McCain told the Australian Broadcasting Company's 7.30 program as he visited Canberra for security talks that although it is true that jihadist radicals can do a lot of harm, it was Russia that had jeopardized democracy by allegedly interfering in last year's election in the US.
"I view the Russians as the far greatest challenge that we have," he said.
MCCain admitted he has seen no evidence Russia succeeded in its effort to influence the outcome of the election but insisted that it tried and continues to try to change elections in other countries.
"They just tried to affect the outcome of the French election," McCain said, likely referring to the hack attack on then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's campaign two days before the election, which media were quick to pin on Russia.
Meanwhile, former US President Barack Obama released an official video ahead of the election, publicly endorsing Macron. France's Republican Party MP Thierry Mariani said the video highlighted the double standards in politics.
"Imagine for a second that Vladimir Putin endorsed Marine Le Pen — everyone would've screamed bloody murder," he told Sputnik.
McCain said in an interview it is important that the US eventually responds to Russia's "meddling in elections" with sanctions.
"Hopefully when we get back from recess the Senate will enact sanctions on Russia."
According to a database compiled by political researcher Dov Levin at Carnegie Mellon University, the US has attempted to influence the outcome of a presidential election in another country 81 times between 1946 and 200. The database does not include US support for coups and other regime change efforts.