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.
Judging from this article and the previous one about Cruz, I guess democrats feel it's ok to make comments strictly about someone's age (a bunch of agists!) and it's clearly fair game to be bigoted and racist towards Canadians. The nasty comments about McCain (calling him grandpa and several other truly hateful and bigoted comments just due to the man's age) and Cruz (just read the comments about his Canadian and Cuban background) is just another example of the close-mindedness of the liberals. If you don't think like them than you are free to hurl any and all personal insults at them. Disgusting and so incredibly childish and hipocritical.
The good news is that this man didn't get elected president. His foreign diplomacy skills are virtually not existent. This is the same man who made jokes about killing Iranians when he was running for president. If he'd been elected there's no telling how many countries he would have offended by now.
McCain keeps looking for ways to be relevant. He's not. You lost the 2008 elections, McCain; give it up. You want to support the "freedom fighters" in Syria, join the military and get on the front lines.
I listened to the BBC on NPR this morning. All the Russians interviewed felt that McCain should shut up and mind his own business. I tend to agree. He lost all credibility when he selected the intellectually challenged Half Governor as his running mate.
Senator McCain, You are not the President of the United States and you never will be the President of the United States. It is not up to you to argue foreign policy with foreign leaders. Do us all a favor. Shut that hole in your face unless you want to speak on the senate floor about doing something IN AMERICA FOR AMERICANS. You hypocrit scumbag.
John, you are also losing your bearings nowadays. What about asking to have the ring back? Did you forget it? It was important then, and it is still important now. Isn't it John?
McCain recognizes Russian government to be like ours! Powerful and wealthy few responsible for election of government officials and controlling most of the news media. What's McCain ever done to shine light on the long allowed flagrant conflicts of interest that are responsible for our bad government?
Whoa! Sounds so intriguing....you políticos fighting such a "heated" issue.....
Really such a distraction to the real issues – the transnational corporations beyond control of governments and UN. Started with tobacco, think pharmaceuticals and.....? Arm whoever you want. when the elephants fight (and later drink wine and trade barbs in the journals) the innocent get trampled....and yes I am including Joe private inscripted by whatever side. Dont ask me my contribution/solution....we speak a differente language..
"They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections." Is McCain talking about Russia or the US? Maybe he is actually referring to the US with Guantanamo, the 2000 presidential election, and the suppression of Occupy protesters. You had better look in the US mirror, McCain, before you criticize another country.
What grade are these two in? feels like high school politics .
Out of curiosity I went and read what russians are saying about McCain's article.
1. They call it too simple-minded, full of typical american propaganda and nowhere close to the Putin's op-ed intellectually
Basically, they are offended that McCain thinks that they cannot understand more complex arguments than typical one-liners about freedom and democracy
2. They also say that McCain basically didn't say anything they ahven't heard before from american establishment and didn't do anything to explain why the USA interferes so much in the what is going on in the other countries and ignores US
3. They are still waiting to hear an explantion about american exceptionalism too, why is it americans think they are the best country in the world?
“They punish dissent and imprison opponents". - Guantanamo ?
"They rig your elections. " – Anyone remember the florida recounts?
"They control your media,” – Yes Pravda published Mccain's letter? The private media are all about selling news, not neutral conveyance of facts. American news is some of the most-biased in the world.
America has no credibility, only a big military.
McCain wants to attack a Russian ally. Why would the Rusiians believe anything he says?
When you have a big hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
First, I wish McCain would shut his mouth and concentrate on matters at home. He is not the President and he is not in charge of the foreign policy of the United States of America. That said, is it really any surprise that a Russian newspaper would refuse to publish an American politicians rebuttal to Putin's nonsensical op-ed in the NYT? Yet another indication that there is no such thing as freedom of the press in Russia.
What a blowhard McCain is: short on facts, long on opinion. He is making Putin look really good after in rant.
This is perhaps the only thing McCain has said in ten years that I actually admire. Great job, Senator!
I don't know where the phrase "American exceptionalism" originated, but it seem to me that it is nothing more than another example of the right wing taking an idea and distorting it for their own purposes. What I mean is that the real phrase is "American ingenuity", which speaks of the country and not the individual. The right wing in this country has dropped "ingenuity" in favor of the more selfish "exceptionalism."
I hate to say it, but Mr. Putin has made a good call about the rampant greed, selfishness, and self arrogance that has invaded American society from the right wing.
" I guess democrats feel it's ok to make comments strictly about someone's age (a bunch of agists!)"
(shrugs) If the shoe fits, you know what I mean? Getting old and making a fool of oneself is merely to be human; hopefully, this doesn't occur when one is a United States Senator. And it works both ways: most young people, say, under the age of 25 or so, tend to be far more clever than wise, because they lack experience in life.
For further study, I suggest cracking open your Complete Works of William Shakespeare, blowing the dust off it, and find the play 'As You Like It". Go to Act 3 and read Jacques' "Seven Ages of Man" speech. Kinda sums it up.
Jeff Brown in Jersey observed:
I listened to the BBC on NPR this morning. All the Russians interviewed felt that McCain should shut up and mind his own business.
Just one thing. What else were they supposed to say? Think about it. What would happen to them if they allow themselves to be recorded on videotape actually agreeing with McCain in denouncing the Russian government? They'd be thrown into a jail cell, never to be heard from again.
He sent this to both Pravdas...because he's confused or because in Russia there are always at least two Truths?
Perhaps he should turn around and pay attention to his job as a Congressman and work to serve his country, rather than preach to leaders of other countries.
McCain should just die already. no one thinks he has any good ideas left thats why he was not elected.
Read that article.
Basically, McCain tried to expalin 3 ideas:
1. He is not russophobe.
– Ok, but we all know HE IS one. Why hide obvious.
2. Putin is bad guy.
– Ok, but we voted for Him and he still has better rating than Obama and McCain combined.
3. Russia is full of problems because Putin is bad guy
– Sure, Russia has its problems!
But taking in account article is responce to Putin's one it is clear McCain says " how dare you criticise US you are NOT BETTER".
Here is one (and only) point I have to agree.
Yes, Russia is not Better than USA.
I'm afraid that all McCain did is make us look even worse. This 'op ed' reads like a spitting tirade, compared to the relatively intelligent piece written by Putin. By contrast, John's rant offers absolutely no intelligent commentary or analysis whatsoever, however unfavorable it might have been to Putin or Russian foreign policy.
Just sad, John. I think it's time you go enjoy your sunset years.
McCain is completely out of his mind. War criminal and War mongrel.
Yes Russia can use better government, but every single line in that pravda op-ed is a lie.
Do they have any experts in DC on modern Russia??? First they don't know how translate "reset' to Russian, now this... Old McCain still lives in 60 s, – he should walk into one of Russian food stores in DC and ask the salesperson what newspaper is most popular now in Russia...at least Putin didn't try to send his op-ed to the Look magazine...