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

    Nothing like lowering yourself to the same (or lower) level than Putin. At this point McCain is trying to do all that he can to make sure this current deal with Syria does not work, so that he can finally get to bomb someone..

    September 19, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  2. The Real Tom Paine

    tom l

    @The Real TP,
    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I had another post that did not make it where I talked about your exact point. I referred to how it is the exact same thing as when the pius hard right talks about family values while many in the repub party (Vitter, Sanford, Rush, etc) have personal transgressions that make them hipocrits, as well.

    As far as your point about "The comments directed towards McCain and Cruz only point out how the Right operates with both blinkers and selective memory" I think you are way, way off. I hope you recognize the hatred, vitriol and venom of people like, oh let's say rs, Wake Up and good ol' Sniffit. These people harbor such hate towards the other side that there is no way that their comments are made out of anything more than pure anger and venom. It's palpable.

    I don't think that people like you, Data Driven, Lynda and sometimes Rudy, have that same anger that the afformentioned do, but it's worth taking an unbiased look at the comments that they make and I think you will come to a different conclusion.

    Hope you're having a great day.
    ***************
    And I hope you take note of Hector Slagg, Just Sayin, and other peddlers of useless trash on your side. BTW, I always have a great day: how can I not, when I live in such a great country?

    September 19, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  3. jim bob

    Wow, I guess John McCain still has some fight left in him.

    September 19, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. Luke

    "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." – Apparently McCain isn't in touch with the current distribution of wealth in America

    September 19, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. LoveOneAnother

    It will be better for the whole world if we pay McCain not to mess with politics, and to keep quiet.

    September 19, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. OnTheRoad

    Why do so many of our political leaders seem to go out of their way to embarrass us? McCain seems to have a complete and total disconnect between his mouth and his brain!

    September 19, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  7. Hard Drinkin' Lincoln

    ........"They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media,”......

    Just like the good 'ol US of A.

    September 19, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. brione2001

    Let's see:

    “They punish dissent and imprison opponents." (Occupy?)

    "They rig your elections." (Florida? Ohio? Voter ID Laws?)

    "They control your media,” (Six corporations control our media, FOX News is a virtually the propaganda wing of the Republican Party).

    If Senator McCain could stop projecting his psychological problems on the Russian people, perhaps he could take a look at how much of hypocrite he and his party are.

    September 19, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    @Eduard C.: I agree with a lot of your post, but would say the biggest problem is Citizens United and the funneling of billions of dollars into our elections not only from corporations and wealthy individuals, but also from foreign entities (again, corporations and wealthy individuals).

    Where's the uproar from the right about all these furiners affecting our elections? Are they willfully blind because of their love of money or are they in cahoots with folks who desperately want to corrupt our democratic processes for their own gain?

    Regarding term limits: We have them – IT'S CALLED VOTING!

    September 19, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. cb

    McCain has got to go! his time has passed. He is a grouchy old man who will never get over the fact that Obama is in office. He is only doing this to try to put this administration in a conflict we dont need. I don't like Putin, I don't like what has happened in Syria. But we have enough problems without try to get into a pissing match with Russia. This is not leadership and last time I checked McCain is not the President.

    September 19, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    @Eduard C.: I agree with a lot of your post, but would say the biggest problem is Citizens United and the funneling of billions of dollars into our elections not only from corporations and wealthy individuals, but also from foreign entities (again, corporations and wealthy individuals).

    Where's the uproar from the right about all these furiners affecting our elections? Are they willfully blind because of their love of money or are they in cahoots with folks who desperately want to corrupt our democratic processes for their own gain?

    Regarding term limits: We have them – IT'S CALLED VOTING! Get rid of Citizens United, keep the Internet free and open, and encourage and support active engagement in the political process.

    Regarding Putin, he's not a leader: he's a thug who rules by intimidation. Personally, I think he's hung up on his lack of physicality (if you know what I mean); his is a story as old as time and like much of history, people suffer because of his ego and insecurity as a man.

    September 19, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. mklsgl

    Surprised with Sen. McCain having his op-ed piece in the wrong place? Just as surprised that he chose Palin?

    September 19, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  13. Scott

    "They rig your elections. They control your media,” Kinda like the USA uh?

