McCain publishes opinion piece in Pravda – but not the one he wanted
A screenshot of Pravda.ru
September 19th, 2013
03:40 AM ET
11 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. Joan

    McCain may single handedly be doing more to destroy US-Russian relations than anyone else in either government at this time. That's kind of dangerous. He seems to think he has a lot of credibility, speaks for all Americans and is totally correct in all of his assumption. Does he not realize that he lost the 2008 election? Yes, relations are fragile and there are a lot of differences but there are some common interests between the two countries too. Let the real leaders correspond and make the decisions. Hopefully he hasn't done too much damage.

    September 19, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  2. Gunner

    Brilliant! This is why I am so proud to be an American.

    September 19, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    tom l. wrote:

    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.
    -------------------------–
    I hate to break the bad news to you but the U.S. is not the only country that has a government that conducts public elecitons and answers to its' people. No, "American exceptionalism" is perfectly encapsulated within the "Bush Doctrine", which was driven by the diea to export "American exceptionalism" to every corner of the globe. The term simply reeks of arrogance and overblown self-importance.

    Like I said earlier, prior to rise of neo-conservatism in the 1980s, the term has always been "American ingenuity". It was America that drove the Industrial Revolution, invented the automobile, the airplane, the telephone, the televisoin, the atom bomb, the communications satellite, the transistor, the microprocessor, the world wide web, etc. When there was a need for technological advancement, it was most often been Americans who made the technological leap to create ingenius products and devices heretofore only dreamed about, and in many cases never before conceived.

    September 19, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  4. MR LOU

    John McCain talks alot about self governance and self determination yet i can guarantee you he practices none of this in reality. He passes bills without 51% electorate consent. He makes no attempt to have a referendum on the sociopathiac inspired bills and budgets he votes to approve into law.. He is hot air propaganda..He plays democratic but he is the dictator of new laws. The sad thing is , is that all politicians play this pseudo democratic shell game and people believe its real democracy

    September 19, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  5. MR LOU

    John McCain talks alot about self governance and self determination yet i can guarantee you he practices none of this in reality. He passes bills without 51% electorate consent. He makes no attempt to have a referendum on the sociopathiac inspired bills and budgets he votes to approve into law.. He is hot air propaganda..He plays democratic but he is the dictator of new laws. The sad thing is , is that all politicians play this pseudo democratic shell game and people believe its real democracy

    September 19, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  6. TommyVIO

    I think he shouldn't have done this because it is not our business how Russia is being governed. However, he does make a good point and he is totally right about Putin... Putin does not care about the people, he cares about ruling them. Russia, even as it looks like is in good shape, it is really not. The only places that are in good shape are a few big cities like Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and a couple more... Everywhere else in russia is like in 3rd world countries, hunger, crime, prostitution...

    September 19, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  7. DS

    Now McCain feels he is one up on Putin.

    September 19, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  8. Tascman

    I only wish Senator McCain would actually work to free people here. I wish Senator McCain would actually follow our Constitution and support a Rule of Law [Republican Government] instead of loading us with unconstitutional wars and entitlements which have bankrupted the US.
    Regarding Syria, why is the US supporting the rise of a tyrannical system than makes Hitler look like a boyscout? I mean eating the hearts of their enemies, burning churches and driving Christians, Jews, and any one who will not follow their truth, kill indiscriminantly, subject women and all opponents through inevitable inequality until they reign superior in the world.
    The recent displacement of dictators who dealt brutally with brutal adversaries have been replaced with a much more brutal system, and I am ashamed to pay taxes to the nation that supports them. Historically we nearly joined Hitler once as one of our allies, it seems to me we finally did. God Help Us.

    September 19, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  9. Cecilio Sallust

    Glad to read Sen. McCain's article- I think something needs to be said about people who have loyalty to their own nation. By no means is America perfect and that is not what Sen. John McCain is claiming but rather the effrontery of Putin to try to globally assassinate the character of a Nation like America on moral high grounds is outrageous even for a non-American citizen like myself. Instead of Americans ripping apart your nation in front of the world at the bidding of Putin as it faces challenges to perfect its union and global interests-Take a stand against the policies that concern you with your leaders but face the world ever so tall by reminding yourselves and the world those values that made you first.

    September 19, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  10. rs

    Well, now Russian know Republicans are as acrazy as we do..... does this help anything?

    September 19, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  11. Larry in Houston

    OMG !! Can U imagine IF this country ended up electing this guy ?? LOL –
    WW III for sure . . . WoW !

    well, no wonder they wanted to elect the Community Organizer – in – Chief !! ( as an Independent, I can't hardly blame the Voters !!
    Like I've always said : it's either dumb or dumber / the lesser of the 2 evils / or stupid, or more stupider – LOL

    September 19, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. J Fred Muggs

    Although I not a fan of Putin or his government I did notice McCain's comment about his Government. 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.” Sounds to me like the Republican party in this country!

