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. David W. Bates

    McCain's hypocrisy is laughable. He's taking Putin to task for gay rights and riches being in the hands of "a corrupt and powerful few?" That's rich.

    September 19, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  2. tulelakenewtimes

    I am sorry McCain I will be the first to tell you I am not a Putin fan. But if you think your op-ed piece would win any praise from the Russian people you have another thing coming.

    You start out by claiming, "I am not anti-Russian. I am pro-Russian". Now what is that suppose to mean? So what! "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." Sounds like McCain should be a democrat, instead of a republican. McCain is accusing Putin of doing exactly what the GOP does in America, the same party he supports and represents. Hypocrite much McCain?

    "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." Once again sounds like the republican party. The same party whose sexual orientation they condemn and are against gay marriage. They may not have the power to throw a rock band in jail (if they could have had the power they would have) but they sure had no problem condemning the Dixie Chicks when they spoke out against President Bush with his war in Iraq. Both claiming their first amendment rights the Dixie Chicks for speaking out and the GOP for their boycotts of the Dixie Chicks.

    "He has given you a political system that is sustained by corruption and repression and isn't strong enough to tolerate dissent." Once again McCain is describing the GOP. I guess McCain has never heard of gerrymandering, repressing minorities in voting districts to favor the GOP by governors enacting discriminatory voter ID laws in states where the majority in power are Republicans. No the Republican Party is no different than Putin in Russia. And for McCain to claim Putin wrote a hit piece against the Untied States McCain needed to look in the mirror as he was describing the exact same things the Republican party does and now wants to accuse Putin of doing it. Wake up McCain as your party does the exact same things you were trying to condemn Putin of doing. "I am not anti-American. I am pro-Republican".

    September 19, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  3. hankyknot

    Ladies and gentleman, todays pot-kettle-black moment courtesy of the Senator from Arizona.

    What an absolute child John McCain has proved himself to be.

    September 19, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  4. Adam

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

    All Countries do this. The U.S. is not "exclusive".

    September 19, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  5. EdwardTr

    Putin's target audience was anybody but the Americans and McCain's target audience was the Americans. For supporters of McCain it will be he fought back and he set the record straight even if they did NOT read the piece or know its content. For the rest of the world and McCain's critic, the content of McCain's op-ed will not be discussed only the idea that he and America got mad because Putin said we are not "exceptional".

    September 19, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  6. Mike-sc

    too bad he couldn't explain why Americans think that they are exceptional. Nobody can, btw

    September 19, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  7. Ilyak

    what is really scary is the fact that back in 2008 half of the country voted for this war lord. World would be really concerned about this fact.

    September 19, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  8. mickar

    McCain is a disgrace and embarrassment to the country. I'm glad I don't have to say he's my Senator.

    September 19, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  9. Rosslaw

    Both the Russians under Putin and the Republican party wish for the the economic and political downfall of the United Sttates and work toward that goal every day. They're soul mates.

    September 19, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  10. Nicholas

    McCain’s selection of a defunct newspaper in Russia to post his retort says volumes about his ignorance of what is taking place in the rest of the World. Imagine how many wars the Washigton regime under his rule would have started. Time for him to retire?

    September 19, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  11. Secession Solution

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

    Is he talking about the U.S. government? Sounds like it.

    September 19, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  12. Phyllis Gwendoline Williams

    "Judge Not, that ye be not Judged...with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matthew 7: 1)

    September 19, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  13. abajuba

    What a load of self-serving propaganda........the points McCain states about the Russian government may just as well be describing our own. The federal government stopped serving the people of the USA long before I was born 56 years ago. When the "powers that be" finally drive this country into the ground perhaps the people can pick it up again and put it back together with a government that is truly representative of its citizens.

    September 19, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  14. Helen

    This, from the guy that supports Al Qaeda rebels in Syria. I believe McCain has outlived his Best Before date.

    September 19, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  15. Free Press

    John McCain is the grumpy grandpa that no one listens to anymore. But I got to give him props for giving it back to Putin. Putin thought he was above it all.

