McCain: Russia is a Country Masquerading as a Country
John McCain has been perhaps the most vocal senator about U.S. policy in Eastern Europe this year. And all that talking has generated a catchy one-liner to describe how Americans should view Russia.
"Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country," the Arizona Republican told Seth Meyers on his TV show Monday night.
This line has slowly become McCain's go-to description of Russia since the country's invasion of Ukraine began last month. The senator has used it to describe what he believes is the Russian economy's dependence on natural-gas and crude-oil exports.
The comparison originates in part from an op-ed McCain wrote in The New York Times two days before his CNN appearance, according to a McCain spokesman. The Russian president's "regime may appear imposing, but it is rotting inside," McCain said. "His Russia is not a great power on par with America. It is a gas station run by a corrupt, autocratic regime."
The concept of a masquerade entered the picture during McCain's appearance on CNN's State of the Union on March 16, following his trip to Ukraine. "Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country," he told anchor Candy Crowley. "It is a nation that's really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy, and so economic sanctions are important."
McCain's usage of the description took off from there, as a search of a media-tracking service shows:
March 26, on the Senate floor: "Russia is now a gas station masquerading as a country. And once we get [liquefied natural gas] and other energy to the European countries, interest will dramatically reduce and eventually eliminate Vladimir Putin's influence."
March 30, on Bloomberg's Political Capital: "You know, I've said—I thought it was a pretty good line—Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country."
April 13, on CBS's Face the Nation: "They have a very fragile economy. It is the 13th largest. It's a gas station masquerading as a country."
April 17, in Moldova's capital city of Chisinau: "Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country—and I apologize for that, because actually it's a mafia-run gas station masquerading as a country."
Monday night's mention is not likely to be the last. As the standoff between Russia and Ukraine continues, McCain, who just finished a tour of Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Moldova, will keep "backseat presidenting" the tenuous situation. In the meantime, we're going to call this one "McCaining."
Reena Flores contributed to this article.