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. Mike M

    Senator McCain, I am so glad you speak the truth and I agree with everything you stated.

    Having said that, can you and that Russian guy stop posturing and focus on the Real issues at hand. Who knows, maybe we are better than them, but this is an ugly mess with over 100k dead, rebels who are terrorists who we support and no REAL plan. Lets see some real leadership...What a fricking mess...

    September 19, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. Chuck

    I agree with some of John McCain's comments, but I don't think his name calling is helpful. We must work with the Russian government that is in power, and get it out of our heads that we can dictate what happens internally in other countries. I'm not a huge Putin fan, but I respect what he is trying to do about the chemical weapons in Syria. The USA and Russia have come together for a common goal, and that has to be encouraged. We want to do business with Russia because we live in a global economy, and their prosperity will be our prosperity. We should be asking the Russian government to discuss their goals and aspirations in the next 10 years, and how we in the USA can help them get there. We need each other. Let's keep our eye on the ball.

    September 19, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  3. td

    Thank you Mr McCain. But the speech does also sound like modern America under President Obama.

    September 19, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  4. Pat

    What I'd like to know is why the Times published the Russian garbage?

    September 19, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  5. Dude

    I'd like to disagree with Sen McCain. But, I cannot find much in his op-ed to disagree with.

    September 19, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  6. Thetruth

    Actually the people of Arizona deserve better

    September 19, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  7. The Real Tom Paine

    -tom l

    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.
    *****************
    Childish, perhaps: hypocritcal, no. There is no hypocrisy in demostrating the infantile nature and content of many of the Right-wing posters in here by doing what amounts ot a parody of what they say. The comments directed towards McCain and Cruz only point out how the Right operates with both blinkers and selective memory. Expressing outrage about "disrespect" being show towards an embittered nominee and an intellectual empty suit, while piling on every utterance the President and members of his party simply because they are Democrats, shows the close-mindedness of the Right and their cllective unwillingness to accept any part in the problems we are facing. Its interesting that you cannot admit that, but prefer to take the easier rout of lumping people together because of ideology. Kinda disappointing, Tom.

    September 19, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  8. Eric

    Unfortunately for McCain the Russian people long ago stopped believing anything they read in Pravda.

    September 19, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  9. Mark

    Team McCain thought it was publishing its response in one of Russia's largest publications, but got confused and instead had it published by a small, non-legit website with the same or similar name. Reminds me of last year when Kim Jong Un thought The Onion was a legit website/newspaper.

    This would make for an awesome SNL skit, with Jong Un and McCain both swearing they are popular abroad as evidenced by their respective fake newspapers. "Look here Kim, Pravada.ru agrees that all Americans are 'exceptional' and that I am the 'most exceptionalist.'" "My letter was so moving that they are planning to build a statute of me in Red Square." "That nothing John, your country voted me the 'Sexiest Man Alive.'" "See, it is right here in The Onion, they say Kim look like 'beautiful tiger.'"

    September 19, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  10. Sergey

    "They control your media." "...mostly in the possession of the corrupt and powerful few", "By allying Russia with some of the world's most offensive and threatening tyrannies", etc.

    All these arguments could be easily turned against US which makes the patronizing tone of the rest of the piece laughable. It's a shame, because there are a lot of good points in this op-ed, it is just very badly written. The article should have been a thoughtful attempt to make Russians look around and think. Mouthing off like a 4th grader is not how you do it.

    September 19, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  11. wendel

    About the only thing a republican has done right lately. Getting pretty sick of all the debt ceiling and repeal health care crap.

    September 19, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  12. Jon's

    I'm not a fan of McCain, but I liked the op-ed. Well said.

    September 19, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  13. HenryMiller

    John McCain for President–of Russia!

    McCain isn't a good fit for American politics any more–too much sabre rattling–but it looks like he Russian people could use him.

    (This isn't as weird as it sounds. Catherine the Great of Russia was born in Germany, as was King George I of England. Importing foreign rulers has been around for a long time. James I of England was a Scotsman; Mary, Queen of Scots, was a former French queen.)

    September 19, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. Netmonger

    I applaud McCain to for most what he says, including his views on Syria: The Assad regime must be held accoutable by the world for using chemical weapons on its own people, or noone will respect the Geneva convention, and the 100 year stance against chemical weapons, taken by almost 100% of the world's governments. But McCain needs to come up to modern times with his stance on gay marriage, and has done nowhere near enough to reign in the tea party nonsense going on in his own party.

    September 19, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  15. Randall

    McCain and Putin are both dinosaurs from the cold war era and neither of these men has learned to move forward.

    Putin sees the U.S. behind every ill in he world.

    McCain thinks that we must go to war for every cause, be the policeman or be gobbled up by the bad guys.

