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. pat carr

    It should read

    "The time for Sen. John McCain has passed,"

    June 25, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  2. Brian

    Sorry, McCain wants to go to war with everyone. Let Syria deal with Syria. They want freedom then fight for it. We got enough bills to pay for from all previous other wars and nobody going to help us pay for them either. Sounds cruel but so is war.

    June 25, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  3. Ralph_in_FL

    He still has not gotten over the fact that he lost in 2008.

    June 25, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  4. Alpha Deus

    McCain must have loved the cold war...he seems to want war at every opportunity..arm the enemy, arm the terrorists, start wars with everyone

    June 25, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  5. Jon

    Awful lot of hate for John McCain on this board from an awful lot of people that can't handle the truth. It is true that Obama has some important wins under his belt, such as getting Bin Laden, and nobody should fail to recognize that. But being the chief executive means having a presence that reminds the rest of the world of who we are: numero uno. He needs to take the air out of every room he walks into. He needs to have an iron will, both in negotiating with our friends and staring down our rivals. He needs to grab Congress by the cojones and get them to shake their dysfunctional ways. That's what being a leader means. All of it can be done without war- in fact it doesn't require a single shot to be fired. There are plenty of other ways to persuade those who oppose us to fall in line or at least back down, such as getting others to work the room for you- even Dubya knew that. The pen truly is mightier than the sword. It's time this administration put on its big-boy pants and get back to the business of running a superpower.

    June 25, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. pat carr

    CNN why do you keep printing what this old dinosaur has to say? Please Mccain GO RETIRE

    June 25, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  7. Birddriver97

    Go John Go!! As they say "Weasels of a feather Weasel together". Manning, he got caught and apprehended. Assange, he's hiding in someone else's Embassy, if the allegations are not true then come out of your weasel hole and face justice. Snowden, well he' just a big puppet weasel in training hiding behind king weasel Assange. Again if it's not true come out and face justice. The one thing I have to give Manning..he's facing Justice.

    June 25, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  8. Mike

    Actually Putin already admitted to having him in Russia. CNN is just behind the ball.

    June 25, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  9. Tony

    If McCain had won in 2008, World War III would have started, and we would be lucky if Earth is still around.

    June 25, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  10. Bob

    John McCain, always looking for a war we cannot win. Iraq – shia and now an ally of Iran. Afghanistan – we are negotiating with the Taliban now ( John is apparently cool with that ). Libya – a shocking mess exporting Jihadis and weapons. Syria – our side ( apparently ironically 50% Al Qaeda ) currently loosing – and even if they win I suspect that will also be to our disadvantage. The AQ presence could be a clue. I suggest we let John put his money where his mouth is – send off to Russia for single combat with Putin. I think Putin will win as John is all bluster these days, and his track record as presented is no good.

    June 25, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  11. ????

    I think McCain is not only pissed about losing in 2008, but he spent the Vietnam War in a cage...he is always looking for another war to make up for his uninvolvement in Vietnam.

    June 25, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  12. Raven

    McCain needs to retire. Wonder what interest he has in the war industry.

    June 25, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  13. Citizen

    This from the senator who openly betrayed his country and worked on enemy propoganda in Vietnam. His are just sour grapes for losing the election. Ignore the traitor, and let him retire to spending his wife's money.

    June 25, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  14. lightfootprints

    Originally I was disgusted by (ironically) New England's too rich Plutarch's (Robert Kraft) lack of patriotism in whining about this bauble (he still has 2 others). It's downright embarrassing to hear McCain trying to justify it in national news.

    June 25, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  15. cedaly1968

    Putin "has disdain for democracy and the things we stand for and believe in," McCain said.... So does Senator McCain.

    June 25, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. Joan

    Poor John McCain. He lost in 2008 but doesn't seem to have accepted it. He went to Syria and had his picture taken with questionable rebels. He led the crusade against Pres. Obama and Susan Rice over the Benghazi attack which has quickly fizzled when it turned out that Issa cherry picked and doctored the e-mails he himself published. He has also criticized the Pres. on the other "scandals" and they have died an expected death too. The IRS scandal was blown out of proportion by the right and it now seems that the groups in question should have been checked out more carefully because the fact that they may actually qualify for tax exemption is pretty sketchy. Mr. McCain should concentrate on the one positive thing he's got going right now and that is the immigration bill. If he can persuade Republicans in Congress to pass this, that will at least be one feather in his cap. Right now he's batting zero.

    June 25, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. John/kc

    Isn"t it nice to have a government that doesn't over react when something happens. If McCain had been President, we would be in Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Our debt would be twice as much as it is, and your social security and medicare would have been eliminated. Thank God that the republicans did not win the Presidency!

    June 25, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  18. Enough

    I think McCain should consider retirement, I think dementia is catching up with him. I admire the man, for being a POW-= but if he wants to show his stuff as a principled republican, he should start by stop playing footsy- with that disaster in the White House.

    June 25, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  19. Tracy

    McCain is just a big mistake!!! All he want's is war, war, war. He is the biggest mistake in Washington!
    McCain needs to GO!

    June 25, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  20. Pete

    McCain get your plane ticket ready and your boxing gloves packed partner,you're going to Moscow to box old Putin and beat some sense into his cold Russky head of his,that's American patriotism is all about right McCain...O don't forget your DEPENDS they don't sell those over there I heard!!

    June 25, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  21. sne

    pat carr
    It should read

    "The time for Sen. John McCain has passed,"

    June 25, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  22. mic3333

    McCain made no mention of going to war, starting wars, or any specific indication of such actions. He simply stated the U.S. should take a firmer stance with Russia. Looking at the gross corruption within Russia (missing Olympic funding ring a bell?), the slow eroding of civil liberties under his administration, the modification of the Russian Presidency term limits to accommodate his desire for power, and Russia's refusal to help prevent further atrocities of the Assad regime, a "firmer stance" in is least the U.S. can do.

    June 25, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  23. bobby

    Hmmm....everyone attacking the statesman, no one attacking the KGB guy. Not surprising, this is a CNN site.

    June 25, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. snowdogg

    "Time to get tough with Putin"

    and do exactly what, John?

    June 25, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  25. Rosslaw

    Why can't McCain advocate we invade some "nice" country like France, Sweden, Denmark or Bora Bora. Hell, all we need is to gin up some imaginery existential threat for the chickenhawks and we're off.

    June 25, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
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