By Paul Goble
The Kremlin and its supporters have acted in a predictable fashion following the death of US Senator John McCain. For these people, he was the last Cold Warrior and a died in the wool Russophobe, someone whose passing was “the death of an enemy” (themoscowtimes.com/news/enemy-is-dead-russia-reacts-us-senator-john-mccains-passing-62677).
For them, the late American politician was a Russophobe because he criticized the authoritarian actions of the Putin regime at home and its aggression against Georgia and Ukraine since according to their lights Russia and Putin are one and the same and criticizing the Kremlin leader is the same a criticizing Russia.
That of course has been the view the Putin regime has been promoting for years, but what is striking over the last several days is understanding of many Russians that McCain was, as he himself observed, “a better friend of Russia” than those in the Kremlin and that he believed the Russian people “deserved a better leader” than Vladimir Putin.
In an impressive display that Putin has failed in his effort to convince Russians otherwise, commentator after commentator in Moscow has made the point in their articles about the passing of Senator McCain that Putin and Russia are not one and the same thing and that Russians deserve a better system than the one the Kremlin leader has imposed.
Among numerous examples are the following: echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/2265954-echo/, https://echo.msk.ru/blog/partofair/2266516-echo/ https://echo.msk.ru/blog/pozner/2266450-echo/ echo.msk.ru/blog/karamurza/2266378-echo/, echo.msk.ru/blog/kasyanov_mihail/2266236-echo/ and republic.ru/posts/91921.
Sadly, McCain’s lessons on this point have made less headway in the West where authoritarian leaders and their supporters are all to happy to join with the Putinists and view Putin and Russia as one and the same thing and to consider any criticism of the Kremlin leader as an attack on Russia deserving denunciation as Russophobia.