(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.
Why politicians fight and all innocent citizens do not want to. Damn politicians just need to hits each other in the face. One dude speaks for the whole country. You are too old, go play golf
When bitterness, hate and envy consume your life you are bound to say stupid things.
I agree. Putin is very annoying. Too bad we can't do a rendition there in Moscow.
Usual tough talk and lack of specifics. When did this man see a conflict that he didn't want to turn up to 11?
Do you fools really think the world would be a better place if Putin controlled it rather than McCane...haha idiots, go crawl back into your Russian homes.
So, McCain says, ""We've got to start dealing with Vladimir Putin in a realistic fashion," I'm wondering specifically what he thinks we should do? I hear bluster, without details!
McCain is really itching to get into a war. He doesn't care who its with as long as he makes some profit.
Wow, what a great way to get someones assistance by bad mouthing and bullying. LOL John McCain, go home and stay there. No one cares what you think. You are an idiot and a big mouth.
No one comment of support fot Senator McCain.... Shame on you!
YOU BULLIES, stop attacking this old good for nothing Arizona lizard... Sorry lizards, I mean not offense.
McCain is an absolute idiot. Why are we even thinking about arming rebels? How did that work out in Iran in the early 80's? Does anyone remember? Oh yeah, the rebels used those same weapons against us in the 90's when we invaded the middle east the first time. We should not be arming the lesser of 2 evils.
This from the man who gave us Sarah Palin. It's time for him to shut up.
This guy is a total D'bag! And to think some wanted him to be president. From the sounds of it we would be deep into WWIII by now if McCain had anything to say about it.
We should threaten to boycott the Winter Olympics
Everyone just calm down, Former Governor Palin is keeping an eye on both Putin and Snowden.
America dodged a bullet by passing on this angry man in 2008 and Americans have hence a lot to be grateful for.
Maybe Obama should lay down one of his Red Lines for Putin. Just because he didn't know what to do about his Red Line with Assad does not mean would not know what to do with his Red Line with Putin. Problem may be Obama does not know the definition of the Red Line. Don't think many others know either, I certainly do not. I looked Red Line up in my dictionary but this was of no help. Other than this, I don't believe Obama has a clue how to 'get tough' with Putin. Tough and Obama do not fit together very well. I wonder what McCain's opinion would be if there were a Russian or Chinese citizen who leaked some of their country's government secrets and then arrived at Dulles airport. Would he say we must immediately send this person back from where he came from, or might McCain consider this person to be a hero and recommend U.S. asylum.
No, it is time to get tough on our own government which has betrayed us.
Snowden is a HERO for exposing the dirty truth about the government spying on US citizens without warrants, and violating the 4th amendment.
There is a big difference between being against your government, and being against your country. The government is out of control and has become tyrannical.
No more Republicans and Democrats ... Vote Libertarian.
“and I know Americans are smarter than that.”
There is obviously an exception here.
McCain is criticizing Our President in a Time of War, and therefore is a Treasonous Traitor.
Its too bad Senator McCain who was such an American hero in Vietnam cant forget we didn't try to win that war so know ever chance America gets to rattle our sword; right or wrong he wants to do it. What a shame
What is with all the anit-american comments...Me thinks a lot of these posts aren't from people living in the U.S.A.. More likely Chinese and Russians
McCain is a very intelligent politician. Why dandle this dictator, Putin? Putin and his government understand only one language, force.
Ok, I see tough talk but what I don't see is what you would do to Russia, it's easy to walk around saying get tough with Russia, but I am more interested in your idea of what exactly to do to another sovereign nation short of declaring war.
Nobody cares about Putin, we ought to be getting tough on our own leaders.
Somebody needs to change McCain's diaper