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Old McCain video surfaces talking Putin, predicts future

John McCain official photo portrait. (U.S. Congress)
December 29, 2022

A 2014 interview with then-Republican Sen. John McCain about the ambitions of Russian President Vladimir Putin has resurfaced on social media against the backdrop of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

In the clip, McCain says Putin’s aim is to restore Russia’s imperial borders and that “nothing provokes Vladimir Putin more than weakness.” The now-deceased senator echoes much of what U.S. officials are currently saying about Putin, but denounces the government for not listening to him at the time. 

McCain also criticizes the U.S. for having withheld intelligence and defense aid to Ukraine for fear of “provoking” Putin. He says the U.S. actually provoked Putin by holding back.

These days, the U.S. is feeding Ukraine valuable intel and shipping weapons worth tens of billions of dollars to fight the Russians. And President Joe Biden agrees that Putin “wants to, in fact, reestablish the former Soviet Union,” as reported by Insider.

The clip is taken from a BBC HARDtalk interview from Sept. 10, 2014. Days before, Ukraine had negotiated a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in its Crimean peninsula, which Russia had invaded and annexed six months earlier.

That land-grab drew sanctions from the West, but there was little serious effort to reverse it at the time, as reported by CNBC. The full-scale Ukraine invasion that began in February is seen as only the latest escalation of a broader war that began eight years ago with the successful capture of Crimea.

When HARDtalk host Zeinab Badawi asked whether the ceasefire was a positive outcome, McCain said it was “a very bad result” that would “be another step in Vladimir Putin’s strategy to separate eastern Ukraine from Ukraine.”

U.S. officials are now taking a more confrontational stance to avoid Ukraine becoming a springboard for further conquests, as McCain correctly predicted would happen with Crimea, as reported by the New York Times.

Evelyn Farkas, executive director of McCain’s namesake think tank, the McCain Institute, has acknowledged the U.S.’ more aggressive posture.

“We will give them everything they need to win, and we’re not afraid of Vladimir Putin’s reaction to that,” Farkas said. “We won’t be self-deterred.”