Watch John McCain’s Take on Russia Become His Catchphrase

We’re going to call this one “McCaining.”

A demonstrator in a polar bear costume plays drums as Greenpeace supporters protest in Moscow on October 5, 2013, in support of 30 activists jailed by Russia after a protest against Arctic oil drilling.
National Journal
Marina Koren
April 22, 2014, 10:22 a.m.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4901) }}

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.
What We're Following See More »
Warren Goes After Trump Yet Again
7 hours ago

When it comes to name-calling among America's upper echelon of politicians, there may be perhaps no greater spat than the one currently going on between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump. While receiving an award Tuesday night, she continued a months-long feud with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who probably doesn't know three things about Dodd-Frank, she said he "will NEVER be president of the United States," according to her prepared remarks."We don't know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims." It follows a long-line of Warren attacks over Twitter, Facebook and in interviews that Trump is a sexist, racist, narcissistic loser. In reply, Trump has called Warren either "goofy" or "the Indian"—referring to her controversial assertion of her Native American heritage. 

Congress Passes Chemical Regulations Overhaul
9 hours ago

The House on Tuesday voted 403-12 "to pass an overhaul to the nation’s chemical safety standards for the first time in four decades. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aims to answer years of complaints that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the necessary authority to oversee and control the thousands of chemicals being produced and sold in the United States. It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities, in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with."

GOP Could Double Number of Early Primaries
10 hours ago

"Leaders of the Republican Party have begun internal deliberations over making fundamental changes to the way its presidential nominees are chosen, a recognition that the chaotic process that played out this year is seriously flawed and helped exacerbate tensions within the party." Among the possible changes: forbidding independent voters to cast ballots in Republican primaries, and "doubling the number of early states to eight."

Kasich Tells His Delegates to Remain Pledged to Him
12 hours ago

Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."

Sanders Wants a Recount in Kentucky
14 hours ago

Bernie Sanders "signed a letter Tuesday morning requesting a full and complete check and recanvass of the election results in Kentucky ... where he trails Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote. The Sanders campaign said it has asked the Kentucky secretary of state to have election officials review electronic voting machines and absentee ballots from last week's primary in each of the state's 120 counties.