John McCain: Putin and Hu Should Watch Out

Sen. John McCain on CBS' "Face the Nation," Feb. 13, 2011.
Arizona Sen. John McCain predicted on Sunday that the recent governmental overthrow in Egypt would likely spur similar movements throughout the world, and warned foreign leaders in countries like China and Russia that they might be "a little less secure" of their power in light of recent events.

"I don't think this is confined to the Middle East, just as we believe that human rights are universal," said McCain, in an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation."

"These winds of change that are blowing, I think I would be a little less cocky in the Kremlin with my KGB cronies today if I were [Russian Prime Minister] Vladimir Putin," he warned. "I would be a little less secure in the seaside resort that [Chinese] President Hu and a few men who govern and decide the fate of 1.3 billion people."

McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he could not yet determine the extent to which Egypt's revolution would impact the rest of the Middle East, but expressed concerns about how similar events might play out in surrounding countries.

"The Egyptian people are educated, they're sophisticated. They are not a country, in all due respect, one like Yemen where there are stark contradictions [existing] within that country," McCain said.

He also said he worried that, in countries like Iran and Syria, protests would be met with harsh governmental responses.

"The Syrians obviously and the Iranians will be much more harsh if demonstrations take place in their country," he said. "And the message to the Iranians is, let your people have peaceful demonstrations and let's have democracy in Iran, Syria and other countries, which are [not only] not our friends but are in many ways our enemies."

The Arizona Republican called the Egyptian revolution a "repudiation of al Qaeda," and praised the peaceful nature of the protests demanding Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

"The Egyptians helped us in the fight against al Qaeda," he said. "This revolution is a direct repudiation of al Qaeda, who believe that the only way you bring about change is through violence."

He added that while Eypt was "incredibly important in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," Israel might have "reason for concern" as a result of Mubarak's loss of power in Egypt.

"Whatever government is going to come into power is not going to have a close relationship that they [had] with Mubarak - let's just make that assumption," he said. "Then the question is, what will be the nature of that relationship, and will there be places like Gaza that are flash points anyway that will cause the likelihood or possibility of conflict?"

Regardless, McCain said he thought the spread of anti-governmental demonstrations - even in traditional allies like Egypt - would ultimately benefit the United States.

"This is spreading and it's great news," he said. "It is fraught with uncertainty. But some of these things were bound to happen, number one. Number two is, it's good for everything we believe in. We've got to believe in the long run that countries that have free and open societies are going to be natural allies of ours over time."