    September 19, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  16. Dom

    I think it is time for Putin, McCain, Kerry, Assad and Obama to shut the "F" up. These five clowns think they know what is best for the rest of the world. Really... I am not sure any of them nohow to tie their own shoes! Also – that President of Brazil needs to shut the "F" up too! Clearly the US messed up with the NSA spying – but she is acting like this is something new in the world. Please... We are in the information age and the only way to keep up often times is the spy. China, UK and Russia know it which is why they are not continuing to cry about Snowden's exaggerations! Anyway – back to this dribble from McCain. This is an almost insane letter to the Russian people and has not purpose other than to cite unrest in Russia just like Russia uses its RT TV network to try to incite unrest in the US.

    September 19, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  17. tsocrates

    WOW.
    McCain seems really sad he didn't get to help wage another war based on lies.

    Perhaps he's unaware of how perfectly he has described how the US gov't treats protesters at political events these days. They've even declared it a felony to protest NEAR anyone under Secret Service protection: IT IS NOW 'ILLEGAL' to PROTEST at political events in the United States!

    I'm glad McCain is so avidly against the manner in which the DHS has been 'policing' political events, particularly the Republican National Convention, which just a few years ago involved the PRE-EMPTIVE and ILLEGAL arrests of about 2,000 people PRIOR to the event, just in order to keep them from protesting.

    It's good that we hold these crimes against humanity up to the light.
    Thanks for bringing it up, McCain. Now, what are you going to do to help restore the rights of the people of the United States?

    The US has the LARGEST DOMESTIC SPYING PROGRAM ever known to man.
    *** This is "fascism" by even the most lenient definition.

    McCain would rather speak of the speck in someone else's eye, than to address the plank in his own/OUR own.

    September 19, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  18. Rudy NYC

    The Real Tom Pain wrote:

    Childish, perhaps: hypocritcal, no. ... ... ... Its interesting that you cannot admit that, but prefer to take the easier rout of lumping people together because of ideology. Kinda disappointing, Tom.
    ---------------------
    He didn't understand a word that you wrote because he cannot remember what he wrote.

    September 19, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  19. Sniffit

    Dear Russia:

    Please get angry(er) with the US, resent us more and become very vocal about it all, so we can blame it on Obama.

    Thanks,

    Angry Old GOPer Who Yells at Clouds

    PS: Get off my lawn.

    September 19, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  20. PacoParsifal

    Kudos to Mr. McCain. It's shocking to hear so many "americans" these days singing the praises of Putin.

    September 19, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  21. JERSEYTOMATO

    Well said Sen McCain. What a shame it was that the GOP paired you with Palin as VP. Had she not been on your ticket you probably would have been president. Hoping for Christie in 2016!

    September 19, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  22. The Real Tom Paine

    -HenryMiller

    John McCain for President–of Russia!

    McCain isn't a good fit for American politics any more–too much sabre rattling–but it looks like he Russian people could use him.

    (This isn't as weird as it sounds. Catherine the Great of Russia was born in Germany, as was King George I of England. Importing foreign rulers has been around for a long time. James I of England was a Scotsman; Mary, Queen of Scots, was a former French queen.)
    ****************
    I guess the Russians don't have a problem with anchor babies, so let's give them Cruz and Rubio as well-nah, that would be cruel.

    September 19, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  23. For Real?

    McCain's response to Putin has nothing to do with Syria. His op-ed is nothing but generalized cliches, common knowledge, that may or may reflect truth about Putin and Russia. Read Vladimir Solovyav's response on Pravda. "This is Senator's sincere belief that everyone dreams to live like the Americans, but this is not true." McCain's piece did nothing to strengthen his case for Syria. He didn't make America look any better by slamming Putin. His op-ed actually does the opposite.

    What was the purpose of McCain's op-ed anyways? Putin's op-ed defined a clear purpose, to stop the U.S. from attacking Syria. What objective did McCain gain from this? Nothing but the tired rantings of an old politician on his way out to pasture.

    September 19, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  24. Kent

    I'm sorry but where in any line of Putin's op-ed did he personally attack our president or anyone in America. Someone needs to put a muzzle on McCain. He is the epitome of "dumb things my grandpa says." His dementia is clear and his "come out with pistols blazing" is only going to hurt us long after his old bones are in the ground. Yet another example of how dangerous the GOP is. I'm all for America not looking like a wimp, but you don't go picking a fight. Not with someone who wasn't provoking a fight in the first place. McCain's response was completely out of line and I hope he gets his butt handed to him over this one. It's time for the retirement home McCain!

    September 19, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  25. Eben

    I think we can just go ahead and file this under the category of "not helping".

    September 19, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
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