March 15th, 2014
05:04 PM ET
9 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. JimInNM

    Absolutely not. Renounce your citizenship, grab a gun, get a one way ticket to the Ukraine and fight if you wish but leave America out of it (no U.S.military and no U.S. funded mercenaries).

    March 15, 2014 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  2. DP

    McCain won't be happy until he gets his name in the history books for starting World War III.

    March 15, 2014 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  3. wendel

    mc cain would have boots on the ground in Syria ,Ukraine, Iran and half a dozen other places.

    March 15, 2014 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  4. Raphael

    ur telling me no one has commented on this story. Bull

    March 15, 2014 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  5. Bmike

    Republicans to the rescue..not..I've read some tasteless comments on here. From the right about this country..you repubs are traitors..no matter who's in office you don't side with the likes of Putin..you republicans are losers period....

    March 15, 2014 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  6. BUD

    Oh yes.

    Lets start a war with Russia,

    Good thinking McCain.

    March 15, 2014 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  7. Dan

    As the Iron Curtain rises for Act 5 tomorrow, we are reminded that this is all about money, arrogance, greed and gluttony...nothing to do with ethnic tensions anywhere!

    March 15, 2014 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  8. Ron

    Term limits and mandatory retirement age is in order.

    March 15, 2014 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  9. J anthony

    This is just sickening. "Democracy building?" where have we heard that before? So millions of taxpayer dollars will be sent overseas for another quagmire, but we can't clean up our own backyard. How long are we going to be taken to the cleaners by plutocrats whose only interests are power and ego? Is that what we all believe life is supposed to be about? This isn't about looking weak or democracy, are you kidding!? It's about money and.power. They take us for fools!

    March 15, 2014 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    You have a Russian dictator with nuclear weapons forcing the take over a territory. He officially declares that they are not Russian troops doing this. He is doing this for all the world to see. He has no respect for the people of Ukraine and never did.

    March 15, 2014 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  11. Mahdi Mahdiwa

    we Afghanistan's people , want to support Ukraine in his war with Russian because Russia killed 1000000 of our people in soviet union era and made 5000000 immigrate to ... and it prepared for Taliban's comming and then Taliban destroyed more ...

    March 15, 2014 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  12. GTS58

    No way in Hell do we want to start funneling military aid to the Ukraine. McCain needs to retire and take Peter King with him – no more RINO's.

    March 15, 2014 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  13. bart

    Shouldn't this guy be in a home back in sedona

    March 15, 2014 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  14. Thaddeus Kozubal

    What's going on? Who declared a travel vacation recess for Congress? Half of them are in the Ukraine spending the $100 million they're promising for neighbor relations. I thought the republicans wanted to cut spending for a smaller government? Doesn't McCain have enough spending on Defense in Arizona? There is only so much you can do with politicians before you have to castrate them.

    March 15, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  15. John smith

    It's the battle of the old geezers it seems. On one hand is John, I've never met a war I didn't like, McCain. On the other is Ron, I've never seen a Consitution I didn't agree with, Paul. One says we are late dropping the bombs already and the other says this is a sovereign country we want to attack, who the hell do we think we are?!

    March 15, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  16. Joseph

    Is anyone seriously listening to this man? He wants to get us involved in a full scale war with Russia?

    March 15, 2014 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  17. william towles

    McCain is an idiot. He wants us to attack everybody. He never attacked anybody that fought back He was a pow for 9 years. He and Graham never saw a war they didn't like.

    March 15, 2014 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  18. Russ

    This man is nuts. Wants a proxy war with Russia. This is even crazier and more idiotic than selecting Palin as his running mate. Seriously, this wack job was almost our president. Scary.

    March 15, 2014 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  19. Hoss Mullins

    looking at the fact that the MAJORITY of the countries population is ethnic Russian and WANTS to rejoin Russia, aiding Ukraine is neither right OR decent, just another reason for the USA government to engage in a proxy war...SMH....

    March 15, 2014 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  20. Jesse

    No, no, no, and hell no! John McCain, for being a former POW, you sir are quite the warmonger.

    March 15, 2014 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  21. Russ

    This man is disturbed. Now wants a proxy war with Russia. This is even more remarkable than selecting Palin as his running mate. Seriously, this person was almost our president. Scary.

    March 15, 2014 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  22. Russ

    I like him. What a humorist.

    March 15, 2014 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  23. Jim Rome

    John McCain who attends Halliburton closed door meetings wants to send aid? What a desperate male escort you are. You are what has destroyed the American economy. Last year we spent $700 BILLION on defense, $34 BILLION of which went straight to Halliburton whose CEO mad $28 MILLION last year. Now I've got pot holes on the street where I live and the state has no money to pay for them. Gee, I wonder why.

    March 15, 2014 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  24. Chuk

    Yes, McCain. And while you're at it, call for "boots on the ground" too. Because you've never seen a war you don't want to fight. You'll never rest until the U.S is at perpetual war unless everybody is shaking in their boots for the US.
    We know you have a PERSONAL spat with Putin. Get over it.

    March 15, 2014 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  25. Ron

    McCain has apparently never seen a war he didn't want to get into. And he's famous for getting his picture made with terrorists while he's advocating for military aid (Syrian opposition). I would also remind the Republicans who are now viciously attacking Obama for not bombing Syria, that Obama wanted to do exactly that, and he was not supported by the people of the US nor Congress, including most Republicans. Thankfully. Nevertheless, the hypocrisy is palatable.

    March 15, 2014 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
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