McCain publishes opinion piece in Pravda – but not the one he wanted
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September 19th, 2013
03:40 AM ET
7 years ago

McCain publishes opinion piece in Pravda – but not the one he wanted

Updated 9 a.m. ET 9/19/2013

Washington (CNN) - Senator John McCain has a message for the Russian people: “I am pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today.”

In an opinion piece titled “Russians Deserve Better Than Putin,” published by the Russian news website, McCain took aim at the current Russian leadership, including President Vladimir Putin.

Watch: McCain will be on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" Thursday starting at 4 p.m. ET

“They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media,” the Arizona Republican said in his piece. (Read the full op-ed below.)

The piece by McCain comes one week after Vladimir Putin made headlines by publishing his own opinion piece, “A Plea for Caution from Russia” in the New York Times, on the eve of U.S. – Russia negotiations over Syrian chemical weapons.

Read: Op-ed for Op-ed: McCain to strike back in 'Pravda'

The senator, who does not support same-sex marriage in the U.S., also criticized Russia’s recently passed anti-gay legislation, saying Russian lawmakers “codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn.”

A ban on the promotion of "gay propaganda" among minors became law in June, as Putin began his third term as president.

The article was published Thursday, after some initial confusion over which “Pravda” McCain would actually be writing for.

Read: Pravda vs. Pravda: Which one is McCain writing for?

The Pravda McCain had publicly said he wanted to be published in is one of the oldest Russian newspapers, founded in 1912.

Pravda, which means “the truth” in Russian, became the biggest newspaper during the Soviet period of Russian history. It was the official mouthpiece of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. The newspaper was closed down after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, then reopened in 1997 as the official paper of the Russian Communist Party. The current Pravda has a considerably smaller circulation compared to its Soviet glory days., the news outlet that actually published McCain’s piece, is an electronic news website founded in 1999. Even though the website also bears the name Pravda, it is not connected to Pravda newspaper. The website has English and Russian editions and covers everything from politics to fashion and celebrities.

While editors at the communist Pravda publication said last week they were not going to accept an op-ed by McCain, a spokesman for the senator said McCain submitted one anyway, in addition to, since there was confusion over the two different Pravdas. As expected, it was not published by the newspaper.

Putin said Thursday in a press conference he was not aware of McCain’s opinion piece about Russia.

Read: Poll: Americans sour on Russia, Putin

In his piece, McCain also cited Putin’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as Russia’s recent actions in the United Nations as an example of failed foreign policies, saying, “He is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it.”

The senator has been a strong advocate for military action against Syria, especially in light of the August 21 chemical weapons attack, and has been highly critical of the renewed diplomatic efforts between Russia and the U.S. This week, he told the Council of Foreign Relations, “I wish I could see the recent agreement between Russia and the United States to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons as a major breakthrough. Unfortunately, I cannot.”

In the article, McCain focused his message on their day-to-day circumstances, arguing that Putin “has given you an economy that is based almost entirely on a few natural resources that will rise and fall with those commodities. Its riches will not last. And, while they do, they will be mostly in the possession of the corrupt and powerful few.”

Reiterating that his message was written out of concern and compassion for the Russian public, McCain held firm. “When I criticize your government, it is not because I am anti-Russian,” he said. “It is because I believe you deserve a government that believes in you and answers to you. And I long for the day when you have it.”

- CNN’s Ashley Killough, Jill Dougherty, NuNu Japaridze, and Laura Koran contributed to this report.

Senator John McCain: Russians deserve better than Putin

When editor, Dmitry Sudakov, offered to publish my commentary, he referred to me as "an active anti-Russian politician for many years." I'm sure that isn't the first time Russians have heard me characterized as their antagonist. Since my purpose here is to dispel falsehoods used by Russia's rulers to perpetuate their power and excuse their corruption, let me begin with that untruth. I am not anti-Russian. I am pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today.

I make that claim because I respect your dignity and your right to self-determination. I believe you should live according to the dictates of your conscience, not your government. I believe you deserve the opportunity to improve your lives in an economy that is built to last and benefits the many, not just the powerful few. You should be governed by a rule of law that is clear, consistently and impartially enforced and just. I make that claim because I believe the Russian people, no less than Americans, are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A Russian citizen could not publish a testament like the one I just offered. President Putin and his associates do not believe in these values. They don't respect your dignity or accept your authority over them. They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media. They harass, threaten, and banish organizations that defend your right to self-governance. To perpetuate their power they foster rampant corruption in your courts and your economy and terrorize and even assassinate journalists who try to expose their corruption.

