McCain publishes opinion piece in Pravda – but not the one he wanted
A screenshot of Pravda.ru
September 19th, 2013
03:40 AM ET
12 months ago

McCain publishes opinion piece in Pravda – but not the one he wanted

Updated 9 a.m. ET 9/19/2013

Washington (CNN) – Senator John McCain has a message for the Russian people: “I am pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today.”

In an opinion piece titled “Russians Deserve Better Than Putin,” published by the Russian news website Pravda.ru, McCain took aim at the current Russian leadership, including President Vladimir Putin.

Watch: McCain will be on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" Thursday starting at 4 p.m. ET

“They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media,” the Arizona Republican said in his piece. (Read the full op-ed below.)

The piece by McCain comes one week after Vladimir Putin made headlines by publishing his own opinion piece, “A Plea for Caution from Russia” in the New York Times, on the eve of U.S. – Russia negotiations over Syrian chemical weapons.

Read: Op-ed for Op-ed: McCain to strike back in 'Pravda'

The senator, who does not support same-sex marriage in the U.S., also criticized Russia’s recently passed anti-gay legislation, saying Russian lawmakers “codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn.”

A ban on the promotion of "gay propaganda" among minors became law in June, as Putin began his third term as president.

The article was published Thursday, after some initial confusion over which “Pravda” McCain would actually be writing for.

Read: Pravda vs. Pravda: Which one is McCain writing for?

The Pravda McCain had publicly said he wanted to be published in is one of the oldest Russian newspapers, founded in 1912.

Pravda, which means “the truth” in Russian, became the biggest newspaper during the Soviet period of Russian history. It was the official mouthpiece of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. The newspaper was closed down after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, then reopened in 1997 as the official paper of the Russian Communist Party. The current Pravda has a considerably smaller circulation compared to its Soviet glory days.

Pravda.ru, the news outlet that actually published McCain’s piece, is an electronic news website founded in 1999. Even though the website also bears the name Pravda, it is not connected to Pravda newspaper. The website has English and Russian editions and covers everything from politics to fashion and celebrities.

While editors at the communist Pravda publication said last week they were not going to accept an op-ed by McCain, a spokesman for the senator said McCain submitted one anyway, in addition to Pravda.ru, since there was confusion over the two different Pravdas. As expected, it was not published by the newspaper.

Putin said Thursday in a press conference he was not aware of McCain’s opinion piece about Russia.

Read: Poll: Americans sour on Russia, Putin

In his piece, McCain also cited Putin’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as Russia’s recent actions in the United Nations as an example of failed foreign policies, saying, “He is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it.”

The senator has been a strong advocate for military action against Syria, especially in light of the August 21 chemical weapons attack, and has been highly critical of the renewed diplomatic efforts between Russia and the U.S. This week, he told the Council of Foreign Relations, “I wish I could see the recent agreement between Russia and the United States to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons as a major breakthrough. Unfortunately, I cannot.”

In the article, McCain focused his message on their day-to-day circumstances, arguing that Putin “has given you an economy that is based almost entirely on a few natural resources that will rise and fall with those commodities. Its riches will not last. And, while they do, they will be mostly in the possession of the corrupt and powerful few.”

Reiterating that his message was written out of concern and compassion for the Russian public, McCain held firm. “When I criticize your government, it is not because I am anti-Russian,” he said. “It is because I believe you deserve a government that believes in you and answers to you. And I long for the day when you have it.”

– CNN’s Ashley Killough, Jill Dougherty, NuNu Japaridze, and Laura Koran contributed to this report.

Senator John McCain: Russians deserve better than Putin

When Pravda.ru editor, Dmitry Sudakov, offered to publish my commentary, he referred to me as "an active anti-Russian politician for many years." I'm sure that isn't the first time Russians have heard me characterized as their antagonist. Since my purpose here is to dispel falsehoods used by Russia's rulers to perpetuate their power and excuse their corruption, let me begin with that untruth. I am not anti-Russian. I am pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today.

