Unfortunately, We Won’t Be Seeing a Putin-McCain Debate

The Arizona senator’s op-ed is up at <em>Pravda</em>. But the Russian president’s press secretary says not to expect much more than that.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his visit to the new headquarters of "Russia Today" TV channel in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 11, 2013. 
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Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Sept. 19, 2013, 5:30 a.m.

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.

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