June 25th, 2013
08:05 AM ET
10 years ago

McCain: Time to get tough with Putin

(CNN) – The time for gentle diplomacy with Russia's President Vladimir Putin has passed, Sen. John McCain asserted in an interview Tuesday.

Calling the Russian leader an "old KGB colonel apparatchik that dreams of the days of the Russian empire," McCain said on CNN's "New Day" the U.S. should take a tougher position with Putin, who has also opposed western plans to arm rebels battling Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

"We've got to start dealing with Vladimir Putin in a realistic fashion," McCain told Chris Cuomo.

The most recent break in the U.S.-Russia relationship came Sunday, when it's believed NSA leaker Edward Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow as he avoids apprehension on U.S. espionage charges.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed at a news conference Tuesday his country has "nothing to do with Mr. Snowden, or his movements around the world," and that accusations against Russia over harboring Snowden are "absolutely groundless and unacceptable."

Those remarks did little to placate McCain, who countered it was "well known" that Snowden is in Russia.

"It's reminiscent of the days of the Cold War when you hear a Russian spokesman saying that he's not in Russia, when every shred of evidence indicates that he is," said the Arizona Republican and 2008 GOP presidential nominee, who also faulted President Barack Obama for not taking a firmer line with Russia on Syria and Iran.

"When you withdraw to fortress America, when you believe in light footprints, when you show the world you're leading from behind, these are the consequences of American leadership," McCain said, adding "That does not mean confrontation, but steadfast adherence to the principles many presidents since the Cold War and before have stood for that the rest of the world will respect."

As for Putin, McCain said there were deeper problems entrenched in the Russian leader's outlook on the world.

Putin "has disdain for democracy and the things we stand for and believe in," McCain said, before referencing the allegation from last week that Putin stole a Super Bowl ring from the owner of the New England Patriots (Putin's spokesman later said it was a gift).

"If he sees a situation he'll take advantage of it. Anybody that takes somebody's Super Bowl ring has got to be not exactly like us," he said.

Filed under: John McCain • Russia
soundoff (586 Responses)
  1. Al-NY,NY

    "bomb bomb bomb...bomb bomb Moscow"...says the war monger.

    June 25, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  2. Data Driven

    Putin took a guy's ring?

    World War 3!

    In fact, McCain should climb atop a warhead and ride it all the way down to detonation, yahooing and waving his cowboy hat around like Slim Pickens in "Dr. Strangelove".

    June 25, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Putin was a thorn for the GWB administration, too. But, the Bush administration treated him with a Cold War stance.

    June 25, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  4. Dude

    This guy needs to shut up. There is no reason to get tough with Putin. So he disagrees with the US? Boohoo.

    June 25, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    Putin is the one who is right, in this situation........and McCain is totally wrong, and has become a fool.

    June 25, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  6. Tony in Maine

    John, John, John – it's probably time to remember you lost in 2008. You are not the President of the United States – for which most people thank God.

    June 25, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  7. Babeouf

    As an outsider I thought that the principles that the US President was supposed to steadfastly defend where specified in the US constitution. From Snowden I found out this isn't the case. Mcain says 'Putin "has disdain for democracy and the things we stand for and believe in," . It turns out that US democracy is just a fig leaf over a monstrous Spy Empire. And now that the rest of the world can see what 'the things we stand for and believe in' actually are the population outside the USA supports Putin in refusing to send Snowden back to a US Lubyanka.

    June 25, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  8. g

    maccain really wants WW3 ,hes old and really wants to leave nothing behind

    June 25, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  9. American independent

    Some please, please tell me why I voted for Pres Obama?

    June 25, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  10. M.A.P.

    I agree (with a republican!) that the time for gentle diplomacy with this thing called Putin is over. He has single handedly undone all the work Boris did in the 90s and has set back Russia's diplomatic relationship with the US, Germany, the UK and who knows how many other countries. The man is just not made for the job of leader. A leader of the secretive KGB, sure, but not a leader of a supposedly "free and democtatic" country. Putin is nothing more than a petty, synical little child throwing a never ending temper tantrum.

    June 25, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  11. duckie

    News flash – the cold war is over. Don't try to start a new one.

    June 25, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  12. American independent


    June 25, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  13. Anonymous

    Too bad that many Americans and other people around the world agree with Mr. Putin. We should not arm 'rebels' that kill children and eat human flesh and believe in death to democracy – oh how low can the West sink!

    June 25, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  14. Danram

    Sen. McCain is 100% right. The Russians respect toughness and force above all else. I'm sure that Vlad Putin and his cronies have had plenty of laughs over late-night vodka shots at the expense of our "enlightened" creampuff president.

    I can't believe we were dumb enough to not only elect Barack Obama but also to re-elect him.

    June 25, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  15. Whome

    Poor John the poster child for term limits.

    June 25, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  16. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Oh hush old man. You trying to start WWIII?

    June 25, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  17. bdby

    I simply don’t understand how the most powerful nation on earth ends up groveling to a second rate nation such as Russia? Obama’s leadership skills are sorely lacking here when it comes to the Syrian conflict and this mess? Obama has plenty of political tools to use to pressure Russia to return this traitor to the USA but he won’t for fear of alienating the rest of the world.

    What a wimp and a laughing stock.

    June 25, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  18. James PDX

    I used to have more respect for McCain. But these days, he nothing but a mouthpiece for the US war machine.

    June 25, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    McCain made it onto CNNs newest morning show entitled "New Day"? Sounds a lot like the same old, same
    old ... day ... month ... year.

    June 25, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  20. Dean

    Russians understand and respect power. Unfortunately, we have a spineless boy in the White House.

    June 25, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  21. Jessica McGwin

    Realy, Not impressed!

    June 25, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  22. Dex

    Please retire!

    June 25, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  23. reaper062289

    I don't like Obama at all, but I will admit, if McCain would have won the presidency during his run, I think we would have already kick-started WW3; not to say we aren't already in the preemptive stages of it already...

    June 25, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  24. Malory Archer

    American independent

    Some please, please tell me why I voted for Pres Obama?


    You didn't, but thanks for playing!

    June 25, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  25. damian

    Its a good thing we have cold war relics like mccain still around to remind us of how ignorant and selfish we were and still are and how important it is to realize that america is not king of the world.

    June 25, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
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