They write laws to codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn. They throw the members of a punk rock band in jail for the crime of being provocative and vulgar and for having the audacity to protest President Putin's rule.
Sergei Magnistky wasn't a human rights activist. He was an accountant at a Moscow law firm. He was an ordinary Russian who did an extraordinary thing. He exposed one of the largest state thefts of private assets in Russian history. He cared about the rule of law and believed no one should be above it. For his beliefs and his courage, he was held in Butyrka prison without trial, where he was beaten, became ill and died. After his death, he was given a show trial reminiscent of the Stalin-era and was, of course, found guilty. That wasn't only a crime against Sergei Magnitsky. It was a crime against the Russian people and your right to an honest government – a government worthy of Sergei Magnistky and of you.

President Putin claims his purpose is to restore Russia to greatness at home and among the nations of the world. But by what measure has he restored your greatness? He has given you an economy that is based almost entirely on a few natural resources that will rise and fall with those commodities. Its riches will not last. And, while they do, they will be mostly in the possession of the corrupt and powerful few. Capital is fleeing Russia, which – lacking rule of law and a broad-based economy – is considered too risky for investment and entrepreneurism. He has given you a political system that is sustained by corruption and repression and isn't strong enough to tolerate dissent.

How has he strengthened Russia's international stature? By allying Russia with some of the world's most offensive and threatening tyrannies. By supporting a Syrian regime that is murdering tens of thousands of its own people to remain in power and by blocking the United Nations from even condemning its atrocities. By refusing to consider the massacre of innocents, the plight of millions of refugees, the growing prospect of a conflagration that engulfs other countries in its flames an appropriate subject for the world's attention. He is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it. He has made her a friend to tyrants and an enemy to the oppressed, and untrusted by nations that seek to build a safer, more peaceful and prosperous world.

President Putin doesn't believe in these values because he doesn't believe in you. He doesn't believe that human nature at liberty can rise above its weaknesses and build just, peaceful, prosperous societies. Or, at least, he doesn't believe Russians can. So he rules by using those weaknesses, by corruption, repression and violence. He rules for himself, not you.

I do believe in you. I believe in your capacity for self-government and your desire for justice and opportunity. I believe in the greatness of the Russian people, who suffered enormously and fought bravely against terrible adversity to save your nation. I believe in your right to make a civilization worthy of your dreams and sacrifices. When I criticize your government, it is not because I am anti-Russian. It is because I believe you deserve a government that believes in you and answers to you. And, I long for the day when you have it.

Filed under: John McCain • Russia • Syria
soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. joebob

    While I agree with pretty much every thing that McCain said – I can not condone his speaking out of turn to directly address an entire foreign nation on his own or his VERY public verbal attack of the leader of that nation. He is a representative of AMERICAN CITIZENS, as such everything he does reflects on not just him but the citizens of the US that he is elected to represent. While I respect his right to speak up and be heard he was given no directive or request by those he represents in his state or ANYONE as part of his position as a representative of the US public to put forth his commentary to an entire foreign nation. He certainly is entitled to his opinion but as a public figure he has certain responsibilities to NOT allow his personal feelings to direct him to actions that may cause a misrepresentation of OR the impression of misrepresentation of those he is elected to represent. Because of this I feel that this decision was made in poor judgment. While I may concur with the opinion I completely disagree with his VERY public attack of the leader of a foreign nation that the US has specific DIPLOMATC people assigned to address and I certainly DO disagree with the method. As for Putin In my “opinion”he is a thief and a liar and can be trusted to do what serves his own interests FIRST and everything else second.

    September 19, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  2. John316

    My respect for John McCain just increased one thousand per cent.......

    September 19, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. ThinkAgain

    @notogop: "I wish he [McGrumpy] cared as much about our government as he seems to for the Russians."

    Never forget that McCain is always about McCain, from trading in the woman who stood by his side while he was a POW, to how he's always traded on POW experience for political gain, to bending over for Karl Rove to become the GOP nominee (not just the 2000 Rove smear campaign, but letting him pick the Quitta as his running mate), to doing everything he can to harm President Obama.

    This is nothing more than the desperate attempts of a bitter, grumpy old man to somehow create a "legacy" before he finally retires to the desert of Arizona. Pretty freakin' pathetic!

