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. Truth

    It's too late John. You have the wrong guy sitting in the Oval Office to pull that off! Obama can't get tough with anyone. He hasn't even made a single call to Putin since this happened; he is out playing golf instead; literally.

    It's time for an "American Spring" people...

    June 25, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  2. Wake up People!

    If McCain had been elected I wonder how many wars we would be engaged in at the moment......

    Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, N.Korea, Syria and now Russia.

    Thank God he lost!

    June 25, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. Mitch

    Why do the media continue to publicize remarks from this brain-damaged old man ? Perhaps if the media were to start ignoring him, he would go away.

    June 25, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  4. Daisy in Atlanta

    chee. McCain is good in talking tough. he does not know how many (in money terms and in casualty) to sponsor a war. tough. tough. tough. i want to smack his head from the back

    June 25, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  5. Thomas

    Russa is a Mafia state run by an ex KGB officer .

    We need to send in Steven Seagal as The Mercenary for Justice
    Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt energy drink , it's yum yum good !

    June 25, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  6. eugene

    John, admit it that there is nothing you can do to Putin. You keep saying big words but they mean absolutely nothing! Russia is not 51st state of the United States. How tough can you get with Putin? Give some real examples. Right, there are no real examples. Why? Because there is nothing you can use or offer to Russia to make Putin to be afraid of you. Economic sanctions? It will not happen because American farmers of workers will suffer. John, I know it is too late for you to get away from the Cold War mentality. You the hostage of your warmonger imperialistic paranoia. If someone does not ober American orders then they are the enemies. Dude, do not make yourself the laughing poster. You words have zero impact on what is going on in Russia!!

    June 25, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  7. Katy

    McCain served his country well in the military. As a senator, he's spent his time manipulating the public to retain his seat and has flip-flopped on all of his "moral" positions. Mr. McCain has reinvented his positions so many time that his feigned outrage is a sad and pathetic reflection of his broken moral values. Mr. McCain has become a caricature for the typical politician – throwing a public tantrum where it's clear he has no idea what he's talking about or the ramifications if he got his way. Mr. McCain exemplifies the leadership void in Washington D.C.

    June 25, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  8. don in albuquerque

    @Truth----Probably is time for American Spring, but it might not be one that you would like.

    June 25, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  9. fred smith

    He's right. We do need to start getting tough with these countries. Russia and China and let them know that we will find other trade partners, raise taxes on imports, and name China as a currency manipulator if we don't start getting some cooperation from these countries. Time to look out for number one.

    June 25, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  10. Karma

    I used to like McCain, before he became a typical War-Mongering Republican!

    June 25, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  11. christian

    McCain – Just because he served, this once upon a time soldier now turned insane citizens thinks he's still on an even mental plateau. McCain, you're not well.

    First he pushes our stars and stripes and all who served it to now be globally associated next to some heroine infested, heart eating cannibal, al-qaeda members. And as though that wasn't enough now he wants us to follow on his next dellusion.

    June 25, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  12. Matthew Walker

    No, we don't need another war. But, McCain is spot on about Putin. Several years ago I asked a Russian immigrant what he thought of Putin. His response was "well, he's KGB". He was still frightened of having his own opinion, and this was in Oakland, CA.

    June 25, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  13. Arnold1401

    We should work for better relations with Russia. Whether Putin stole that ring shouldn't be commented on by anyone as if they know what happened. At most, he is accused of that, and we believe in innocent until proven guilty. To talk about the leader of the foreign country, of such importance as Russia, like that is very foolish. We want the help of the Russians on any number of issues, from counter-terrorism to space exploration, and we should do everything in our power to build better relations with them. It was tragic when Mitt Romney called Russia the #1 geopolitical adversary for the U.S., when Russia was supposed to be one of our friends.

    June 25, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  14. Joe Clark

    The only thing that Putin clearly understands are nuclear weapons, and he also knows that neither he nor the United States can use them without drastic consequences for the entire world. Short of this there is nothing, politically speaking, that Obama or any other president for that matter could do to force Putin to change his hardened cold war mentality. Holding onto power is his only focus and he will do whatever he has to do to keep it indefinitely.

    June 25, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  15. eugene

    John, what are you offering to get tough with Putin? No more Arizona Iced Tea export to Russia?

    June 25, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  16. AMason

    I am actually somewhat shocked by this behavior, McCain is usually better than this... After all, he is much better than our other FLAKE of a senator in AZ. But on this one, he should definitely have kept his mouth shut.

    June 25, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  17. paul

    B.S., This man is delussional, The problem with america is they think they rule the world, IF everyone else will go to war with them, What is this kraft macaroni guy doing presenting a ring to MR PUTIN , what is he doing any where mr putin, IT IS PURE AND SIMPLE , alias macaroni gave him the ring and now has changed his mind he wants his gift back, and MR TOUGH GUY is going to war over it, perhaps someone sould tell him he has a war going on in syria at the moment, REALLY does this american administration think Mr Putin so cheap or backwards he is going to steal someones ring??? Mr Putin is the leader of a massively powerfull country , america would be further ahead to treat Russia with respect, BUT again USA can go to war when ever some dork looses his watch, wallet, lighter or ring, This is very proffessional politics MR McCAIN, Would you really expect anyone to vote for you,

    June 25, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  18. eugene

    Joe Clark,

    You are very naive because there is nothing the West can do to affect the popularity of Putin in Russia.

    June 25, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. Diane in Oakland

    Why does the media continue to discredit themselves by giving a voice to that brain dead war mongerer McCain? I say boycott CNN and all other media outlets who even so much as mention his name. He makes such an ass out of himself and is so predictable so why do we have to keep hearing his nonsense?

    June 25, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  20. D. Mustaine

    It's pretty funny McCain claims Putin has disdain for democracy when the Senator himself supports spying on his own citizens.

    June 25, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  21. Rich

    Please, someone tell me what "getting tough" with Russia is? Everyone wants to talk about what the President should be doing without any details. Tell me exactly how we bend Russia to our will.

    June 25, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  22. eugene

    John, are you sending your gun that you keep at home to Syrian rebels in order to help to arm cannibals/terrorists?

    June 25, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  23. paul

    IS this the man that crashed his plane and the veit cong rescued him?? if you are delivering neucular weapons please do not ask John to deliver them ,

    June 25, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  24. Joshua

    What's with Americans??? Last time I checked people living outside the 50 states, and the colony of Puerto Rico, were not subject to insane American law makers. Saying that its "time to get tough with Putin" is paramount to saying "Putin isn't doing things like we want him to, so lets force him to." Its just not how sovereign states talk about one another outside of war.

    June 25, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  25. edpeters101

    OK, John. Get on a plane and go tell Putin what he should be doing. And why not stay there until he listens to you!

    June 25, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
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