I make that claim because I respect your dignity and your right to self-determination. I believe you should live according to the dictates of your conscience, not your government. I believe you deserve the opportunity to improve your lives in an economy that is built to last and benefits the many, not just the powerful few. You should be governed by a rule of law that is clear, consistently and impartially enforced and just. I make that claim because I believe the Russian people, no less than Americans, are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A Russian citizen could not publish a testament like the one I just offered. President Putin and his associates do not believe in these values. They don't respect your dignity or accept your authority over them. They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media. They harass, threaten, and banish organizations that defend your right to self-governance. To perpetuate their power they foster rampant corruption in your courts and your economy and terrorize and even assassinate journalists who try to expose their corruption.

They write laws to codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn. They throw the members of a punk rock band in jail for the crime of being provocative and vulgar and for having the audacity to protest President Putin's rule.
Sergei Magnistky wasn't a human rights activist. He was an accountant at a Moscow law firm. He was an ordinary Russian who did an extraordinary thing. He exposed one of the largest state thefts of private assets in Russian history. He cared about the rule of law and believed no one should be above it. For his beliefs and his courage, he was held in Butyrka prison without trial, where he was beaten, became ill and died. After his death, he was given a show trial reminiscent of the Stalin-era and was, of course, found guilty. That wasn't only a crime against Sergei Magnitsky. It was a crime against the Russian people and your right to an honest government – a government worthy of Sergei Magnistky and of you.

President Putin claims his purpose is to restore Russia to greatness at home and among the nations of the world. But by what measure has he restored your greatness? He has given you an economy that is based almost entirely on a few natural resources that will rise and fall with those commodities. Its riches will not last. And, while they do, they will be mostly in the possession of the corrupt and powerful few. Capital is fleeing Russia, which – lacking rule of law and a broad-based economy – is considered too risky for investment and entrepreneurism. He has given you a political system that is sustained by corruption and repression and isn't strong enough to tolerate dissent.

How has he strengthened Russia's international stature? By allying Russia with some of the world's most offensive and threatening tyrannies. By supporting a Syrian regime that is murdering tens of thousands of its own people to remain in power and by blocking the United Nations from even condemning its atrocities. By refusing to consider the massacre of innocents, the plight of millions of refugees, the growing prospect of a conflagration that engulfs other countries in its flames an appropriate subject for the world's attention. He is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it. He has made her a friend to tyrants and an enemy to the oppressed, and untrusted by nations that seek to build a safer, more peaceful and prosperous world.

President Putin doesn't believe in these values because he doesn't believe in you. He doesn't believe that human nature at liberty can rise above its weaknesses and build just, peaceful, prosperous societies. Or, at least, he doesn't believe Russians can. So he rules by using those weaknesses, by corruption, repression and violence. He rules for himself, not you.

I do believe in you. I believe in your capacity for self-government and your desire for justice and opportunity. I believe in the greatness of the Russian people, who suffered enormously and fought bravely against terrible adversity to save your nation. I believe in your right to make a civilization worthy of your dreams and sacrifices. When I criticize your government, it is not because I am anti-Russian. It is because I believe you deserve a government that believes in you and answers to you. And, I long for the day when you have it.


Filed under: John McCain • Russia • Syria
soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. Stefan

    It is not bad that McCain vents his feelings. But McCain's reputation is , well, gone.
    He is really not the right person to be publicly speaking for the US.

    The man is just not "up there". Even if he was, he lost it for sure.

    September 19, 2013 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  2. M.A.P.

    Hypocrite – he doesn't want gays to have equal rights in the US. His party manipulates the media and has it's own propoganda machine (FOX news) which lies to the public and exaggerates truths, not to mention the rac-ist undertones. McCain should have a long hard think about how HE behaves in the US congress before throwing such strong critisism towards other countries.

    September 19, 2013 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  3. Olim

    Why not show this clown the path of retirement!! He's doing more harm to USA than any other enemy now.

    September 19, 2013 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  4. e

    his running for president in russia now

    September 19, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  5. ge

    maccain should not be allowed to own a fire arm

    September 19, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  6. Big Man

    McCain: what an embarrassment.

    September 19, 2013 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  7. Michael J.

    WOW! McCain soooooooo original! Typical Washington type, day late and dollar short.

    September 19, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  8. texas adio

    yes putin is defcon 5 mac you are right keep it up

    September 19, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  9. Pat in IL

    It's easy to spout off your opinion and get your name in the media again. It's more difficult to dig in and do your job as a US Senator. Again, McCain did the easiest this week. We are so tired of hearing him, so maybe he knows that and hopes the Russians will listen to him.

