As promised, Senator John McCain published a scathing letter in the Russian newspaper Pravda, even though its extremely unlikely that the average Russian will ever see it. McCain's editorial was orchestrated in response to The New York Times op-ed about Syria published under Vladimir Putin's name last week. McCain didn't even bother to address the Syria question or rebut Putin's complaints about American idealism, but instead lashed out the Russian government in general, accusing them of supporting dictators, crushing dissent, and ruining the national economy.
Here's a sample of McCain's no-hold-barred attack:
President Putin and his associates do not believe in these values. They 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.
McCain also recounts the story of Russian dissident Sergei Magnistky, whose death in prison and post-mortem trial has become a source of tension between Russian and American diplomats for months. McCain's version of events no doubt contrasts sharply from the official version Russians are used to hearing in their media. The problem, unfortunately, is that they are still unlikely to hear this alternate story either.
As this BBC report makes clear, the Pravda newspaper is still a well-known brand around the globe, but is almost impossible to find in Moscow these days. As the official media outlet of the Communist Party, it was once the most prominent publication in Russia, but is now a shadow of its former Cold War self. Maybe no one told McCain, but it's now an opposition newspaper, with a circulation of only around 100,00 copies, and lacking the cultural influence it once had.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: It turn out that the article only appeared on Pravda.ru, which is not affiliated with the Communist Pravda newspaper, but is actually its rival. The website supports Putin's party, United Russia, and also published a rebuttal of sorts attacking McCain. ("There is a feeling that the senator believes that God has left people his will in American documents.") There's been an ongoing dispute about the name for years, and that confusion seems to have tripped up McCain as well. Still, our point holds that the message is unlikely reach the average Russian citizen.
The article is online, however, and as far as McCain is concerned his point has been made, even if it's only the Russian elites who happen to actually see it. And it there are some strong words in there worth reading. McCain writes that he believes in the Russian people and that "deserve a government that believes in you and answers to you." He adds, "President Putin doesn't believe in these values because he doesn't believe in you."