The White House essentially shrugged after Vladimir Putin taunted the U.S. in a New York Times op-ed, but John McCain is not the sort to let this aggression stand. The senator responded with his own opinion piece, titled “Russians Deserve Better Than Putin,” in a Russian publication. McCain attacks the Russian president for for trying to crush dissenters, from passing laws that discriminate against homosexuals, to unjustly persecuting Pussy Riot, to killing whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky in prison. “I am not anti-Russian,” McCain writes. “I am pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today.” It’s pretty blistering, but not quite as prestigious as Putin’s op-ed. While McCain was shooting for the newspaper Pravda, the former mouthpiece of the Soviet Union, he accidentally wound up writing for Pravda.ru, a website Slate describes as “kind of cross between WorldNetDaily and the National Enquirer.”
As is the trend in international diplomacy these days, the idea grew out of an off-hand comment McCain made on CNN about how he’d love to give Putin a piece of his mind in Pravda. The editors of Pravda.ru said they’d be happy to oblige, and McCain took them up on their offer. It appears the senator was unaware that the newspaper shut down after the fall of the Soviet Union, and he’d agreed to write for an news website founded in 1999 (the site claims to have ties to the Soviet paper). News of McCain’s column prompted denials from the other Pravda, which was reopened in 1997 as the official newspaper of the Russian Communist Party. When asked on Sunday to clear up the confusion about which publication he was writing for, McCain said, “I hope it’s Pravda the Communist publication.”
Regardless, an online tabloid that publishes in English and Russian is probably a better venue for McCain’s comments than a Communist party pamphlet that refused to publish his remarks unless he could muster an argument that’s “not in contradiction to the communist party’s stand on the conflict of Syria.” Plus, the censorship threat underscores one of McCain’s best Putin burns:
President Putin and his associates do not believe in these values [of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness]. 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.