The decision to cancel a summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin is counterproductive and shows a lack of understanding by President Barack Obama of the delicate relationship the U.S. straddles with the former Communist regime, Sen. John McCain said Sunday.
Putin is "an old KGB colonel that has no illusions about our relationship, does not care about a relationship with the United States, continues to oppress his people, continues to oppress the media, and continues to act in an autocratic and unhelpful fashion," McCain said on "Fox News Sunday."
"The only American policy I can think of that President Obama is practicing, is one, he's not Bush, and second, the United States is withdrawing. And when you do that and say that, things get a lot worse and they continue to get worse. And without that strong policy, we are in trouble," McCain said.
Obama called the cancellation of his meeting with Putin a symbolic measure after Russia granted asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
In doing so, McCain said Obama was unhelpful when he described the Russian leader as a "slouch" who looks "like the bored kid in the back of a classroom."
"The president comparing him to a kid in the back of a classroom, I think, is very indicative of the president’s lack of appreciation of who Vladimir Putin is," McCain said.
"We also need very badly to understand that Mr. Putin does not have the United States-Russia relationships in any priority and treat him in a realistic fashion," the Arizona Republican senator said. "That’s the way to treat Mr. Putin, not just canceling a meeting."
McCain cautioned that a growing number of younger Americans view Snowden as a "Jason Bourne" type of hero, a fictional character who was victimized by the federal government.
"There's a kind of generational change here, young Americans do not trust this government," McCain said.
"And clearly, Mr. Snowden being granted asylum in Russia is a signal of incredibly bad relations between the United States and Russia, and Mr. Putin put his thumb right in America's eye," McCain said.
Addressing the embassy closures throughout the Middle East and North Africa, McCain said the actions do not constitute a retreat, but said it does authenticate the threat al-Qaida continues to pose to the U.S. and its interest abroad.
"You can't say on the one hand you have destroyed core al Qaeda, that is semantic gymnastics," McCain said. "You can't say that and at the same time have to close embassies and consulates all over the Middle East. Look, al-Qaida is on the rise, they have continued to penetrate, they almost have a free zone on the Iraq/Syria border," McCain said.
"Al-Qaida is strengthening every day in every way because of a lack of American leadership and policy," McCain said.
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