The Green Zone
McCain Solicits Russian U.N. Ambassador
By Colum Lynch
NEW YORK -- Sen. John McCain, straining to match Sen. Barack Obama's fundraising juggernaut, inadvertently reached out to an unlikely donor: Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin.
The Russian mission to the United Nations furnished a copy of a Sept. 29 campaign letter it received urging Churkin to contribute up to $5,000 to "stop the Obama Democrats from seizing control of the entire federal government."
"Please know this -- we will not concede any region to the Democrats," the letter states.
The Russian mission issued a statement saying "we have received a letter from Senator John McCain with a request for a financial donation to his presidential election campaign. In this respect we have to reiterate that neither Russia's permanent mission to the United Nations, nor the Russian government or its officials finance political activities in foreign countries."
It is illegal for an American political candidate to accept campaign contributions from a foreign government. "It was just a mistake. We don't solicit folks who can't give," said McCain-Palin spokesman Brian Rogers. Asked whether there were any other ambassadors that they planned to solicit, Rogers laughed and said, "I hope not. Maybe we'll find out tomorrow."
Diplomats from several other powerful nations said that they do not believe that they had receive any financial appeals from either Obama or McCain. "He must have been really desperate," said one European official, when informed of McCain's Russian appeal.
The McCain letter tells Churkin, "I am reaching out to you to ask you to sign and return the enclosed 2008 Pledge of Support along with a campaign contribution of $35, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $2,500 or even $5,000 to the McCain-Palin Victory 2008."
McCain criticizes Obama for recklessly supporting an "unconditional timeline" for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq -- a position that Churkin supports -- and warns that he would increase the size of the federal government and support massive tax hikes -- issues that have little resonance with Russian nationals.
McCain's letter makes no reference to U.S policy toward Russia. McCain, however, has been sharply critical of Russia's recent military intervention into Georgia, a close political ally of the United States that shares a border with Russia. McCain has called for Russia to be ejected from the Group of Eight industrialized powers.
McCain's tough approach has infuriated Russian leaders. Last month, Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, took a swipe at McCain's foreign policy adviser, Henry Kissinger, saying he knew nothing about Georgia and the two breakaway provinces that Russia recently recognized as independent.
"I talked to Henry Kissinger this morning," Lavrov told a gathering at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan at a September 24 speech. "He didn't know the history. He didn't know the history of how Abkhazia and South Ossetia became part of the Russian Empire, entirely independent of Georgia."
"He didn't know the history of the Soviet Union being created and Abkhazia being one of the constituent republics, with the same rights, with the same status as Georgia. And he didn't know that it was Stalin who put Abkhazia inside Georgia, who cut Ossetia in two and left, put, gave South Ossetia to Georgia and left Northern Ossetia in Russia. He didn't know that for Abkhazians and Ossetians, when they were brought by Stalin inside Georgia, inside the Soviet Union, it was very difficult to get a decent career unless they Georgianized their names."
Staff writer Michael D. Shear contributed to this report.
Posted at 4:39 PM ET on Oct 20, 2008
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