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.
"Because most Americans do not think that they are better than everyone else. Only the right wing in this country thinks that way."
Hey Rudy, I hope you don't take offense to this but I think you really don't understand what "American Exceptionalism" means. The true meaning of that term pertains to our form of govt. We are the only country in the world that the leaders answer to the people and not the people answering to the leaders. That's as simple as it can be. It is, indeed, exceptional to live in a country with that premise as there certainly was no country in the world like that when we first became a nation and I would say we are the only true country still that has that value.
Try as he may to become important, John is still irrelevant. If only the Sunday talk shows would learn what most Americans already know.
Kudos to Mr. McCain. It's shocking to hear so many "americans" these days singing the praises of Putin."
Which Americans are "signing the praises" of Putin? And don't say "Obama" because he has not. Next time, document your accusation.
While I agree with pretty much every thing that McCain said – I can not condone his speaking out of turn to directly address an entire foreign nation on his own. He is a representative of AMERICAN CITIZENS, as such everything he does reflects on not just him but the citizens of the US that he is elected to represent. While I respect his right to speak up and be heard he was given no directive or request by those he represents in his state or ANYONE as part of his position as a representative of the US public to put forth his commentary to an entire foreign nation. He certainly is entitled to his opinion but as a public figure he has certain responsibilities to NOT allow his personal feelings to direct him to actions that may cause a misrepresentation of OR the impression of misrepresentation of those he is elected to represent. Because of this I feel that this decision was made in poor judgment. While I may not disagree with the message I certainly DO disagree with the method. As for Putin he is a thief and a liar and can be trusted to do what serves himself FIRST and everything else second.
While I agree with pretty much every thing that McCain said – I can not condone his speaking out of turn to directly address an entire foreign nation on his own. He is a representative of AMERICAN CITIZENS, as such everything he does reflects on not just him but the citizens of the US that he is elected to represent. While I respect his right to speak up and be heard he was given no directive or request by those he represents in his state or ANYONE as part of his position as a representative of the US public to put forth his commentary to an entire foreign nation. He certainly is entitled to his opinion but as a public figure he has certain responsibilities to NOT allow his personal feelings to direct him to actions that may cause a misrepresentation of OR the impression of misrepresentation of those he is elected to represent. Because of this I feel that this decision was made in poor judgment. While I may not disagree with the message I certainly DO disagree with the method. As for Putin he is a thief and a liar and can be trusted to do what serves himself FIRST and everything else second. ...
@The Real TP,
Thank you for your thoughtful response. I had another post that did not make it where I talked about your exact point. I referred to how it is the exact same thing as when the pius hard right talks about family values while many in the repub party (Vitter, Sanford, Rush, etc) have personal transgressions that make them hipocrits, as well.
As far as your point about "The comments directed towards McCain and Cruz only point out how the Right operates with both blinkers and selective memory" I think you are way, way off. I hope you recognize the hatred, vitriol and venom of people like, oh let's say rs, Wake Up and good ol' Sniffit. These people harbor such hate towards the other side that there is no way that their comments are made out of anything more than pure anger and venom. It's palpable.
I don't think that people like you, Data Driven, Lynda and sometimes Rudy, have that same anger that the afformentioned do, but it's worth taking an unbiased look at the comments that they make and I think you will come to a different conclusion.
Hope you're having a great day.
Who appointed this old fogey as Secretary of State? Who made him the spokesman for foreign policy?
This creep does not represent all of America. Thank God.
I hope McCain speaks out about his party shutting down the government as a de facto veto of legislation they wish to eliminate, because it's undemocratic and thus authoritarian.
Mr. McCain, u r 100% correct, a democrat voter. O is chicken.
I guess we have more in common with the people of Russia than I thought. Sounds like their government operates just like ours. If they could follow Americas lead and learn to suppress their population through internal divisiveness instead of out right thuggery they might rate as a first class nation and also be exceptional.
