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. Maybe

    "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.)"

    Sounds like the USA to me. Punish dissent and whistleblowers, check. Rigged elections, check. Thanks, Diebold! They control our media Check.

    September 19, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. fastrack1

    McCain is a mouth with legs, but he has his uses. Fractionally more relevant than Palin.

    Agree that the Russians had no other choice but to disagree with him...unless they want to be disappeared by the Putin faction.

    September 19, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  3. G.

    It still truly amazes me that John McCain still does not realize that he is not our president. And while President Obama tries to work out a way that this does not turn into a global war McCain just keeps insulting Putin and Russia as a whole.I understand and appreciate that we as Americans have freedom of speech, but this old warmonger is going to rile up enough people to have something happen. Someone, maybe Boehner needs to tell him to stop- this is all of our lives that he is toying with for the sake of being heard. A very dangerous game Mr. McCain is playing.

    September 19, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. Pat

    While Sen. John McCain's attempt to respond to the Russian Propaganda machine is laudable. This response is truly insignificant in scale compared to the concerted effort by the Russian Government to influence American Public opinion through our media via outlets such as RT News. In fact I am fairly certain that Putin and his administration probably had anticipated that their would be some influential US politicians who would pick up on these efforts by Russia and attempt to have some type of rebuttal.
    I believe that a better rebuttal to the Russian people would ask why is their Government spending hundreds of millions of dollars to produce a newscast in English, not Russian, all while they have so many other projects which go unfunded.

    September 19, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  5. St Xavier

    I read about half of the Responses all that I read were critical of John McCain an rightfully so then I quit reading. Before reading I thought I'd be reading how we are different then the Vladimir Putin's government but McCain put out a carbon copy look a like of government being government by Republicans. McCain sounded more like a Democrat My guess he knows a good party when he see's one to bad he doesn't act the same in real life. He needs to retire to his place in the country an FAID AWAY.

    September 19, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    McSenile has truly lost it. People of Russia, he does not speak for me!!

    September 19, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  7. andrewr770

    Chuk, are you serious? If McCain wants to support the Syrian rebels, he should, "join the military and get on the front lines"? Do you realize how stupid it makes you appear when you tell a decorated war veteran who has served and sacrificed more than most veterans that he should, "join the military"? Show some respect. Someone such as yourself with such diminished brain capacity should learn to keep your opinions out of the public eye.

    September 19, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  8. Baalzabarber

    OMG!!!
    SHUT HIM UP!!! he has outlived his use as a public servant/leech. He speaks out of turn and makes us look bad.

    September 19, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  9. Curt

    While reading the article, I got lost. Was Mccain talking about Russia or America? I didn't finish the article because I got depressed thinking about how bad OUR government is.

    September 19, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  10. well

    mccain should address the american people first, about
    why he and other presstitutes in DC have been rubber-stamping
    universal surveillance of the citizens,
    wall street bailout after deregulation and no supervision,
    corporatization of education, health care, agriculture, prison system, housing, and energy,
    outsourcing of jobs,
    offshore tax shelters,
    wall street's financial gambling with tax payers money,
    FED dictatorship,
    criminal wars and crimes against humanity around the globe,
    for decades,
    in the name of the citizens but
    against the citizens' will?

    September 19, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. Ol' Yeller

    @Loius Seldon- I agree. I am ashamed of you calling yourself an American. Now may be a wonderful opportunity for you to renounce your citizenship. Maybe you could become a Russian citizen and take Mr. McCain with you?

    September 19, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  12. Dr Pang

    Actually I am intrigued that American exceptionalism might give first place to Snowden, and then Russia for giving sanctuary. But then I am sure there are many russians doing the same against their oppresive government – we just don,t hear too much about them. We gave a bunch sanctuary – or was that tainted by too much personal gain? OK then how about Chelsea?

    September 19, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  13. Data Driven

    @zoolander,

    "Do they have any experts in DC on modern Russia???"

    Answer: No. There are no experts in DC on the Islamic world, either. The CIA and the military can't hire enough Arabic or Farsi speakers to even communicate with folks in the Middle East. Whatever "scholars" exist in Beltway think-tanks are pre-programmed with an ideological agenda.

    The Beltway is teeming with second-class intellects, of which John McCain is the exemplar.

    September 19, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  14. M.A.P.

    He didn't even defend the "American exceptionalism" that got him so offended after Putin said it was wrong to think that. Ok , so why do Americans think they are better than everyone else? Explain that to us McCain. No healthcare, guns everywhere, manyy homeless many depressed, so.... we're waiting!

    September 19, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    tom I: 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.

    I understand that you like to think that you are above the fray, tom. If you were to go back and re-read some of your own comments, you might understand where you yourself fit into this little rant of yours using your own guidelines of what not to do when commenting. Then again, maybe not.

    The problem with calling others out on what you perceive to be THEIR hypocrisy is you end up hurling your own personal insults at THEM.

    September 19, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  16. Willow

    No matter what Senator McCain has to put in his two cents. He still believes that someone is listening to him. He is my senator and believe me I have ruled him out, along with my family and friends, LONG ago. Sounds like two bullies in high school with really NOTHING constructive to say. Senator McCain YOU ARE NOT THE PRESIDENT. Get over it!

    September 19, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  17. ST

    Can anyone imagine if McCain with the lady looking at Russia from her window would have won the election 2008? The whole world could have been in a big fire and no one to extinguish it.

    September 19, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  18. Localizer411

    McCain is an expert in foreign relations and it’s a given fact… Or is it?
    1. He decided to use PRAVDA for his publications. Did his staff mention to him that this is a communist newspaper?
    2. After reading his “response” two things has to be done immediately: fire McCain’s translator, fire McCain’s press secretary.
    The language is so poor both statistically and culturally, that for the target audience the entire article cannot be considered as anything more than an exotic joke. What was that about a “monkey with a hand grenade” again?

    September 19, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  19. Not Too Hard To Understand

    Oh, John. Grow up. It's getting more and more difficult for us to separate your anger from your dementia.

    September 19, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  20. Name

    McCain's op-ed could of been written for the US. I think just about all he said holds true for the USA.

    September 19, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  21. KBNJ

    OK, so what McCain wrote is probably all true. But what's it going to accomplish? Less of a chance we can secure Syria's chemical weapons without going to war AGAIN (Obama?!)?

    September 19, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  22. Capt. Brian West

    Sen. McCain..thank you for your service to this once great country and for one time being a republican. Now please retire and go back to Arizona. By the way, don't you think it is embarrassing to be caught playing cards on your phone during an important hearing?

    September 19, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    M.A.P.

    He didn't even defend the "American exceptionalism" that got him so offended after Putin said it was wrong to think that. Ok , so why do Americans think they are better than everyone else?
    ----------------------–
    Because most Americans do not think that they are better than everyone else. Only the right wing in this country thinks that way.

    September 19, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  24. Thomas

    John , what was the one you wanted to publish ?

    September 19, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  25. tarura

    Mr. McCain, time to retire.

    September 19, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
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