March 15th, 2014
05:04 PM ET
6 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. Carlos Flores

    Thanks god, McCain is not the president.

    March 15, 2014 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  2. tbone

    This is why McCain is the Senator and Obama is President. Wrong in the past him and his party and wrong today. We could not get Iraq and Afghanistan right and their a mess and now this numb nut wants us to commit our so called resources to Ukraine when in reality its a divided nightmare. Better to let the Ukrainian people and Russian people and the nearby countries worry about it and let us worry about our own problems. These senators here just wasted precious tax payer money on trips that only look good for their own parties and political futures. Got news for you Senators, come back home and deal with the mess here and fix problems here at home. Its not our battle to worry about. No need to commit more manpower and money and time into unnecessary wars when that country is going to determine its own outcome with or without our assistance. If Iraq and Afghanistan is any lesson, is that the people of a country if they want freedom and democracy, they will fight it on their own with or without the US. Just leave it be and come back home.

    March 15, 2014 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  3. bob

    I'm sure nobody expected any other response from the republicans. The party of war is going through withdrawals.

    March 15, 2014 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  4. fat boy

    Go neo-con McCain. Stir up the warmongers with your patriotic hubris. We know none of the Senators beating the war drum will be going to fight, or any of their children. What is that saying.........the farther from the frontlines, the louder the drumbeat for war. We wrecked Iraq and bankrupted the country, now lets get into a quagmire in Ukraine. The war profiteers will love it!!!

    March 15, 2014 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  5. Henry

    Old Man McCain, trying to stir up another war. Why does CNN keep having him on? If you don't think his judgement is flawed, just look at who he named as his running mate.

    March 16, 2014 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  6. robertH

    Who else despises McCain as much as I do. The man can't keep his flippin blood thirsty hands out of any confict can he? Long term military aid? What exactly does that mean to McCain? Another ginormous cost to Americans all because McCain thinks Putin shouldn't defend Russian interests. McCain is a danger to America and to our own future stabiity due to his and a few other twisted military obsessed freaks within our government. Ukraine is not our debt to incur. Let Germany provide military "aid". They are more closely affected and it would be "right" for them to go in with their military if that's how this is all suppose to play out- militarily. Sucks that these oppositional government overthrowers took the approach they did. I have zero respect for how they played their hand and I am 100% NOT at all interested in this American instigated situation be funded by us. Notice how Merkel and all the european countries are quietly holding their tongue. Because they are not as foolish with their resources as our government is. America is failing in so many ways so let's just turn our backs on our real domestic priorities and jump into so military game with Ukraine's de facto government. Sorry but it should be completely wrong for us to deal with a de facto government. Ukraine is a European issue and any military "aid" should come from them. So sick and tired of our government starting conflicts and spending money just beceause they can't shine in any other area.

    March 16, 2014 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  7. Guest

    Iraq was a misadventure from the start. Afghanistan got blown way out of its proper scope. Unfortunately, that's made the US public understandably war-weary and not interested in helping Ukraine which is a shame because this is the kind of conflict we *should* be intervening in. Russia's incursion into Ukraine is aggressive, violent expansionism the likes of which has not been seen since World War II.

    It will be far less costly to stand up to Putin now than it will be to endure another Cold War with a reborn Russian Empire.

    March 16, 2014 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  8. Mag

    "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.

    A bit ironic when you consider that his own arty won't even vote for an aid package without taking it hostage. McCain also forgets that the American people voted for this president on his approach to war not mccains.

    March 16, 2014 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  9. sanman

    Wasn't this the same McCain who tried to parlay the Russia-Georgia clash over South Ossettia into a last-minute "October Surprise" boost for himself, hoping to beat Obama at the ballot box? And Bush stooge Saakashvili was just the kind of flunky who would've willingly timed such a clash to cater to the whims of political patrons in Washington.

    March 16, 2014 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  10. Edward

    Not the world's police. McCain needs to retire.

    March 16, 2014 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  11. Bob

    McCain = do the opposite of.

    March 16, 2014 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  12. currency1896

    mccain the washed up warrior knows nothing

    March 16, 2014 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  13. lean6

    Warmonger McCain wants war. Go figure.

    March 16, 2014 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  14. JustWho

    Mc – shut up and get back to Arizona

    March 16, 2014 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  15. Brandon

    McCain is asking us to kill Russians. Let's all ponder that.

    March 16, 2014 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  16. Conrad Pen the netherlands

    We have to take in consideration that russiia has invented the stratgy of burning earth wich They used in ww2 and that They defend stalinggrad with one gun on every two men. Thiey reflecti a very high degree of recilience. So if we pay back russiia by implemnting the economic sanctions They Will never suffer. We lost the initiative and so for the fourth time in 100 years we walking behind the facts. What to do? We must increase our military présence ialong the borders of our NATO partners. What will happen after the referendum? The minorities on the Crimea will be discriminated and therefor have to find support outsider Crimea. Logical fact will be support of foreign islamic groups. We have allreday seen serbian support. It wil spread this conflict and is likely to become the start of ww3 . The only thing we can do and have to do is to close the border on the Turkish front near syria, make sure that China stays out and increase our military présence aloong our NATO borders. And Crimea? We have to exept our politacal, diplomatic and military defeat. If we want to preserve freedom in Europe. Keep calm and carry on defending of what is our herritage after two brutal wars and a major conflict on the Balkan in 1992.

    March 16, 2014 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  17. Thomas

    Does America now see what kind of bullet they dodged by NOT electing this man to the presidency? McCain would have gone to war with every nation on the planet by now. Odd considering how lousy a soldier he was (shot down five times, captured for five years, etc.) that he would be so eager to start more fights.

    March 16, 2014 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  18. Eric Herzberg

    What does McCain hope to accomplish? Sacrificing American boys and girls to what end? Sowing the seeds of yet another generation around the world who hate us? Let's worry about ourselves.

    March 16, 2014 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  19. HarveyY

    McCain asserts the usual US-centric Republican malarkey that the real problem is Obama is weak as an international leader. Then he asserts that "This is too serious for partisanship." And then he calls for a further militarization of the Ukraine, implying that it can stand up to Russia with our help. The senator's time has come and gone.

    March 16, 2014 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  20. bccrean

    Mr. McCain please give the land back to the Natives and I would agree to everything you say.

    March 16, 2014 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  21. Lewin khaoya

    I dont understand how in the 21st century a nation can invade another sovereign nation, Putin truly is not of this century and the world must show him that, senator Mccain is right the US must provide military aid to Ukraine my prayers are with ukranians

    March 16, 2014 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  22. Robert

    McCain is clearly demented and needs to leave the public stage now.

    March 16, 2014 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  23. soul68

    "He called for the President to take actions to restore the United States' credibility and strength around the world."

    The Repubs answer to everything is more war. Eisenhower was right.

    March 16, 2014 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  24. Festivusfortherestofus

    Time to stick John McCain back into his F-4 Phantom and have him lead a solo attack.

    Can't this old coot get it through his skull that not every fight going on in the world requires US intervention???

    March 16, 2014 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  25. manny ky

    This mess was started by the bush administration in irak no matter what obama can do it from now on everyone will seek imperialism and invasion cause security council resolution never backed us in irak

    March 16, 2014 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
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