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. Holden

    Suit up Big John, With you spearheading the charge, nothing can go wrong. All of the war profiteers will be well taken care of.

    June 25, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Mark

    McCain needs to retire. We dont have any agreement with Russia to extradite individuals. Russia is doing what we need to do for a change, "say its none of our business". I am a vet and tired of politicians wanting to spend money, and risk soldiers' lives just so we can go around the world sticking our nose in other countries business. China continues to build its military, and economic strength why? Because they arent spending millions a month scattering their military all over the world trying to make people behave. Spend some money on americans. Secure the border!

    June 25, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. DickPerry

    "Putin "has disdain for democracy and the things we stand for and believe in," McCain said" McCain must mean things like: Kidnappings, torture, war crimes, illegal imprisonment of civilians, illegal assassinations of civilians, illegal terrorist killings of civilians with drones, harboring criminals, hacking other countries which by the way is a declaration of war according to Obama.

    June 25, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. PW

    Supporting Syrian Rebels and now this? Out to pasture is best...

    June 25, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |

    If Putin is an, "Old KGB colonel apparatchik that dreams of the days of the Russian empire," then McCain is an "Old Vietnam Vet that thinks every commie is an American at heart dying to get out".

    June 25, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  6. Phaerisee

    I tend to lean Democrat but I support Senator McCain and his remarks. Under Putin's leadership Russia has devolved into a loose confederation of mafia-style fiefdoms. Organized crime and election fraud have flourished under his rule.

    June 25, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  7. George

    "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.

    The ring was a gift!
    All that way of thinking is wrong and makes US less and less popular over the world.
    McCain is outdated and thinks in terms of cold war, those days are OVER and they have no place in the today’s new global world.
    China is upset, Russia is upset and pretty much the rest of the world is upset also…..

    June 25, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  8. Woody Hilliard

    I'm not at all an admirer of John McCain, but find myself in agreement with him here. I believe the Russian man/woman in the street wants freedom, but Putin is more interested in consolidating power and ruling like the old days of the Soviet Union. Until the Russians themselves get Putin out of office our relations with Russia are going to be on shaky ground.

    June 25, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. blakenaustin

    McCain may be right, but he has no credibility. As a RINO he has far more in common with the Democrats than the GOP. It is well past time for McCain to retire.

    June 25, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  10. FireTwoSeven

    It's impossible for Obama to get "tough" at all. Besides, Putin would wipe the floor with Obama. We've lost the ability to be "tough" we're too busy considering everyone's feelings to be effective. That does NOT mean that McCain isn't batcrap crazy, but it DOES mean Obama is a mush.

    June 25, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. bobby

    @Phaerisee–Your'e not supposed to attack the despotic Vladimir Putin here. You're supposed to bash our patriotic war hero. This is how America runs these days

    June 25, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Paul

    McCain calling Putin an old KGB colonel is funny. Kind of like the pot calling the kettle back, especially since he is old pretending not to be balk by combing his hair over his baldness, mediocre pilot, involved with 5 plane crashes and known as the songbird of Hanoi Hilton in Viet Nam.

    June 25, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. Bill Ball

    He's right about Putin. He wants the 'bad old days' back

    June 25, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. JP

    The old dog came out to bark again...

    June 25, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  15. w_roos

    Time to start planning our next elective war - an invasion of Russia. The neocons are already busy.

    June 25, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  16. Darlene Buckingham

    The USA is in trouble and McCain has to take a look at how far the Americans have fallen with their warmongering. He does not speak words of wisdom and is not helping make life better on Planet Earth. We have to start listening to wise people.

    June 25, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  17. alan

    With all due respect, how does McCain suggest Obama get tough on Russia? Nobody believes Obama is capable of anything so they laugh in his face

    June 25, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  18. Jim

    McCain is right about Putin, though.

    If a Russian thinks he can push you around, he will. Czarist, Marxist or whatever, Russians behave the same – if they see something they want, and they think they can get away with it, they will take it.

    Read your history.

    June 25, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  19. richard

    Russia is Russia. Withdraw a couple diplomats for a few days, issue a scathing press release and call it a day. This is not worth risking a single American soldier or another foreign entanglement.

    June 25, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  20. gb0432

    McCain has been on the wrong side of every major foreign policy issue for years...he should have zero credibility at this point

    June 25, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  21. norma jean

    There are many times when John Mccains comments are best read and forgotten......this is one of them.......For several years now he's put forth his opinion on the workings of our government and he always comes up short,,,uninformed or just old and confused....He should be taken with a "grain of salt " and then quickly forgotten!!!!!

    June 25, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  22. Barry

    If McCain was in office he would have already scrambled the B-52's......

    June 25, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. Bob

    Mr. McCain,

    It's time for you to get 'tough' on your retirement from political service. There comes a time in every person's live that they must admit that they are no longer with 'it,' and that it is time to ride on into the sunset before any more damage is done.


    A US Citizen

    June 25, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  24. Toad

    John McCain is a trouble maker!

    June 25, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  25. Conor

    Thankfully, nobody takes this man seriously any more

    June 25, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24