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. sly

    It's all good.

    President Obama channelled John Wayne, stood up to the world, and the world listened to his show of force, and America got it's way.

    Putin simply stated that America is just another nation, and that it is dangerous to think you are God. More importantly, Putin watched Obama's show of force and decided he better negotiate a solution with Syria.

    McCain is just an old cold war dinosauer who got all offended by Putin, and since he needs attention, he decided to write a letter.

    It's all good. At least we will remove the #1 Chemical Weapons stockpile in the world.

    September 19, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. Yoda

    At least Putin had the decency to focus his op-ed on international issues. McCain appears to just be poking his nose into their internal issues and trying to tell them how to vote. McCain represents all of the ugliness that makes other Countries dislike us.

    September 19, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  3. J morbach

    It is a fine article filled with valid points and arguments. It is easy to criticize it when you don't agree with the author's politics. Perhaps these critics would like to travel to Russia, the bastion of freedom and social equality, and see things for themselves. Perhaps next time McCain should not fight for what is right for fear of being labelled a hypocrite. To the critics.....what are you doing to make the world a better place?

    September 19, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  4. Joe

    “They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media,” the Arizona Republican said in his piece."
    Actually, that's Obama's America. But thanks for playing.

    September 19, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  5. Bubba

    Time to play with the Russians again. They are an adversary we cannot bully, so we (Americans) better get our act together and come together. The evil empire is back.

    September 19, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  6. tonyl9973

    Who is Mccain criticizing about – Putin or USA?

    September 19, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  7. tonyl9973

    who is he criticizing about to be exact – Putin or USA?

    September 19, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    McCain said "you (Russians) deserve a government that believes in you and answers to you"....... don't we?

    September 19, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  9. Bob

    McCain is a first class i diot.

    September 19, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  10. Me

    Anthony in California

    Dear World...
    We hope you realize there are 2 Americas.

    The new America wants to get have a good standing on the global stage, make sure its people have affordable health care, and see to it that ALL its people have rights and are treated fairly. We look after our poor, and stress education.

    The old America still want to profit through war, bully around the rest of the world, deny gays their rights, minorities their justice, and do everything possible to make sure the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, while decimating the middle class and keeping the playing field tilted in their favor.

    Oh.. and if these message boards are any indication of the cross section of America.. then yes, it is still a pretty scary place.
    Oh the lies by this liberal (notice I didn't use a derogatory name, goes back to one of my post to Tom P). One question, how is Cali doing, filed for bankruptcy yet? That is what you get if you implement too many liberal policies they just are not sustainable!!!! We can't provide for everyone that does not want to work, yes some need help but it needs to be limited!!!! I do wish I could believe in this perfect picture of America but sorry to say it is not possible too many that would like to take advantage!!!

    September 19, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  11. panorain

    I hope that McCain makes another plea to release Khodorovsky from the cold hellhole Putin put him in. Kodo had the audacity to want to be a businessperson who could make his own decisions without having to placate Putin. For that, plus all the loot he took, Putin put him in jail.

    September 19, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  12. Harry

    Sen. McCain you have given more than your share of your life and experience to your country. It is unbelievable that you stoop to the level of a first grader trying to nan-oo nan-oo nan-oo Putin .... The guy's ignorance speaks for it self, and any acknowledgement of him only exacerbates the situation.

    September 19, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. larry kouns

    well, john we deserve better than obama so i guess both countries are screwed.

    September 19, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. Martina

    Oh my! This is hilareous.

    September 19, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  15. sly

    Amazing that Sarah Palin was the smarter person on that ticket.

    September 19, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  16. Adar

    John after organizing gassing of people in Syria is making a fool of USA. Search youtube for: Syria Undeniable PROOF SNC & Al Farok

    September 19, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  17. rose white

    I wish McCain would retire. He means well but he is coming from the 1950s in his thinking. Attacking Putin during the Syrian negotiation is indicating that he doesn't have all his faculties anymore. I wish Obama were the kind of man to put a lid on him but Obama is weak and that's what McCain counts on. He sees himself taking over the power of the presidency while Obama is still in office. He is an embarrassment.

    September 19, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  18. Charlie468

    Well the bright side is McCains staff didn't put the article on the Prada facebook page.

    September 19, 2013 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  19. Darla44

    Mean Girl McCain obviously nursing a hurt ego but only made himself look foolishly transparent. How embarrassing.

    September 19, 2013 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  20. John "Nursing Home" McCain

    It is time for McCain to go home. And by that, I mean, to nursing home. He has chosen to play the equivalent of a mixed martial arts game with Putin, and he lost it even before he started it.

    Nobody cares about And even the readers of could care less about John "Nursing Home" McCain's opinion.

    September 19, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  21. eddie2010

    except he published it in the wrong paper.

    September 19, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  22. Name

    Yeah this was not helpful...although I believe a lot if these things to be true of Putin and find it absolutely insane any American would consider him a role model...I find Putin's op-ed to be like a little child wanting attention (like those macho man pics he put out Lol) and adults don't give in to that sooo McCain this was not adult like...Putin's piece didn't deserve a should have been beneath you really... I feel our media has pointed out enough on Putin and Americans low opinion of him personally said enough...

    September 20, 2013 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  23. MacCain: Mr. Endless Stupidity

    Dear colleagues,

    I'm sorry to tell you that the qualification of the US propaganda machine is pretty close to zero.

    McCain's choice of the magazine is totally wrong and he spoke about issues not interesting to the audience, expect for 50 gay rights activists and libertarians.

    The Cold War's over.. Is it still unclear to you? There exist a number of issues on, which the critique of Putin will be well-received in Russia: Muslim immigration, fays in politics and on the TV, oligarchs and so on.

    However, McCain's interview makes an impression that he was hired by Putin to play a role of a " textbook American"- stupid, ignorant and aggressive individual not knowing what he's talking about..Sad..We are obviously going down the toilet.

    September 20, 2013 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  24. Evgeny

    McCain is clown.He is not considered seriously in Russia. But he is mouthpice of US foreign policy towards to Russia
    He is very useful idiot

    September 20, 2013 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  25. Alex

    I am with McCain on this one. He is the first one, over many years of Putin's reign told them what we think about that stuff. Good job. Besides, it's written very well, spoken from the hart and delivered just perfectly. I simply enjoyed it all. Good job, senator. And that's was the second time, too... There was another incident, couple of years back, but it was just funny and not as interesting as this.

    September 20, 2013 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
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