March 15th, 2014
05:04 PM ET
4 months ago

McCain calls U.S. military support for Ukraine "right and decent"

(CNN) - Speaking in Kiev, Sen. John McCain called Saturday for the United States to provide long-term military assistance to Ukraine, saying it is "the right and decent thing to do," as reports surfaced that Russian troops had traveled farther north into Ukraine from Crimea.

McCain was part of a bipartisan delegation of U.S. senators who traveled to Kiev ahead of Sunday's secession referendum in Crimea. The White House and U.S. allies in Europe have denounced the referendum as unconstitutional and illegal because Russian troops have essentially taken over the southern Ukraine peninsula.

McCain also had strong words for President Barack Obama in an op-ed appearing in The New York Times. He called for the President to take actions to restore the United States' credibility and strength around the world.

"Crimea has exposed the disturbing lack of realism that has characterized our foreign policy under President Obama. It is this worldview, or lack of one, that must change," wrote McCain.

Obama's administration, McCain wrote, supports the perception that the U.S. can "pull back from the world at little cost to our interests and values. This has fed a perception that the United States is weak, and to people like Mr. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, weakness is provocative."

For McCain, this is embodied by a scaled-back missile defense program and defense budgets illustrating "hope, not strategy."

In his op-ed, McCain wrote that Iran and China have "bullied" America's allies and paid no price, and Bashar al-Assad crossed President Obama's "red line" by using chemical weapons in Syria and remains in power.

McCain portrayed Putin as determined to bring Russia's neighbors "back under Moscow's dominion by any means necessary." Putin's aggression in Crimea, McCain argued, is a symptom of "growing disregard for America's credibility in the world."

"Crimea must be the place where President Obama recognizes this reality and begins to restore the credibility of the United States as a world leader," McCain wrote.

In a press conference in Kiev, McCain and seven other senators, John Barasso (R-Wyo.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), said Congress stood with the people of Ukraine. They called for strict sanctions against Russia. However, McCain went further than his colleagues.

"Ukraine is going to need a long-term military assistance program from the U.S. - equipment both lethal and nonlethal," said McCain.

"They ask for some modest means that can help them resist. I believe we should provide it," McCain said.

McCain's comments followed a report Thursday from the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. balked at a Ukrainian request for military aid, and was wary of heightening tensions with Russia.

When reached for comment by CNN, a senior administration official at the White House would only confirm that a number of requests from Ukraine are on the table. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was in Washington earlier in the week to meet with Obama and U.S. lawmakers.

McCain called on the Obama administration to come to the aid of the Ukrainian government and people "in their hour of greatest need."

McCain's trip to Ukraine followed his efforts over the past week to pass legislation in the Senate.

The Senate package includes $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, as well as $50 million to boost democracy building in Ukraine and $100 million for enhanced security cooperation for Ukraine and some of its neighbors.

It also includes proposed sanctions against individual Ukrainians and Russians responsible for the violence against anti-government protesters and those who have undermined the stability and sovereignty of Ukraine.

However, the measure has stalled in the Senate as it also includes approval of long-delayed reforms at the International Monetary Fund that are opposed by many Republicans.

McCain said on the Senate floor Thursday he was "embarrassed" that fellow Republicans were putting disputes over the IMF and campaign finance reform ahead of the Ukrainians.

But in Kiev on Saturday, McCain sounded more optimistic. He said that Congress and Obama would work together on supporting Ukraine.

"This is too serious for partisanship," McCain said.

Murphy, a supporter of the measure, also spoke of the Senate taking an active role as events unfold in Crimea.

"The world is watching, and the message that we bring today both to Ukraine and to Russia is that the United States Senate is watching as well," he said.

McCain and Durbin said they spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry and Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Kerry returned to Washington after meeting with Russia's foreign minister in London.

Power was present at the U.N. Security Council in New York, where a U.S. drafted resolution declaring the Crimea referendum invalid was vetoed by Russia. Thirteen of the 15 Security Council members backed the resolution, while China abstained from the vote.

Overshadowing the events of the day were reports from the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine that about 60 Russian troops in six helicopters assisted by three armed vehicles crossed into Ukraine's Kherson region, which borders Crimea.

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said the Russian troops were on the ground and the Ukrainian guards had taken defensive positions.

Power, speaking to press after the session, said that if Russian troops had crossed further into Ukraine it would be an "outrageous escalation."


Filed under: Chris Murphy • Dick Durbin • John Kerry • John McCain • Russia • Ukraine
soundoff (546 Responses)
  1. chris

    please tread lightly

    March 15, 2014 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  2. noteasilyswayed

    All the USA and European countries can do is scream, holler and complain; Russia is holding all of the cards and Putin knows it. The sanctions will not really effectively affect Russia.

