McCain’s Moscow broadside earns Russian riposte

US Republican Senator John McCain speaks during a joint press conference with Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Mark Kirk (back) and Senator Marco Rubio at the Corinthia hotel in the Libyan capital Tripoli on September 29, 2011 (AFP Photo / Mahmud Turkia)
In comments that are drawing raised eyebrows in Russia and beyond, a US Senator said the fall of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was inspiring people all over world - including in Moscow.

“We believe very strongly that the people of Libya today are inspiring the people in Tehran, in Damascus, and even in Beijing and Moscow," said John McCain, the Republican Senator from Arizona and a former presidential contender.

McCain was part of a congressional visit to Tripoli, the Libyan capital, where American lawmakers are attempting to pave the way for investors who are anxious to do business in the oil-rich country.

"They (the Libyan people) continue to inspire the world – and let people know that even the worst dictators can be overthrown and be replaced by freedom and democracy," the Senator continued.

“How they succeed will also be watched very carefully by the rest of the world," he added.

McCain’s provocative comments, which succeeded in lumping Moscow together with at least one sworn enemy of the United States, naturally triggered no small amount of confusion and consternation in Russia.

According to Sergey Markov, a Russian parliamentarian, it is senseless to compare the situation in Libya and Egypt to the situation in Russia.

“First of all, those countries had the same leaders in power for many decades,” Markov told RT. “The people eventually got tired of a situation in which there was absolutely no change. In contrast to those countries, Russia experienced a decade of chaos and anarchy not so long ago: it lasted from the early 1990s and until Vladimir Putin came to power.”

While people in those countries may aspire to social upheaval, Russians are simply terrified at the thought that there might be another revolution, Markov added.

But to confuse matters more, it is the questionable behavior of Wall Street, not Moscow, that is “inspiring the people” to take to the streets in the United States, where high unemployment rates alongside breathless levels of corporate greed and corruption are finally gaining attention.

The protests now taking place in Manhattan, New York are aimed at “addressing various issues including police brutality, union busting and the economy,” according to Occupy Wall Street protest group. The demonstrations have entered their fourteenth day and the protesters have said they will stay on until 20,000 people join them in protest.

In late 2008, the global economy fell into a death spiral as US banks and financial institutions, which had purchased billions of dollars of tainted “subprime” mortgages, suddenly realized they were in a precarious position as the overspent US consumer began to have great difficulties returning their “adjustable rate” home loans. Yet it was the banks, corporations and financial institutions that were judged "too big to fail."

According to Markov, Russia is resilient against such social disturbances as it will be the people themselves who demand law and order.

"The people will even demand that the authorities crack down hard on any aspiring revolutionaries, so that they wouldn’t start dismantling the country once again and plunge us all into poverty, confrontation and a collapse of governance" he said.

Markov also pointed to specific demographic statistics that suggest Russia is simply “too mature” to engage in such uprisings.

"The average age of the population in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya is about 24, whereas in Russia it is 38,” he stressed. “People at this age have different values: they’ve got a family, they own property, they have a job, and they usually have a different view of the reality.”

Markov then pointed to the problem of unemployment as yet another factor in sparking social uprisings.

“Russia has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe,” the Russian MP noted with satisfaction.

As for Russia’s leaders, Markov described them as “very strong, sensible, charismatic and popular – and you can say all that about Vladimir Putin."

Although McCain’s reckless comments may have been an attempt to divert attention away from Washington’s overloaded basket of dirty laundry, it is also important to remember that the Arizona Senator has something of a reputation for committing grand gaffes.

At the height of the Iraq war, for example, McCain revealed his limited knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs when said that Tehran was training al-Qaeda and sending them back into Iraq.

“We continue to be concerned about Iranian taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back,” McCain said at a news conference. Asked to elaborate, he said: “Well, it’s common knowledge and has been reported in the media that Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.”

Unfortunate for John McCain and his political credentials, Washington at the time believed that Iran, a Shiite country, had been training and financing Shiite extremists in Iraq, not al-Qaeda, which is a Sunni terrorist group.

The Democrats quickly pounced on the fumbled ball, eventually returning it to the end zone.

“After eight years of the Bush Administration’s incompetence in Iraq,” Karen Finney, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. “McCain’s comments don’t give the American people a reason to believe that he can be trusted to offer a clear way forward.”

On yet another occasion, McCain, 75, who was held as a prisoner-of-war for 6 years during the Vietnam War, performed his own rendition of the Beach Boys classic 60's song, “Barbara Ann,” substituting the words with, “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

Back in Libya, McCain was if the United States would cooperate with Libya in the event that it had an Islamic government. McCain replied: “I think the US will be prepared to cooperate with any government that the Libyan people decide. But obviously our relations will be affected by what kind of government that is.”

McCain then took the opportunity to chastise Iran, which the United States believes is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian energy program.

"I do not claim to be an expert on Libya but I do know enough to know that the people of Libya are not in significant numbers interested in a radical Islamic extremist government such as we have in Iran or a couple of other countries. That's not the nature of the Libyan people," he said

McCain ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, ultimately losing the primaries to George W. Bush. In 2008, he won the Republic primaries, but lost to Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the general election.

As for how Russia should handle the provocative McCain comments, Markov offered a suggestion: take him to court in the United States.

"I generally believe that Mr. McCain’s statements can be qualified as deliberately aimed at inciting a riot,” the political analyst stated. “We should think whether it would be possible to sue John McCain, most likely before an American court, and charge him with inciting a riot.”

Robert Bridge, RT