    September 19, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. MR LOU

    John McCain talks about self governance and self determination yet i can guarantee you he practices none of this in reality. He passes bills without electorate consent. He makes no attempt to have a referendum on the sociopathiac inspired bills and budgets he votes to approve into law.. He is hot air propaganda..He plays democratic but he is the dictator of new laws. The sad thing is , is that all politicians play this pseudo democratic shell game and sheepish populaton believe its real democracy

    September 19, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. Anonymous

    I am so tired of this senile fool McCain.... In his article Putin referred only to heavy-handed US foreign policy and it's stance on Syria. McStain decided to attack Russian government directly perpetuating all the myths and stereotypes that we all heard for years. McCain is as pro-Russian as Muslim is pro-pork.
    America was exceptional in the 28th century – when it was the only country on earth founded on the principals of equality and ruled by representatives of the people. But come on – clinging to the myth of exceptionalism in the 21st century is silly. Every country in Europe and Latin America has similar democratic forms of government now, and many have more individual freedoms than we do here in the US. Every country is unique, but in today's world, claiming exceptionalism is stupid and dangerous.

    September 19, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  15. phil

    MCcain should write the same thing about Obama.

    September 19, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  16. SGS

    McCain was asked to write something for Russian public instead he wrote boring propaganda drivel for internal American consumption in apparent attempt to restore their confidence of "exceptionality". Russians now learned what it feels like when McCain insult your intellegence.

    September 19, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  17. Dave

    Did anyone notice that the article was written by him, he referenced with the "I believe", not America believes. This alone singles out his "opinion piece" as his opinion and not that of anyone else in America. Although his ideals and beliefs are worthy, we must still respect the fact Russia is a different country, with different beliefs, different history, and different values. For that I commend both McCain and Putin for addressing each others citizens with their own beliefs and let the citizens determine who and what to believe.

    September 19, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. paul

    It,s unbelievable that the world would allow a dictaor that has slaughtered, gassed and killed his own people to continue ruleing syria, but seeing the mess left behind from ridding the world of saddam a dictaor that covered dissent and kept the masses in line , i guess they figure they might as well leave alsaad to the job, during the vietnam war the russians quietly sat there and shot down 1,000 US and Western war fighter planes, nixon end the war in defeat, i think the americans have waited to long doing anything they have lost support from the american people while opposition senators have turned it into a three ring circus, haveing waited so long they now can see another vietnam war where the russians will keep arming assaad and the russians will keep shooting down western military fighter planes, it is understandable Mr McCain being hostile seeing it was russian missle that took his vietnam era plane down, Plainly put in syria the americans lost the war sitting on thier hands to long,

    September 19, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. Sniffit

    "Why this old man is still trying to look good."

    Narcissism is for life.

    September 19, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. notogop

    I'm confused. Is this the same McCain who consistently votes to oppress gay rights, gives free rein to corporations to do as they please with no regard for the "little guys" and constantly tries to undermine, along with his partner Lindsey Graham, every step President Obama takes in an obvious attempt to bring his corrupt party to power? I wish he cared as much about our government as he seems to for the Russians.

    September 19, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. Goblin King

    Will McCain, please retire now? I am tired of hearing from him.

    September 19, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  22. Malachy Alceac

    Way to go McCain! Someone has the gut to finally expose Putin for what he is – a tyrant. I am an agreement with everything that you said. "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."

    September 19, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. ib4ucy

    It does sound as though he is killing two birds with one stone. A lasting society is always equal to it's "individual" right to self-determination. Are you listening U.S.A. ? Good Job On This One McCain.

    September 19, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  24. Matt Norris

    Is this really what McCain sent to Pravda? This is the worst form of "diplomacy" I have ever seen. Putin tells us there's a problem with the U.S. foreign policy, and makes a legitimate point in light of the fact that everything about U.S. foreign policy from present back to 2001 is about problems created during the Cold War.

    How McCain could take it upon himself to do this, however, can be picked by "minute details" in the obvious flaws of what he is saying. Politicians know to pick at things, so I'll pick at the obvious:

    "How has he strengthened Russia's international stature? By allying Russia with some of the world's most offensive and threatening tyrannies."

    This is U.S. policy, during the Cold War. It is the policy that put Saddam Hussein in power, and it is the policy that funded those who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. It funded rebels in Nicaragua with terrible human rights abuses, it provided chemical weapons to Iraq.

    McCain already knows this, which means that he is probably aware of how this will be received by a fraction of those in the nation that published this. He also already knows that U.S. citizens are increasingly not in agreement with U.S. foreign policy decisions of late, or else are relieved that Obama stepped back from attacking Syria.

    It may be that McCain is purposefully sending something to Pravda that can be shot full of holes, in terms of its logical errors.

    September 19, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  25. former garik

    Somebody needs to explain the Senator, that: (i) Cold War is over; (ii) Communist Party these days is a small opposition party, often complaining about prosecution and oppression from the government; (iii) vast majority of "Pravda" readers are old retirees who do not even have access to this online edition; (iv) the only thing that this article will accomplish is to convince a few people that "hmm, perhaps Putin is doing at least something right after all, if McCain is so upset". In short, somebody please ask the Senator to stop embarrassing the United States.

    September 19, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
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