March 15th, 2014
05:04 PM ET
5 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. Marie MD

    After giving the world the screecher from AK McCain should go build a house in the desert and stay in it.
    Oh wait, he couldn't remember whether he had 10 or 11 homes! Silly me.
    Go take a nap.

    March 16, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  2. ed-words

    When is this media love affair with McCain (and Pope Francis) going to end?

    Can't CNN give us the views on this conflict from REAL experts?

    March 16, 2014 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  3. Obama, Surrender Monkey, Weakling, Naive Child President

    that pretty much says it all. The leader of the free world goes on vacation and golfs while countries fall to the resurgent Russian Empire and its dictator Putin.

    March 16, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  4. Tommy G

    Planes full of stinger missiles, RPGs, sniper rifles and volunteers. I'm sure the Chechan people would love the opportunity to kill a few thousand Russians. Start recruiting them. And when they are done, send them back home with back packs full of explosives to deliver to Moscow. Putin must understand how truly vulnerable he is.

    March 16, 2014 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  5. Lizzie

    Mr. President, stay out of the Ukraine, lead from behind, that what you do best.
    The Ukraine was part of the USSR before it broke up, Pres.Putin will not let it go.

    March 16, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  6. Anonymous

    @Anonymous

    When did CNN become the McCain Sunday Tour Anti-American Network?
    --------------------

    I'm surprised more people haven't caught on to how anti-American corporate America media has become. John McCain is nothing more than a media stooge used to further corporate America's anti-American agenda's. Most Repbulican's are eager to follow McCain's example. CNN and the rest are happy to oblige.

    March 16, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  7. mike

    If the Russians aren't stopped here where will they be stopped? Warsaw? London? NYC?
    America fought for her freedom with the help of France. Ukraine is fighting for her freedom, will we only sit back and watch? Some things are worth fighting for!!!

    March 16, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. mike

    God bless Ukraine and her people!

    March 16, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  9. Francis Vela

    It's very peculiar that we have lost all credibility in just one administration. McCain should rally for his country and not just his own political party

    March 16, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  10. Serge

    McCain is right. By the Budapest agreement, the US is obligated to protect Ukraine's sovereignty. The very least we can do is financial and weapons support; eventually, we may also have to send military forces, as Putin seems bloodthirsty for a world war, and all diplomatic attempts at a solution thus far have failed.

    March 16, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. Anna O'Leary

    McCain like his father is covering up the attack on USS Liberty by Israel. Traitors.

    March 16, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  12. Citizen Me

    Seriously, McCain? Okay, why not you suit up and go fight the next war. Are you totally whacked?

    March 16, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  13. Hoss Mullins

    Considering the vast majority are russian and WANT to rejoin russia , means that it is neither right or decent to deny them that right

    March 16, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Ukraine does not need military assistance. the country is kaput economically. it needs infusion of money.

    March 16, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @Francis Vela: "It's very peculiar that we have lost all credibility in just one administration. McCain should rally for his country and not just his own political party"

    If by "one administration" you are referring to GW and his arrogance and lies, then yes, we have.

    President Obama, even in the wake of the NSA spying on our allies (which EVERYONE DOES, for Pete's sake), we have more credibility now than we ever had under GW.

    March 16, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  16. Roman D

    Yes, according to Budapest agreement, President Clinton in face of US Nation promised people of Ukraine sovereignty of it's borders if they give their nukes... They gave up their nukes so why are we still discussing to be or not to be? Conditional agreement was reached and signed, Ukrainians held their part of the deal and now their territory under serious treat...
    The Crimea isn't just Russians, there are plenty of Ukrainians and other nations, more than that, historically, that territory did not belong to Russia or Ukraine, it belonged to Tatarian people (there is a country called Tatarstan whom native people of Cremea share historical background with) and majority of them are NOT happy about joining Russia because in it's time Soviets had shipped them away from their land. That being said, they should have deciding vote as everyone else are pretty much just guests. Whats next? Hey Russia, there is always the Brighton Beach, all you have to do is to find some BS theoretical threat send some undercover troops and agitators, next thing we know, Part of Brooklyn will be joining Russia... Fun

    March 16, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  17. Ian Addel

    The happenings in Ukraine and those in Syria are not in any way different, given the stance that Putin has taken. One wonders who the greatest Super power is. One thing coming out of all these events is the lack of political will and stable mind in the heads of those that will start sending food, medics n just any type of aid. Putin must be held accountable for the atrocities committed in Syria n any issues that may arise in Ukraine. He is no better than a mastermind of all killings n havoc.

    March 16, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  18. Amani

    It's time the criminals in Washington are held accountable for their evil underhanded destruction of countries all over the world. Inciting and financing so called revolutions in the Middle East supporting and paying for the Muslim brotherhood, neo nazis in Ukraine, Elquaida in Syria. For shame America, you let your own young die in wars that were never meant to advance anything but destruction and pad wallets of corrupt companies.

    March 16, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. tomj

    John McCain doesn't know what the word decent means..... McCain's against help for the weak, sick, disadvantage,elder;y, women, veterans, jobless. John McCain is just plain anti people unless of course if you're in his wife's tax bracket. That old bitter warmongering fool is just wants to get us involved into major war!

    March 16, 2014 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  20. Jerry

    I'll bet ol' Obama wishes now that he hadn't retired the Space Shuttles......... No, that presupposes that he would actually DO something about this and we should all know better by now than to believe that the biggest "do-nothing" president in our nation's history would act against Putin's Hitleresque intentions.

    March 16, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  21. Mike K.

    McCain should be recalled then tried for assisting terror groups in Syria – the ones that used chemical weapons in an attempt to frame Assad.

    Isn't this senile warmonger traitor supposed to be part of the legislative branch representing Arizona? He has long since ceased acting as a senator.

    He should be removed.

    March 16, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
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