As Americans prepare for a week of events to honor Arizona Sen. John McCain and his lifetime of achievements, Russian policymakers and media personalities are celebrating the death of an “enemy” and “chief Russophobe.”
There was no preliminary period of respect from Moscow, or a moment of political reprieve where McCain’s family were allowed to mourn the loss of their patriarch in peace. Russian pundits were unapologetically primitive and ill-mannered in their criticism, even going so far as to condemn his soul to hell.
Russian enemy no. 1
According to a scathing op-ed from the nationalist tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, McCain “adored war.” The popular Russian newspaper went so far as to suggest that, “If you haven’t been killed yet, that’s not McCain’s fault. He tried,” before theorizing that the five-year prisoner-of-war lied about being tortured by his North Vietnamese captors.
“Senator McCain loved the flames of war. Let’s believe he’ll have enough flames where his soul is resting now,” the article postulated.
McCain passed away on Saturday at the age of 81 after a year-long battle with a rare and deadly form of brain cancer. To celebrate his heroism and more than three decades of federal civil service, McCain will lie in a state of repose at both the Arizona state Capitol and Washington D.C., with memorial services planned at the North Phoenix Baptist Church and the Washington National Cathedral.
No one is shedding tears in Russia however, whose leaders McCain periodically accused of harboring “ambitions to restore the Old Russian Empire.”
Reporters from Russia’s highly-rated Rossiya 1 broadcast devoted a lengthy four-minute segment to the senator on Sunday evening, calling McCain “a convinced hawk who pecked at Russia out of principle,” and who “firmly supported all the military operations and wars that America unleashed — Kosovo, Iraq, Libya — if he had not twice lost presidential campaigns, everything could have been even more catastrophic,” they noted.
The syndicated television show was also careful to add that McCain “was shot down in Vietnam by a Soviet SA 75-Dvina missile complex.”
Cold War relic
General Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy chairman of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, blamed McCain’s hostility on the same history of military service, stating:
Mr. McCain was always an American patriot. Unfortunately, however, the ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ had affected him all his life … He was an outspoken Russophobe over the past decades. Not only did he simply dislike our country, but he in fact hated it. Peace be upon him.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed, arguing that McCain believed in “‘defend your own and attack others,’” and that the maverick senator “reflected the era in which he grew up and became a politician. An era of dividing the world into ‘us’ and ‘them.’”
Rossiya 1 predicted that America’s hardline stance against Russia would continue with “attempts to restrain and isolate Russia with harsh sanctions,” but “just now without John McCain.”
What did McCain do to earn such heartless enmity from Russian influencers? While much of the U.S. foreign policy establishment was calling for restraint following the 2008 Russo-Georgia War, McCain was prophetic in condemning the former Soviet Union and once said that he “looked into Putin’s eyes and saw KGB.”
Robert Kagan, an informal McCain adviser at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, noted that the senator’s opposition to the Russian regime went back decades. “He was a Reaganite in the Cold War — that was a pro-democracy, anti-Communist approach,” Kagan noted.
With McCain gone, perhaps there will be a new era in Russian-American relations. Given the current state of unrest, it’s unclear what the future may hold.