McCain Criticizes Moscow And Obama at First Debate

OXFORD, Mississippi — U.S. presidential candidate John McCain denounced Russia as a KGB-run state and chided rival Barack Obama as naive in their first debate Friday.

McCain said Obama had misunderstood Russia's intentions by calling for restraint on both sides when fighting erupted between Russia and Georgia last month over South Ossetia. "A little bit of naivete there," said McCain, a 72-year-old Republican senator whose campaign for the presidency has sought to center on his long foreign policy experience compared with that of Obama, a Democrat senator 25 years his junior.

"Russia has now become a nation fueled by petro-dollars that has basically become a KGB apparatchik-run government. I looked in Mr. Putin's eyes, and I saw three letters — a K, a G and B," McCain said, repeating a phrase he earlier made on the campaign trail.

His comment about looking into the eyes of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was an ironic reference to President George W. Bush's statement in 2001 that he got a sense of Putin's soul by looking into the eyes of the then-president.

Obama called Russia's incursion into South Ossetia "illegal and objectionable." "I think that given what's happened over the last several weeks and months, our entire Russian approach has to be evaluated because a resurgent and very aggressive Russia is a threat to the peace and stability of the region," Obama said in a debate at the University of Mississippi that focused on foreign policy.

The candidates agreed that Georgia and Ukraine should be allowed to join NATO — which Russia has fiercely opposed — and Obama said they should be given an immediate plan for membership.

"I don't believe we're going to go back to the Cold War," McCain said. "I am sure that that will not happen. But I do believe that we need to bolster our friends and allies."