"He was trying to in his own way weaken the United States in its effort to negotiate these issues,” Panetta added.
Panetta said Putin is in no position to lecture the United States.
“I think, first and foremost, we have to understand that 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,” he said. “We know what we stand for. We know what we are fighting for in the world. And I think his effort to try to do this by a column in The New York Times is just not going to work. We know who the Russians are.”
In his op-ed published Wednesday night, Putin called the United States’s use of force in the region “alarming” and questioned whether it has been in its best interest.
Military force in places like Iraq and Afghanistan has proved “pointless,” according to Putin, and has hurt U.S. credibility.
Putin said he welcomed a new diplomatic solution in Syria in his op-ed, but cautioned that unilateral military action would be seen as an act of aggression.
Panetta said the United States should tread carefully in negotiations with the Russians. President Obama needs to set clear timelines and not let Russia use them as a stalling tactic, he added.
Secretary of State John Kerry is set Thursday to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.
“I don’t think we ought to kid ourselves — this is going to be very tough,” Panetta said. “The Russians, frankly, have been playing for time, along with the Syrians — this could be a stalling tactic.”