    September 19, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. eric

    IIm embarrassed as an American to have this guy standing on his soapbox and telling the entire population of Russia that they are fools and are blinded by the corruption in the Kremlin. Putin's comments at least were focused on one specific and, while self-serving, were at least not completely hypocritical. You have to wonder if the WH signed off on this, and if not, you have to wonder how this will play out domestically. Obama can't be pleased with this.

    September 19, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  15. brads2sense

    It would be so great if our leaders took the higher road and set an example for us, instead of giving in to the temptation to act just like those who condemn us.

    September 19, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. DP

    I don't know why I am even bothering writing this comment! McCain is just getting old and has no clue what he is talking about. It is time for him to go for a psychological evaluation and stop embarrassing America.

    September 19, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  17. lolo

    This old man really wants a war. I hope that he is made to go instead of our young people who are dying for no reason. McCain you are not President, so please go back to Arizona and you and your wife drink a six pack of beer together.

    September 19, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  18. Martin

    The newspaper Pravda should have published his piece because the misdirected criticism of Russia and its leaders tells more about where McCain - and by extension, America - stands than anything that could be written about him and his positions. To use English parlance, he comes across as a complete wally. From an American perspective, having people like him running around shooting his mouth off makes us look silly - he talks about 'rigging elections' as a representative of a party that brought gerrymandering and voter surpression to a fine art, for example.

    I would have liked a reasoned response on a par with Putin's OpEd. Obama could have written something great, he's good at it. (The problem is, though, that I rather suspect in this case we don't have a very good case - Putin sensed weakness and exploited it.)

    September 19, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  19. Anthony in California

    Dear World...
    We hope you realize there are 2 Americas.

    The new America wants to get have a good standing on the global stage, make sure its people have affordable health care, and see to it that ALL its people have rights and are treated fairly. We look after our poor, and stress education.

    The old America still want to profit through war, bully around the rest of the world, deny gays their rights, minorities their justice, and do everything possible to make sure the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, while decimating the middle class and keeping the playing field tilted in their favor.

    Oh.. and if these message boards are any indication of the cross section of America.. then yes, it is still a pretty scary place.

    September 19, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  20. Weee

    Published it in "Pravda"??? Really? It only underlines how exceptionally dumb this gentleman is- well, of course, after all he is one of the pillars of the Republican party... Before putting his 'thoughts' together with the goal to publish them in another country he didn't even bother to find out what kind of media people in that country are actually reading today. In the times where McCain's mind reached its peak IQ of 82 points (back in 1979) 'Pravda' was a main governmental newspaper in USSR with all sorts of official information (and an official paper of Communist Party of course, since they were the gov.). Today's Com. Party of Russia enjoys the support of approx. 12-14% of population, and the youngest member of it is about the same age as McCain himself. Was THAT his targeted audience? Because Russians under 40 are unaware that Pravda publishing still exist. It has the same popularity in Russia as some 'North Dakota Enquirer" or 'Tulsa news" in USA. So, what we have here is smart Putin publishing well though through and well put together message to Americans in New York Times vs. dumb looking and smiling like a degenerate McCain responding to him at unknown, unpopular website with a very few readers and no prospect of growth. Good job Johny. You are a typical American politician – actions ahead of thinking. That is exactly why we believe the USA in world politics is a monkey with the grenade

    September 19, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. w l jones

    It appears some people fight retirement..If one take the time and read up on who tooke the brunt of fighting on there soil in ww11 they would shut up and play polker.

    September 19, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  22. aa2002

    McCain should know better than to attack the domestic policies of another country or appear to be instigating Russians against Putin. In all fairness, Putin's opinion piece in the NY Times pertained to International affairs on a subject that he is a party to. Also, he steered clear of our domestic politics and issues. As has been pointed out in the CNN article, it is hypocritical for McCain to talk about gay rights in Russia when he is himself against marriage equality, or to refer to Putin fixing elections when Republican controlled States have been blatantly legislating to deny voting rights to minorities in the US. Perhaps this is McCain's kind of American Exceptionalism

    September 19, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  23. cnn79ec

    " 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."

    Hypocrisy: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform.

    September 19, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  24. Russian

    I am russian and I like Obama, but I liked McCain's article. Maybe it is hypocritical and blah blah, but at least he didn't say something like "oh, you are not exceptional" like Putin did!

    September 19, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. Putin

    How did McCain get a column in Pravda when we can't even get a line on CNN online?

    September 19, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
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