    September 19, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. Karina

    We should concentrate on the conflict in Syria and the well being of its people and not heed attention to the overblown egos of American politicians.
    America is alienating itself more and more from the rest of the world and respect and trust is dwindling.

    September 19, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. BillyD1953

    In general terms much of what McCain is saying could just as easily–and correctly–be said of our own government. We have war criminals in our midst (G.W.Bush), government spying, government support of the uber wealthy and industry over the interests of the ordinary individual. Government persecution of whistle blowers–Snowden, Manning, Assange, and others. McCain is simply proving that our politicians believe in American exceptionalism. The U.S. can do whatever it wants while pointing the finger at other countries. I have nothing much good to say about Putin, but I have nothing much good to say about our own government, either. Putin and McCain are, each in their own way, just typical politicians. More alike than different.

    September 19, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  6. AM

    Look at this rich-boy POW-turned-politician for Israel. McCain is an absolute absurdity.

    September 19, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  7. Jeff S

    Maybe one day Mr. McCain will the kind of government he wishes for Russia for the American people.

    September 19, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  8. BK Moore

    Hate to say this – But I agree with McCain. Russia can do better than Putin. He is a small-minded fascist pig that would do better as a dictator of a small country, has no business being in charge of Russia. Putin murders journalists and puts local rock bands in prison. You just know that Putin has a portrait of Adolph Hitler in his home, probably above the gilded fireplace stolen from a citizen's estate. Putin is a pig, and it's time to make bacon.

    September 19, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  9. David Pratt

    This was a well thought-out response by McCain that says things like they are. I have been to Russia several times, my wife is from Russia, and we know only too well how true everything that McCain says. Unfortunately, Russia does not have a long history of struggling to overthrow tyranny as we have in the West and they just don't understand how to make democracy work. Sure, we still have huge problems to face here, such as the lack of campaign finance reform and gerrymandering that is undermining our own democracy, but fundamentally, Russians don't really understand the concept of compromise and the true basis for human rights laws. "You are either with me - or you are my enemy," is the mentality there. That is what centuries of tyrannical rule leads to. It is sad. Hopefully, they will eventually understand, but it will still be some generations from now.

    September 19, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. ne2indy

    McCain is an outright hypocrite. Why does anyone even listen to this man any longer?

    September 19, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  11. Devon

    That's nice, Senator. But how can you be anti-gay equality here, but criticize Russia for their anti-gay laws? It's nice that your pro-Russia. But could you just once try being pro-America? You know, since you are an AMERICAN SENATOR. Thanks.

    September 19, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  12. ru65655

    Dear John!

    We do not believe you and your assurances of the desire of being Russian. We believe the dictator of America, without giving the rest the world. It is not necessary to teach us life and democracy. Do Russian people have their own traditions and history.

    It would be very nice if you left us alone. Take back the kind of political and economic systems that you have installed in Russia after 1991. We want to live on their own, without your advice and guidance.

    Russian people.

    September 19, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  13. Pliny


    The damned russians need to have a dose of reality. I can't believe how lazy they are, to tolerate such horrible govenment. Czars...commies...and now kleptos.

    They STOLE nuclear technology from us...and screwed up most of the last century. Were it not for those weapons, they would be a nation of backwater peasants.

    September 19, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  14. Matt Norris

    "Did anyone notice that the article was written by him, he referenced with the 'I believe', not America believes. This alone singles out his 'opinion piece' as his opinion and not that of anyone else in America. Although his ideals and beliefs are worthy, we must still respect the fact Russia is a different country, with different beliefs, different history, and different values. For that I commend both McCain and Putin for addressing each others citizens with their own beliefs and let the citizens determine who and what to believe."

    If Vegas has political betting, you and I could make a lot of money, because it is no "accident" that politicians do this type of thing. That is even the case when it is going to make them look foolish to one crowd, to the extent that they appear to be sacrificing their image intentionally.

    I'm not saying that is what McCain has done here, but it is somewhat suspect that in light of his involvement with the Cold War he would proceed to lecture Russia about things that the U.S. spent decades doing that all eventually climaxed with the current mess in the Middle East that is at least partially a creation of the U.S.

    September 19, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. Jimh77

    John, just go home, back to your room and SHUT UP!!! Your views are your alone, so keep them to yourself.

