McCain's "Pravda" Op-Ed Isn't Exactly What It Seems

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 19 2013 10:26 AM

John McCain Pens Op-Ed For One of Russia's Pravdas—but Not the One He Originally Wanted

US Republican Senator John McCain (L) and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R) address a news conference on August 6, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt.
US Republican Senator John McCain (L) and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R) address a news conference on August 6, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt.

Photo by Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

John McCain has made good on his promise to pen an op-ed in a Russian publication in response to Vladimir Putin's rather absurd editorial about Syria in the New York Times—although the Arizona senator didn't exactly find the Russian equivalent of the Grey Lady when he turned to Pravda.ru to publish his anti-Putin piece. You can go check out the full English-version here. A small sampling from what McCain calls his "pro-Russian" op-ed:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

President Putin claims his purpose is to restore Russia to greatness at home and among the nations of the world. But by what measure has he restored your greatness? He has given you an economy that is based almost entirely on a few natural resources that will rise and fall with those commodities. Its riches will not last. And, while they do, they will be mostly in the possession of the corrupt and powerful few. Capital is fleeing Russia, which - lacking rule of law and a broad-based economy - is considered too risky for investment and entrepreneurism. He has given you a political system that is sustained by corruption and repression and isn't strong enough to tolerate dissent.
How has he strengthened Russia's international stature? By allying Russia with some of the world's most offensive and threatening tyrannies. By supporting a Syrian regime that is murdering tens of thousands of its own people to remain in power and by blocking the United Nations from even condemning its atrocities. By refusing to consider the massacre of innocents, the plight of millions of refugees, the growing prospect of a conflagration that engulfs other countries in its flames an appropriate subject for the world's attention. He is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it. He has made her a friend to tyrants and an enemy to the oppressed, and untrusted by nations that seek to build a safer, more peaceful and prosperous world.
President Putin doesn't believe in these values because he doesn't believe in you. He doesn't believe that human nature at liberty can rise above its weaknesses and build just, peaceful, prosperous societies. Or, at least, he doesn't believe Russians can. So he rules by using those weaknesses, by corruption, repression and violence. He rules for himself, not you. 
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Of course, as a pair of my Slate colleagues pointed out last week when the world first learned of McCain's plans, Pravda.ru doesn't have much in common with the famed Soviet-era publication Pravda from which it took its name. Joshua Keating called it more of a "kind of cross between WorldNetDaily and the National Enquirer," while Dave Weigel explained it's a "[sad] private venture that feeds off conspiracy theories about Americans."

For more on the confusion over Pravda, the Communist newspaper, and Pravda.ru, the pro-Kremlin website, head on over to the Wall Street Journal. For what it's worth, McCain had originally suggested he hoped to have his piece published in the more well-known newspaper. CNN reports this morning that the senator's staff submitted it to both Pravda and Pravda.ru, but the former decided against running it.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

This post has been updated.

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