(CNN) – The time for gentle diplomacy with Russia's President Vladimir Putin has passed, Sen. John McCain asserted in an interview Tuesday.
Calling the Russian leader an "old KGB colonel apparatchik that dreams of the days of the Russian empire," McCain said on CNN's "New Day" the U.S. should take a tougher position with Putin, who has also opposed western plans to arm rebels battling Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
"We've got to start dealing with Vladimir Putin in a realistic fashion," McCain told Chris Cuomo.
The most recent break in the U.S.-Russia relationship came Sunday, when it's believed NSA leaker Edward Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow as he avoids apprehension on U.S. espionage charges.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed at a news conference Tuesday his country has "nothing to do with Mr. Snowden, or his movements around the world," and that accusations against Russia over harboring Snowden are "absolutely groundless and unacceptable."
Those remarks did little to placate McCain, who countered it was "well known" that Snowden is in Russia.
"It's reminiscent of the days of the Cold War when you hear a Russian spokesman saying that he's not in Russia, when every shred of evidence indicates that he is," said the Arizona Republican and 2008 GOP presidential nominee, who also faulted President Barack Obama for not taking a firmer line with Russia on Syria and Iran.
"When you withdraw to fortress America, when you believe in light footprints, when you show the world you're leading from behind, these are the consequences of American leadership," McCain said, adding "That does not mean confrontation, but steadfast adherence to the principles many presidents since the Cold War and before have stood for that the rest of the world will respect."
As for Putin, McCain said there were deeper problems entrenched in the Russian leader's outlook on the world.
Putin "has disdain for democracy and the things we stand for and believe in," McCain said, before referencing the allegation from last week that Putin stole a Super Bowl ring from the owner of the New England Patriots (Putin's spokesman later said it was a gift).
"If he sees a situation he'll take advantage of it. Anybody that takes somebody's Super Bowl ring has got to be not exactly like us," he said.
Did McCain see the whole world including most Americans are supporting Snowden? Tougher on Putin can only make Putin a hero.
Did I remember to thank everyone who didn't vote for McCain? Thanks ever so much. The guy wants to fight everyone. He belongs in a video game.
Did this guy understand it is not about Snowden, it is about American 's rights.
This guy was almost President. If he had a say, we would always be involved in 2 or 3 wars at a time.
Sit down old man. You don't matter.
I am so glad this guy never made it past senator. He is nuttier than squirrel poo.
He represents Arizona well: crazy and irrelevant.
The Russians are under no obligation to do anything they don't believe is in their best interest. Snowmen is a goal mine of information for them and they will get all they can to get it out of him.
Sticks and stones won't bring Snowden home, senator, so you can imagine what effect name-calling will have.
The demons you need to fight McCain are within you!
I looked into his eyes and saw his soul, he is a good man.
I used to respect McCain, but the guy is full of it. "Withdraw to Fortress America?" How have we done that exactly? We have bases, commands and carrier groups all over the world. This kind of criticism always comes down to "do something that looks real tough," regardless of actual benefits or results. When you break it down, he's saying Obama should act more like a politician than a leader.
What would McCain know about Democracy?
He is an expert at using Chemical Weapons on little girls and their mothers though.
The pig needs to stay out of our President's way – we are doing fine without him.
He is accusing Putin of being a communist or apparatchik of KGB, and yet McCain is the one proposing they capture Snowden, while Putin is protecting him. LOL. Being in a Vietnamese POW camp must have damaged McCain into behaving like a Commie. Forget about the fact that it was Putin and Yeltsin that brought down and destroyed Soviet Union, and created Russia.
McCain will never change . .
McCain sure is a tough guy. May his sons and grandchildren be in the next war he helps push us into.
Unfortunately we failed to get tough on Putin a long time ago. He has taken true advantage of his countries oil
reserves over the last ten years and made Russia the real power now. The days of the cold war are back and Putin wants to be in charge. Russia has military or Naval bases in Cuba and Venezuela and is now telling the world that Syria is theirs and that Assad will always be in power no matter how much it costs them.
Nice job Bush and Obama you both guessed wrong on Russia. Putin is old KBG and he knows what he wants. Hopefully we can find a way to hurt is pocket book or be prepared for the return of Russian confrontation where ever we try and change the world for democracy.
Elmer Fudd at it again. It's always human season somewhere in the world
Mini Mac is nothing but a senile old f art. Who cares what he says.
Did McCain see the whole world including most Americans are supporting Snowden? T
Wrong. We don't support Snowden. He is a traitor.Read the article in Science which explains the network analysis of finding terrorists. I hate Obama and what he stands for but fully support the NSA effort. It in no way invades anyone's privacy.
Gold mine. and yes.
Also, Johnny boy is crazy.
Really John Stone Weakest, the only weak thing here is your idiotic comment which makes absolutely no sense
We need to tell McCain it's time for him to retire.
vote this guy out on the next election.
Wow, so scary that this man was that close to being POTUS! During the election, he stated he knew nothing about economics...well, its obvious he doesn't know anything about foreign diplomacy either!