    September 19, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  16. McCainIsAnOldFart

    McCain wants to be a Russian presidential candidate in the next election! :)

    September 19, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  17. goodguy6410

    McCain's piece proves the old man still has it. Superbly written...brilliantly illuminating and taking no prisoners. He speaks to the Russian people as Putin tried to communicate to the American people. However, The New York Times gave Putin an opportunity; Pravda the paper didn't; it was Pravda.ru, and independent media source. McCain calmly talked facts that all know about, whether or not they wish to admit it, especially Putin himself. Putin is no hero to anyone, except himself. He does not "serve" the Russian people, although Russia could use someone as smart as Putin to serve selflessly.

    September 19, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  18. calripson

    Nothing will discredit Putin's critics more than an editorial from John McCain parroting their positions. Think of the arrogance this editorial displays: no one disputes that Putin was the overwhelming choice of the Russian people in three elections. John McCain interjects himself in a sovereign nation's affairs by negating the Russian peoples' choice and essentially seeks to mandate their choice of leadership from Imperial Washington. Putin's editorial on the contrary criticizes specific foreign policy actions of the US government – he does not berate the American people for electing Obama and contrary to the media spin Putin does not even question self-proclaimed American exceptionalism (he simply states the historically accurate danger of exceptionalism).

    September 19, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  19. Peace

    Oh! John! why did you go as far as that? Forget about Putin. He is the man who can not manage his own private life, how can he manage his own country, Syria and now including you John. Come back home and deal what is important to people here. Putin is not important, though he has tried hard nowadays to step up to the world stage. I wish he was one inch higher than that one of his predecessor, maybe people could have listen to him a little bit.

    September 19, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  20. CO

    Will someone in AZ please tell their senator to stop antagonizing the entire World. The Cold War is over, nobody wants another hot war in the Middle East, and it would be great if McCain finally got the memo.

    September 19, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  21. skytag

    Pravda (Правда) means "truth" in Russian and the name of another Russian newspaper Izvestia (Известия), means "news."

    There used to be a saying in Russia, Известия не правда и Правда не известия, which means "in News there is no truth and in Truth there is no news."

    September 19, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  22. Mark Roman

    John McCain is beyond confused.

    September 19, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    Whose idea was it to let faux-Pres. McCain speak for the American People? And, please, save me the pontificating about freedom of speech because we're talking about Pravda, not the Washington Post. Decided himself, did he, that he would respond in kind directly to Pres. Putin's op-ed with one of his own?

    Would someone please tell faux-Pres. McCain that freedom of speech stops at the shoreline. I doubt that the average Russian citizen reading that piece realizes the diversity of ideologies and opinions that can exist in a government. McCain will leave the impression that he speaks for the U.S. government, and for all of the American people.

    September 19, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  24. w

    So Putin writes an op-ed piece for "THE NEW YORK TIMES", one of the most respected newspapers in history, (and before anyone says it...regardless of whether you agree with The New York Times.... they are) and McCain responds by writing an op-ed piece for an online "news-source" that, in Russia, is equivalent to "The National Enquirer" here in The United States.
    Great.
    Thank you McCain for giving the world yet another reason to laugh at the ultra-right-wing-conservative-"christian"-GOP-Tea-Party-fanatical-extremists... and thus The United States of America!

    September 19, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  25. Data Driven

    @Nicholas,

    "McCain’s selection of a defunct newspaper in Russia to post his retort says volumes about his ignorance of what is taking place in the rest of the World."

    Very true. But the biggest shame, it seems to me, is not the ravings of one old goober, a Grandpa Simpson shaking his fist at the sky and yelling at the clouds, but rather the entire Beltway who STILL takes McCain seriously - the media who seek only access to the politicians and thus let stories like this just pass on by, the huddled groups of think-tanks along the Potomac who formulate the policies that McCain spouts off on the chat-shows, the lobbyists who own the politicians, the pundits - from Maureen Dowd to Rich Lowry - who promote all this stupidity and turn it into "conventional wisdom"....

    Witness the idiotic response from the pundit-class about how Obama recently handled the Syrian issue. We found a superb solution to the problem, and yet the pundits say Obama wasn't Decider-like enough. Meanwhile, Americans approve of how the situation is being resolved, and are (thankfully) ignoring the Beltway "conventional wisdom". McCain doesn't exist in a vacuum; he a monster created by many Frankensteins,

    September 19, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
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