    September 19, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. mdcambridge

    By changing a few words, "Russian" to "American," "Putin" to "Obama/Bush," "Syria" to "Iraq," etc., McCain's article could be easily directed at the US, Congress' support of big business over the people, and the dismantling of our liberties under the guise of anti-terrorism.

    The difference is that while Russians aspire to these values, Americans had them and they are now being trampled by our government.

    September 19, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  17. VEW2012

    Really.... John you may have a point, but since when does a Senator think he can speak for the whole country on foreign affairs and do it in the foreign press? John this is a job which is definitely above your pay grade. You are not a member of the Executive branch, nor a member of the State Department. The most you have done is show you are an addled old fool that needs to retire....why not do something constructive like go against the members of your own party to make sure citizens in your own country have affordable health insurance coverage. Quit trying to do the job for which you were not elected....November 2008 was 5 years ago move on.

    September 19, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  18. gregdougall

    "They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media. They harass, threaten, and banish organizations that defend your right to self-governance. To perpetuate their power they foster rampant corruption in your courts and your economy and terrorize and even assassinate journalists who try to expose their corruption."

    What country are we talking about here? I'm certain America has done all of these things, but in a more shadowy and secretive way. McCain is laughable. Send him love.

    September 19, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  19. Phil in KC

    Turn-about fair play, I guess. In comparison, Putin's article was almost tame. Of course it didn't get in the newspaper, though.

    September 19, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  20. gregdougall

    America can do better than John McCain.

    September 19, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. LoveOneAnother

    McCain is getting too many facts upside down. He met kidnappers in Syria believing they were the "good rebels". For him everyone who he does not like is a demon. For him Russians will live better if they have no state at all.....
    This guy McCain cannot even make the difference between good and bad, and cannot tell the difference between right and wrong, but is still given the chance to represent Americans.
    McCain has never promoted the Christian values of Love one Another.

    Lets pray for peace and that Americans elect smart people to rule.

    September 19, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  22. Renee

    Senator McCain should not try to speak for America as a whole. He should accept the fact that the US is trying diplomancy rather than war for a change and not be "sour grapes" about it. He is not President Putin's counterpart - just one of many senators. If anyone should write a op-ed letter (although "tit for tat" may not be wise) it should be President Obama. McCain and some of his cohorts's positions reek of ethnocentrism, meaning that they approach matters from their own narrow cultural perspectives. The need to make middle eastern and developing countries more like us reeks of Neo-colonialism. We can be proud Americans–and happy to have been born in this country–without being arrogant. While some people in developing countries want change, there are probably more that are content with the status quo. We need to understand that many of our world neighbors are living the way they have for centuries and the republican form of democracy that America practices will take time to catch on. Nothing happens overnight. As General Leslie Clark stated, we cannot always "push the military button" to resolve the ills of the world. A world power needs world respect in addition to being a major military presence. I am happy that the US is attempting to make the world a safer place (e.g., ridding developing countries of chemical weapons) through diplomacy.

    September 19, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. Socrates

    So, Mr McCain is pro-Russian. I knew we couldn't trust this guy. I think the Vietnamese did a very good job with him, they converted him and I thought he was a real US patriot.

    September 19, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. Steve

    I'm sure he paid to have it written and for sure he didn't do it himself. Give credit where credit is due!

    September 19, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. Eduard C.

    Who is McCain to talk about corruption?!?! This is a guy who couldn't pass an entrance exam to get into the Naval Academy but got in anyway (with his father's, the Pentagon Admiral, influence). This is a guy who couldn't make the grades but was graduated anyway because of his last name. This is a guy who then got to chose where he deployed and then got shot down after messing up coordinates. This is a guy who then dumped his wife after she waited for him. This is a guy who was knee deep in the banking corruption of the 80s. This is a guy who plays online poker during meetings that could decide the fate of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of middle eastern people. This is a guy who bends whichever way the fascist campaign donors tell him to bend and he wants to talk about corruption?

    He's another perfect example of why we need term limits as well as a more democratic nation. Corruption abounds like never before... allowing for the decline in health care and horrifying statistics for a so-called developed nation. The infrastructure is crumbling as is equipping people to be responsible and be productive. We need a leader and McCain, Obama, Boehner, Bush, etc. are not. Putin is ten times the leader that these folks aspire(d) to be. He is not a puppet to greed and NWO agendas.

    September 19, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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