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. Joshua

    McCain is an idiot.. I don't agree with slaughtering innocent people, but the conflict in Syria is MUCH more complicated than that. If you arm the terrorists, again, don't complain when they turn those weapons on us. Let them arm and kill each other, Russia is 100% correct on this one. I love how when anyone disagrees with the U.S., they are flat out targeted. We are so arrogant as a country. Now it's catching up to us.

    June 25, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  2. Andrey

    As delirious as ever! How would you get tougher on Putin? There is no trade between US and Russia, there are no cultural links worth mentioning, there are no relations which could go any worse. The only thing left is to use "tougher rhetoric: good luck with that old man!

    June 25, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  3. Shamma Lammadingdong

    It's easy to proclaim a course of action when you don't have to deal with the consequences. Of course when his suggestion backfires and fails, it will be the person who took his advice that takes the blame, and not McCain himself.

    June 25, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  4. Brandon

    Your own citizens don't even back this nonsense with the NSA and you think Russia & Putin is going to bend over for you? How can our government be so ridiculously out of touch.

    June 25, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  5. mike

    McCain is a fool and a megalomaniac.

    June 25, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  6. Tom Legare

    What does get tough mean? Start a war?? Is John all there?? He's starting to sound a little crazier by the day!

    Why does he think the Russians or anyone else for that matter is supposed to agree with us on everything we want?? HUH!

    June 25, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  7. K Harrington

    Russia is absolutely NOT correct in arming Assad against the rebels. Putin is a thug and Putin has shown that he is in league with thugs. I agree we need a tougher stand on him.

    June 25, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  8. Al-NY,NY


    McCain is right. This facade of the imaginary peter pan world liberals think we live in can only last as long as people keep buying it.

    "Peter Pan" world that the GOP wants....Ward and June Cleaver with their two precious little boys Wally and Beaver sitting in a white picket fenced yard with no "others" around. June serves Ward his drink when he comes home while wearing a dress, heels, and some pearls. The 1950's viewpoint of this party is a joke.

    June 25, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  9. Tampa Tim

    Bomb, bomb, bomb Moscow. Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. Bomb, bomb bomb Syria. Bomb, bomb, bomb North Korea. What a tool Lindsay's special friend is.

    June 25, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  10. Don

    I live in Canada, but was born in the US. Leading "from behind" is making the US better liked, yet less respected. Canadians I know, many applaud the softer stance of our current President. But like Carter before him, he is damaging US credibility, making the leading nation in the free world just one of many. US is called to be a leader, not a negotiator. Putin and others will take advantage of all they are given. US is becoming a watered down super power, afraid to use their guns and influence.

    June 25, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  11. Anonymous

    John McCain never saw a war he didn't like. When he started singing, "Bomb, bomb, bomb. Bomb, bomb Iran," (Remember?) he revealed his true character. It's gone downhill from there.

    June 25, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  12. Liberty again

    All I can say is, "Thank God McCain lost the 2008 election". His constant war-mongering is mind boggling.

    June 25, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  13. Deac

    Remember Obama's comment to Medvedev about just wait until after the election? Obama will do nothing

    June 25, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  14. Texas

    Seriously...I think the good senator from Arizona is as daft as Pat Robertson these days.

    June 25, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  15. Dean

    McCain – I am a conservative Republican and I think it is time for you to retire. You have become worthless and are right up there with Harry Reid in the race for total incompetency.

    June 25, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  16. M. Callahan

    We were clued in to JMc's good judgement when he picked Palin as his running mate. Thank God he never became president. There really should be a mandatory retirement age for congress or at the very leadt a competency test.

    June 25, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  17. tupperhouse

    How come no tough talk against Qatar who just opened up a Taliban Embassy. You know the country arming and supporting the rebels in Syria, while their buddies the Taliban are killing Americans

    June 25, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  18. Geme

    Part of the reason that Putin takes certain steps is because he's tired of the W. interfering. McCain, enough with him already..

    June 25, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  19. The Clear Thinking Independent

    It is clear that via the "world-wide-web" that Russians, Chinese, Cubans, Ecuadorians, Venezualians are making comments on this CNN board [and other traditionally "US" web sites] in an attempt to influence US public opinion & debate.

    We have 1 president. He is Barack Obama. While I agree that Russia & China will need to pay a "price" depending on their behavior in the Snowden matter, but I TRUST President Obama to play the chess board, not John McCain. Obama popped the Somali pirates early in his 1st term. He popped Bin Ladin. He orchestrated the ouster of long-time nemisis Moammar Khadafy. While Republicans like to declare all Democrats weak punks, don`t try that with Mr. Obama. Don`t try to play his hand for him and don`t undercut him or the Justice Department or the Secretary of State, Mr. McCain.

    June 25, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  20. Nelson Colorado Springs Co

    People of America President Obama and tyhe NSA CIA and FBI is doings everything he can to find NSA leaker Edward Snowden. It easy to say President Obama isn't doing enough, but you are the leader of the free world. Sen. John McCain is just a senator from Arizona and the Republican 2008 GOP presidential nominee who lost to President Obama. Now McCain said on CNN's "New Day" the U.S. should take a tougher position with Russia's President Vladimir Putin but he don't what to do. IF The Uniteds States knew where he was they track him and then get him make on mistake about it Go President Obama.

    June 25, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  21. icurheinie

    McCain's right on. And anyone who respects Putin as a man and a leader has rocks in his head. Does anyone honestly believe Snowden's not in Moscow? Does anyone actually trust and respect Russian's intentions? They will probably kill Snowden and blame it on us.

    June 25, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  22. John

    Dear Liberals,

    Clearly you are blind. McCain, did lose the election, and you are in fact right ... things are easier said then done. Still, does that somehow negate the fact that Russia has made it VERY clear that they are anti-america? No. Edward Snowden IS in Russia – he flew there from Hong Kong, what , are you THAT stupid that you dont think we have the technology or the people in place to figure that out? Hello... welcome to the year 2013... we know he is in Russia. Basically the Russians are mocking us and playing on the fact that Obama is powerless by stating that he is not in Russia. You have to be the worlds biggest idiot to think that he is not in Russia. We obviously had people tracking him ...

    June 25, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  23. Vyradder

    I just don't think that McCain's heavy-handed approach to everything is going to work. The man is starting to push in the wrong directions.

    June 25, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  24. Rudy NYC


    You really want to give the worst president in the history of this great nation credit for the deaths of UBL, Kaddafi and those ignorant idiots hijackers? What a bigger fool you are than the President! This country is just one step away from becoming the laughing stock of the world as we were once upon time under Carter.

    For the record, last I heard the seals killed UBL and those fools on a boat. The Lybians killed Kaddafi and then turned around killed Americans while Obama and Clinton stood by and did nothing!
    The Libyans in Benghazi that killed our ambassador are probably some of the same people that McCain met with when he made his secret trip to Benghazi at the start of the Libyan uprising. Forgot about that one, didn't you?

    June 25, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  25. Ralph

    McCain is right. He has gone to war, and been a prisoner of war in the most inhumane conditions possible. I dont think he would be yelling – go to war unless it was absolutely necessary. Is he saying bomb Russia because of Snowden? No way! What he is saying is that we can do tit for tat.. We gave them 8 people that they wanted and were on U.S. soil. If they dont give us Snowden, guess what? Next time you want someone Russia considers a criminal deported back to Russia, think long and hard.. That's all he's saying..

    June 25, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
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