What nerve: Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken it upon himself to lecture the people of the United States in an op-ed piece published Thursday by The New York Times.Putin made some good points in his long letter to America and the world, some of which many people on this side of what used to be the Berlin Wall would agree with. “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,’” he wrote.The Russian leader noted that relations between his nation and the U.S. have had their ups and downs, “[b]ut we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together.”Ask the people of Poland about that. They remember that Russia was on the side of the Nazis who invaded their country to kick off World War II. It wasn’t until after German armies reached the gates of Moscow in late 1941 that Russia changed sides. Still, Putin’s sudden role as a broker of peace and advocate for international control of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile could end up being worthy of a Nobel Prize if he succeeds.But the very thought of a man who has brutally quashed uprisings in his own country, who has blocked Russian orphans from finding loving homes in the United States, who didn’t assume the role of world leader in helping to cool the humanitarian crisis in Syria until there was a threat of U.S. military action — the thought of that man trying to provide moral guidance to Americans is repulsive. As U.S. Sen. John McCain wrote on Twitter: “Putin's NYT op-ed is an insult to the intelligence of every American.”Word came Friday afternoon that editors of Pravda had tentatively agreed to allow McCain to write a similar op-ed piece about Putin’s leadership to be published in the Russian newspaper. Putin’s insult could be endured for that kind of payback.The civil war in Syria moved to the center of the world stage when U.S. President Barack Obama threatened military strikes against the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad. Assad allegedly used chemical weapons Aug. 21 near Damascus, killing what may have been as many as 1,400 people.Putin, in his Times op-ed, noted what many opponents of a U.S. strike have said, that rebels may have unleashed the poison gas to “provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”A report from a United Nations inspection team is expected to be released this week.Despite the emotion Putin’s letter evokes, and notwithstanding his personal motives, he was on target in assessing the dangers of the Syrian conflict. Its spillover potential is huge.“Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern,” Putin wrote. “Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.”Even some of his moral grandstanding made a point. He criticized Obama for focusing on U.S. “exceptionalism” in an address to the nation Tuesday night.“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” the Russian president wrote. “There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy.”Anyone watching Russia and Putin’s iron grip on power there in recent years might see that nation as still finding its way to true democracy. But we all fall short of perfection.