As promised, John McCain responded to Vladimir Putin's New York Times op-ed with a piece in the Russian press today. But—as was pointed out before McCain's piece even appeared—the website McCain wrote for isn't exactly the Russian equivalent of the NYT. McCain originally said he wanted to be published in Pravda, a big-deal newspaper founded in 1912, which was an official Communist Party mouthpiece during the Soviet era, CNN reports. It was shut down when the Soviet Union collapsed; the new incarnation is not nearly as big a deal ... and it also has nothing to do with the website McCain wrote for, Pravda.ru, which is actually more like a tabloid. Amusingly, McCain's rep tells Politico the senator submitted his piece to both Pravdas and was hoping both would run it. Alas, that was not to be.
But on to the column itself, headlined "Russians deserve better than Putin." In it, McCain argues that he is actually "more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today" because he respects Russians' "dignity" and "right to self-determination." He takes issue with the Russian government's hard line on dissenting opinions: "They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media." He's also not happy with the country's anti-gay laws or the Pussy Riot debacle. Putin says he wants to "restore Russia to greatness," McCain writes, but has he actually done that? The economy is shaky and the government is allied with tyrants. "When I criticize your government, it is not because I am anti-Russian," McCain concludes. "It is because I believe you deserve a government that believes in you and answers to you." Click for his full piece. (Read more Vladimir Putin stories.)