatic maturity don't matter in the conduct of international affairs.

Putin seems to believe that he has the duty -- and the authority -- to chastise in advance and to warn Americans that they need to stay out of the conflict in Syria.

The reason he believes that is the massively mishandled chemical attack in Syria -- and the Obama administration's continuing wishy washy response.

He senses weakness. He senses incompetence and he senses the chance to take over.

And while the Russian president's warning is no reason to go to war, it is a call to be cautious of any deal he is a part of or claims to have brokered.

We don't need him to negotiate for us.

We don't need his advice.

And we certainly have plenty of smart leaders to evaluate our potential response.

What we need is leadership -- quickly.

And then, after we have weathered this incident, we need to decide what kind of country we want to be -- and what we want to stand for as we move into the new world.

We need to send that message of resolve and strength soon -- and it cannot just be in a speech we do not expect anyone to heed or in a foreign policy that signifies that somehow we are ashamed of our power and influence.

We have to communicate that we mean business and that our word holds weight -- before someone else decides that we are weak and ineffectual enough to be challenged.

In this day and age when an attack that kills innocents can be made from a computer terminal, there is no time for "trying new approaches."

Putin made that argument loud and clear.

Published in Editorials on September 12, 2013 11:32 AM