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. Dmitry

    McCain is an idi0t, but I could not find his Op-ed on the Pravda .Ru website. Republicans should run him for the next election, then their loss will be a no-brainier.

    September 19, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  2. MyManJohn

    SHOCKED that a country with state-run media would censor a disparaging opinion piece...

    September 19, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  3. Michael

    Why not he visit Russia & talk with Putin?

    September 19, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  4. John C

    Only Grandpa McCain would even pursue this. Leave it alone.

    September 19, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  5. Tim C

    I voted against this guy so he wouldn't represent me on a national stage.

    September 19, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  6. Al-NY,NY

    McCain is lucky the smaller group published it because this tripe is an embarrassment to himself. Fewer people will now get to read his ramblings.

    September 19, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  7. Louis Seldon

    Great article McCain, wow you make President look like a weak fool. Well, most of the Liberals in the U.S. are weak fools and that is why we have a very weak President. I am ashamed of being an American these days.

    September 19, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  8. wordsorter

    This type of thing makes me nervous. First of all, do we know that the Pravda article is the exact translation of what McCain wrote? When articles are translated, they tend to lose their meaning and context.

    Second of all, I think what the McCains of the world fail to realize is that the majority of the Russians love Putin - they credit him for better economic times, etc., etc., etc. Unlike the United States, that doesn't think too much of its leader at this point, the Russians have an ongoing love affair with Putin, who reminds them of the "good old days" of the Soviet Union.

    This op-ed will have the effect of further souring relations between the US and Russia. Thanks for nothing, Senator.

    September 19, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  9. AustinITGuy

    "They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media,” the Arizona Republican said in his piece.

    He is referring to America here, correct?

    September 19, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  10. Dave - Phx

    Haha McCain you are a tool.

    September 19, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  11. steven dahl

    LOLz, son of Cain is getting slammed in the Pravda comment section just as bad as he is here.

    September 19, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  12. Michael Q

    This is further proof the American voter was right in not electing this man their President along with whatever her name is!

    September 19, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  13. Zach

    Yes Mr McCain, thank goodness you're a Conservative (republicans are gone). Your current party would never punish dissent, never try to rig elections, never control the media, never pass laws against gay people, and ESPECIALLY never be in bed with oil and gas companies and support evil dictators in the middle east to appease them for your parties personal profits. Yes, thank goodness you are able to stand up to these kind of evil actions.

    Wait..... someone, please stop me before I say it..... a..... screw it....

    TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE

    September 19, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  14. FISH FRY

    Senator, don't you have better things to do? What did this achieve other than getting your name in the news outlets? DO YOUR JOB IN DC, PLEASE!

    September 19, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  15. Eric

    Go McCain!

    September 19, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  16. Fladabosco

    If there is a more corrupt body than the US Senate I'd like to know what it is. These are the people who voted to legalize insider trading – for themselves.

    September 19, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  17. Rob

    And in other news. The American People write an opinion piece to the American Government. "Stop punishing dissent and imprison opponents. Rigging our elections, And controling our media,”

    September 19, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  18. Data Driven

    In normal times, this would make McCain a laughingstock and he would no longer be taken seriously in the public-policy sphere. But we are not living in normal times. McCain will doubtless be on "Meet the Press" this Sunday.

    I figure he's got pictures of David Gregory doing something disgusting.

    September 19, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  19. Odo

    McCain just won't be happy until we are bombing every ME country.....

    September 19, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  20. Oleg

    What a joke. Pravda is no longer a mainstream newspaper in Russia. Who is he reaching out to? His audience will be limited to selected few Communist old timers. If someone was to respond to Putin's letter it should not have been the old clown McCain and not in Pravda.

    September 19, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  21. Dmitry

    Ok, Was able to get to his article, the article is in Russian. I did not know Mc-Cane spoke Russian. About 1/3 rd of the article is going on how he is Pro-Russian and how he respects and loves Russian people and he is almost Russian himself. Then he criticizes Putin. He goes on to say that "Putin Gave Russia an economy that is based on few precisions natural resources of Russia" and by that he is not referring to the Russian People as Russian resource. Then he says that Putin is strengthening his international position by making ally of Assad and Syria. The he goes on to say that he does things because he believes Russian people deserve better and want to help Russian people.

    I don't believe anything he says to be true, his tone, well. This article needs to be directly translated into English and posted on CNN. Especially the part where a US congressman says that he acts in interest of Russian people is really concerning to me.

    If any-one wants to go CIA world Facts and take a look ant Russian Economy, you will see that even there McCain's claims about few natural resources that Putin gave Russia is not entirely correct.

    Dear Mc-Cain, I would like to thank you for your service to your country, but I think you need to retire !

    September 19, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  22. Rocky

    When you are the first one to write an Op-ed, you look like a statesman. When you write an op-ed as a response to a previous op-ed by someone else and in it you try to claw him through your assertions, then you look defeated, bitter and motivated solely by revenge. People see your 'response' as nothing but a diatribe railing against the hurt in your side that was caused by the one who wrote the first op-ed. Didn't someone explain the psychological aspect of your writing? You may have said things that could be largely true, but you sound bitter and frustrated. If you had this much to say to the Russian people, you should have said it before Putin explained the history and the purpose of the United Nations to the American people.

    September 19, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    Come on, man. I opened up this page and thought to myself, my computer's been hacked by Russians. I quickly closed the browser, and tried it again. Ah! It's still in Russian! I rebooted my computer, and tried it again. Ah! It's still in Russian.....until I scrolled down the screen enough to see an article in English and figure out that I was looking at a picture of a newspaper. Thanks, for scaring the old guy. I won't need to go jogging later. My heart is already pumping.

    September 19, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  24. myway

    McCain made the same mistake with promising to counter Putin with his own opinion piece as Obama did when he implied action once Syria is found using chemical weapons. To maintain creditability both had to act on their emotionally based promises. It shows one more time, public promises, predictions and threats should only be made after carefully evaluatiing their strategic usefulness and if they can actually be fulfilled.

    September 19, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  25. Dp

    So, just a bunch of juvenile, "yeah, but you're a poopyhead so nyah, nyah, we'll bomb who we wanna' bomb".

    September 19, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
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