John McCain’s Warning of the Authoritarian Threat Should Be Heeded

“Five years ago today, the United States — and the world — lost an indispensable advocate for freedom. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was one of those rare figures who fought for the values he held dear in every aspect of life — from his military career and five years as a POW, to his more than 30 years representing Arizona in the Senate, to his role as one of America’s foremost statesmen.

“It is in this latter role that he will be best remembered around the world. Beloved by small ‘d’ democrats and loathed by dictators, a word from John McCain could hearten and inspire activists, protestors and political prisoners. The senator understood the essential connection between dictators’ oppression at home and the threats they pose abroad. Many years before most of Washington, he anticipated the global danger of resurgent authoritarianism.  

“There is no subject on which John McCain showed greater prescience than the trajectory of Russia under Vladimir Putin. He expressed his distrust of Putin as early as 2000, led the charge for NATO enlargement with an eye on the dangers of Russian revanchism, and in 2003 called for “a hard-headed and dispassionate reconsideration of American policy in response to the resurgence of authoritarian forces in Moscow. …”

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