This is a guy worth $500 million who takes $2,000/month from Social Security, and supports the party that wants to end Social Security, which is the ONLY income for many seniors. As for gays in Russia, if Russia doesn't want them, then they can go elsewhere. If nobody on Earth wants them, then they can go elsewhere. Or, they could just shut the truck up and stay in their own bedroom like they did for 10,000 years, or better yet, discover true humanity and just ignore their animal urges and be celebant. The whole idea of spouses getting benefits upon a spouse's death comes from the fact that mothers used to stay home and take care of kids, and never worked, so that woman had nothing else to live on. But you all go ahead and 'progress' into doing whatever enters your puny little minds – except in Russia.
Newsflash: The USA pays Russia to take astronauts into space. Isn't that 'special'.
"They control your media" – Maybe, and how many Op-Eds (blogs) are Moderated off US sites?
Same as the Democratic Party, there is a USA that used-to-be, and the one that exists today.
Which one is Putin criticizing, and which one does McCain fantasize still exists?
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.”
I'd like to say the same thing about the American Government.
Why would anybody interfere with the internal politics of another country is beyond me.. worry about your own country sir..
@Netmonger- "or noone will respect the Geneva convention"
No one like who? Like the country who redefined terminology to allow torture? I think pulling the Geneva Convention out of the trash can and smoothing it out on our knee and pointing to it would not be the best strategy here.
> 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...
Yes, it is clear they have no clue about what is going on in Russia,
which makes me think that Russia is not a priority for the US intellgence anylonger.
That is fine, but still looks embarrasing.
Actually, most russians don't read the newspapers ,because the postal service is not reliable there.
They either watch TV or read online newspapers and websites.
I think my dad reads "Kommersant" , which is a financial and business news newspaper.
"Pravda" went defunct after the fall of the Soviet Union, it no longer exists.
PREACH. Brilliant post, and informative to many who may read it. The media just blew on by those illegal arrests at the RNC in 08.
More muddled musings from this has been, sounds like it was the same as his trip where he palled around with Al-Quaida "rebels" and made them his new BFF!
Time for this old school warship to find a "mothball" dock.
Well, I applaud McCain, although I wish international politicians would stop addressing "the people" directly; I understand we're about to get another one here from the newly-elected Iranian poobah. Swell.
Meanwhile, since the Senator has put it in writing: "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. " – I look forward to fair & speedy budget legislation, the end of corporate welfare & some new legislation to benefit America, rather than repeatedly failing to repeal old legislation.
The true meaning of that term pertains to our form of govt. We are the only country in the world that the leaders answer to the people and not the people answering to the leaders.
As simple as that is- do you mean no one else in the world votes? I would offer you that Parlaimentary systems (where no condidence votes can be held) are more reactive that our own.
"We are the only country in the world that the leaders answer to the people and not the people answering to the leaders."
I'm sure people all across Europe, South Asia, and other places would be startled by your comment.
In any case, high-minded ideals like the Bill of Rights and the Constitution aren't worth the paper they're printed on if our government isn't living up to them. We're falling short of our ideals in so many ways that it's not worth recounting them all because I can't even think of them all and besides I don't like very long posts.
US special forces killed the 100 civilians with nerve gas.
Phoney, liar McCain is null and void. They simply aren't worth replying to.
"Hey Rudy, I hope you don't take offense to this but I think you really don't understand what "American Exceptionalism" means. The true meaning of that term pertains to our form of govt. We are the only country in the world that the leaders answer to the people and not the people answering to the leaders."
Yawn. Nice rationalization. Perhaps that applies to your use of the phrase, but I guarantee you that's not how it's understood whatsoever by the vast majority of people who use and ascribe to that terminology on a regular basis. It's certainly not used to mean that when RWNJ politicians say it to the RWNJ base. The politicians mean for it to carry with it all connotations you can possibly think of with respect to nationalistic narcissism....and it's understood that way by the droolers who buy into it.
what a surprise. Slow news day, non thinking American press with the help of an American PR firm – publishes the delusional nonsence of V Putin. An American politician tries to publish in Russia and does not have the same success. Why are any Americans listening to and quoting Putin – they must be simpletons.
Why this old man is still trying to look good. Everyone around the world is making fun of him, when he says one thing to American people, and another to the Russians. He can become a world clown (after Gondollessa Rice)