    September 19, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  10. Altschuh

    The Russians are laughing at McCain. His article is funny.

    September 19, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  11. yoshimoto

    Dear people of Russia:

    John McCain does not represent the American people. Do not listen to him. He wants to get us in yet another WAR whlle the majority of Americans DONT WANT ANOTHER WAR. He might accuse your government of controlling the people but in America business controls the government. McCain receives much of his campaign funds from the military industrial complex that profits from all these wars. So do many other congressmen. They will vote for war for a few pennies in donations. Most Americans feel America does not need to be the policeman for the world. I have to say, Putin made a very sensible point in the NY Times. McCain is a dinosaur and that's why he lost to an amateur like Obama.

    September 19, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  12. Thetruth

    McCain should've just kept quiet or written something more sensible. His write up makes Putin appear bigger. While Putin stuck to the point, Syria, McCain delved into other issues. Isn't it ironical that McCain that has been rejected by Americans is telling Russians that they deserve better than Putin. By the way, some will catch in on it and say the US and its politicians are used to telling other countries what to do ie feeling they are "exceptional". Sometimes silence is just better

    September 19, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  13. james

    The Russians will read McCain's op-ed piece and then start taking depression medication.

    September 19, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  14. MrRickinNH

    This throwback just needs to hate somebody!

    September 19, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  15. freddie nerk

    Is he describing the Russian Government or the GOP?

    September 19, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  16. horf

    McCain is one of the only Republicans that I respect. It's too bad he get lumped in with other Republican crazies.

    September 19, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  17. Unbelievable

    How astonishingly out of touch. Russians already react to criticisms and lecturing from the West – the U.S. in particular – with deep disdain, but his arguments are simply jaw-droppingly awful that you might think he's being satirical.

    Admonishing Putin for bigotry, riches in the hands of a powerful, the negative world opinion with regard to Russia, punishing dissident, election rigging? Is he not aware that every country in the world uses and has used the EXACT SAME ARGUMENTS against the U.S.?

    If there's one thing this "letter to the Russian people" will do, it's solidify Russians' already negative opinions of the U.S. government. Well done, Mr. McCain – поздравляю с успехом.

    September 19, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  18. Bovax

    i almost vomit. This guy? Real this guy is talking about corrupt government and about government needing to be for the people? There is nothing NOTHING in the US that works for people. Americans don't want wars, this guy is all for it. He's been locked up in Vietnam's cell for far too long, he's a clown

    September 19, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  19. Rick McDaniel

    McCain's piece was not honest and forthright anyway.

    September 19, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  20. the hippies were right

    But what about us grandpa? What about our riches in the hands of the corrupt and powerful few? And don't WE deserve a government that believes in us? Geez grandpa do you think saying all these bad thngs about Putin during intense negotiations regarding chemical weapons is a good idea? We all ready know Putin's elevator doesn't stop on every floor. I guess we just have to trust you and your ego grandpa!

    September 19, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  21. EddyL

    Who does this pretentious jerk think he is? He does NOT speak for the country, not by a long shot.

    September 19, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  22. Sadie Boyd

    I just could not fully understand which country he was talking about. America has rigged elections, America has supported violent dictators and the American people sure could use a pep talk with a leader telling us that they support us instead of corporations. Dear Russians, he is old and feeble and we can't get him to shut up. We do have some exceptional qualities, as I am sure you do too. However, I agree with Putin, our narcissistic exceptionalism is our downfall, especially in view of our poverty rate, failing schools, gun violence and corruption in government. I apologize for Mr. McCain's thoughtless remarks.

    September 19, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  23. Lee

    McCain fell for Putin's bait to try and get into a 'tit for tat' editorial war. Another reason why the American people wisely saw that he was definitely not the best man for President.

    September 19, 2013 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  24. JustSaying123987

    "They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media,” ???
    Is McCain talking about the Russian Government or the US government? This guy is more worried about reputations and posturing than results. What the heck... I guess another $800 billion to fight a pointless war is something we can all afford.

    September 19, 2013 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  25. Hugh_Mann

    Well somebody should have done this, but too bad it was a no-brains pseudo Conservative....Makes the US look bad to have these nut jobs representing us

    September 19, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
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