    March 15, 2014 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  3. Tom

    We will McCain and all the "hawks" get it thru their heads that we CANT BE WORLD POLICEMAN ANYMORE- we DON'T HAVE THE MONEY. We cannot solve everyone's problems. If you believe we SHOULD, then ask yourself if you personally are willing to see your taxes increased significantly to pay for it and for a mandatory draft of all 18 year old kids to supply the military with all it needs. Oh and be prepared for the consequences of a full nuclear exchange with Russia at some point. Goodnight!

    March 15, 2014 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  4. Guest

    What is it with McCain? His answer to everything is to get us and/or our military involved. He needs to stop traveling anywhere since he can't seem to have any other solutions. Good grief.

    March 15, 2014 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  5. Antiwar dog

    What is this warmed up carcess doing in Kiev. Who appointed the United States to be the "World Policeman"?! Can we really afford to be the policeman of the owrld and whose money dod they give to those neo-nazy crooks in Kiev!

    March 15, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  6. BeverlyNC

    No one listens to John McCain anymore. He may support aid to Ukraine this week but next he will be criticizing President Obama for giving aid to Ukraine and be promoting the United States sending weapons instead.
    McCain knows nothing about today's world or how diplomacy is always the better option than war. In you want to actually attack a country, you take away their financial access they depend on, global marketplace power in the selling of good or by pulling back corporate investment for jobs in their nation. We don't need WMDs. We need intelligence, technological and financial sanctions. McCain is not of that generation. McCain has reached his irrelevance.

    March 15, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  7. Ivan Romanov

    That is the smartest idea yet, what took them so long to come up with that? I am sick and tired of my country Russia invading other countries for the past 600 years. It is time we leave other countries alone. My country should arrest Vlad Poopin and indict him for corruption. We should stop blaming the West for OUR problems and blame ourselves.

    March 15, 2014 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  8. Alex

    McCain is instigating war. That's a criminal action.

    March 15, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  9. Jim

    The priority right now is Flight 370, not Ukraine.

    March 15, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  10. Casual Observer

    No we don't need to get involved in this mess Mr. McCain. We need to get our own house in order.

    March 15, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  11. Not surprised.

    Mc Cain trying to get US military aid for the Svoboda Nazi Party of Ukraine.
    First it was terrorists in Syria now it's Neo Nazi's in Ukraine.
    They aren't even hiding it anymore.

    March 15, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  12. G

    When will McCain just be gone

    March 15, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  13. nadodi

    John McCain, please note, the world is no more the same as when you fought in Vietnam, where you lost even at that time. Today the planet has more countries capable of overtaking the United States in every spheres. May be its your age..!

    March 15, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  14. John/kc

    The American people are getting real tired of being the policeman of the world on the US taxpayers dollars. We need to worry about things at home first and the rest of world can take care of itself.

    March 15, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  15. Plutocracypolitician

    At the end of the day, we don't have enough money to do this. It would require borrowing even more money from China to help them. Maybe if we taxed the rich at 1950's rates and hadn't outsourced our industrial base things would be different.

    March 15, 2014 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  16. Joseph C. White

    America would benefit from Senator McCain thinking more and speaking less when it comes today's complex globall issues. His first solution to problems like those in Syria, Ukraine, Iran, etc. is always "War" or some use of Military power. Although there is an appropriate and unfortunate time when such is the only option a country such as ours must use, it should be the last resort. It is embarrassing that Senator McCain and several others of those representing us are not more thoughtful "leaders". This is no time for emotional recklessness. His approach to foreign issues is rooted in a philosophy and approach of the past. Senator, come into the 21st century.

    March 15, 2014 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  17. ThatGuy

    This man wants war, war , war

    March 15, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  18. Escher7

    "However, the measure has stalled in the Senate as it also includes approval of long-delayed reforms at the International Monetary Fund that are opposed by many Republicans."

    McCain calls for action, Republicans stall things as usual. Says it all.

    March 15, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  19. PoetofTimez

    I agree with 100% of what Ms McCain says. The President must restore U.S credibility and strength around the world. America has become weak because of these new policies on foreign policy. We need to remain a world leader and do what we say we gonna do, as this world grows more unstable AMERICA NEEDS TO SHOW MUSCLE. It's sad to see this great militarily powerful nation shake it's head NO as if we're so weak or scarred to bite at a situation.

    March 15, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  20. what

    Thanks God, McCain is not president.

    March 15, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  21. Subnx

    The rioters took over Ukraine and now McCain and Obama support a violent coup and oppose free elections in Crimea to become part of Russia.

    March 15, 2014 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  22. sambell1

    Thank God America didn't elect this idiot!

    March 15, 2014 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  23. xyndz22

    Any of the recent uprisings in Middle Eastern countries that the US supports are essentially "illegal" referendums. They can no longer invoke that card. When the majority of a sizable portion of land in the world wants something political, at least according to US policy, they are entitled to it. They should be sending arms to pro-russia Crimeans, in fact.

    March 15, 2014 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  24. Gorranian

    Why the US must put their noses on everybody else's business

    March 15, 2014 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  25. Niels

    Whatever McCain wants, we should do the opposite.

    March 15, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
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