The moment you were maybe waiting for has arrived: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is officially a published columnist in Russia's Pravda (but not the Pravda you're thinking of, see update below). The opinion piece is headlined "Senator John McCain: Russians deserve better than Putin." But unfortunately, Putin's press secretary thinks we all deserve better than seeing the two square-off.
In the op-ed, McCain pushes aside the idea that he is somehow anti-Russian. "I am pro-Russian," he writes, "more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today." He continues:
President Putin and his associates ... 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.
In his conclusion, McCain writes that he longs for the day when Russians have a government that answers to them. The column is worth reading, if only for the pure oddity of how it came about and how McCain tries to address the Russian people.
And yes, Vladimir Putin will be reading the op-ed.
At least that's according to his press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, quoted by Russia's ITAR-TASS. "We will definitely read it," he said, but "engaging him in debate is unlikely — it's the point of view of someone living across the ocean."
Peskov also quibbled with what McCain actually wrote:
As far as what Russians deserve "“ they're capable of answering this question themselves and they do answer it during elections. I don't think that point of view of someone across the ocean plays any sort of role in how Russians express their will.
Apparently, being on the other side of the ocean means that you can't help guide the policies of another country. Perhaps this message should be transmitted to Putin.
UPDATE (9:40 a.m.): CNN reports that the McCain op-ed saga may be even stranger than we thought. According to CNN, the Pravda that published McCain's op-ed is just a Russian website, and not actually the Pravda newspaper that's been around since 1912. The two organizations have no connection, and just happen to share a name.
Sen. McCain's office sent a draft of his op-ed to both the newspaper and the unaffliated website. The newspaper didn't actually publish the piece.