Sen. John McCain made light of criticism directed at him by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, laughing about it during a floor exchange with Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.).
Putin, during a telephone interview on Russian television, leveled a verbal broadside at the Arizona Republican after the Armed Services ranking member posted comments on Twitter that all but labeled Putin an authoritarian dictator, while suggesting his reign was waning.
“Dear Vlad, The ArabSpring is coming to a neighborhood near you,” McCain wrote.
Putin, according to a report published by Agence France Presse, didn’t take kindly to the criticism.
“Mr. McCain was captured, and they kept him — not just in prison, but in a pit — for several years,” he said, referring to McCain’s years in captivity during the Vietnam War. “Anyone would go nuts.”
“The blood of peaceful civilians on his hands,” Putin continued, “and he can’t live without the kind of disgusting, repulsive scenes like the killing of [former Libyan leader Moammar]Gadhafi.”
McCain, in remarks on the Senate floor to promote passage of the Defense authorization bill, read Putin’s remarks, noting that components of the legislation that related to Russia were important given the state of U.S.-Russia relations and recent protests there over how elections were conducted.
“For the benefit of my colleagues, I have an interesting bit of news today. When demonstrations began in Moscow, I tweeted — I’m a big believer in tweets — I said, ‘Dear Vlad, the Arab spring is coming to a neighborhood near you.’ Apparently Mr. Putin was not amused,” McCain said, before proceeding to read an Associated Press report of the recent Russian elections and allegations by critics of the Russian government that those contests were rigged.
“Now, I know that my friend from Michigan may think there’s some veracity to the last sentence that he made,” McCain said to Levin, referring to Putin’s charge that the Arizonan’s time as a prisoner of war and Vietnam drove him crazy. “I would mention that in context of the National Defense bill, in my view, the reset with Russia has not gone as we had hoped. Why Mr. Putin reacted the in the way that he did is that I believe that he has been shaken.”