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. James

    Sure, let's start a nuclear war with Russia and end the world. At least the American people were smart enough not to put this man into the White House. If only the people of Arizona were smart enough...

    March 15, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    I dont think this is the time to "think tank"

    March 15, 2014 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  3. Nameswisschese

    I don't like Democrats. If Obama starts a war, i hope he loses.

    March 15, 2014 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  4. RJ

    Unfortunately, "Kill-em-all" McCain never met a war he didn't like, so he has ZERO credibility when calling for military action, anywhere. This guy has been playing with toy soldiers since he was in diapers and seems to have a one track mind.

    March 15, 2014 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  5. Jose

    The neonazis in Ukraine elected these senators? Maybe it's time for they make something for their electors instead of try to drag USA in another lost war.

    March 15, 2014 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  6. Bob Ramos

    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.
    --------------------------
    My Points:
    1. The Obama doctrine states that we will defend our direct interests directly when they are threatened. Our indirect via the international community because they also share this threat. We are no longer, nor do we want to be, the world's policeman.
    2. To be the world's policeman, we need to continue spending around 10X what that next 10 first tier countries do combined on defense. We can no longer do that.
    3. The missile defense system McCain is talking about is designed to protect Europe. If it is needed why not let the EU do that?
    4. Our allies have historically depended on the USA to defend them and thus used defense funds for other purposes. If Russia and China can bully them, there is nothing we can or should do.

    March 15, 2014 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  7. Hotdog

    McCain is sickening. We should not send military aid Ukraine. We have problems here at home that needs to be addressed. A jobs bill, invest infrastructure improvements (electrical, water, roads and repair of bridges).

    March 15, 2014 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  8. Concerned81

    McCain is criticizing the US on foreign soil. How can he get away with this. Where is the outrage? He wants to start a war as the first reaction. We have been at war for the last 10 years. This is more likely the reason the world does not respect the US

    March 15, 2014 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  9. Lifehiker

    Can you imagine how disastrous a John McCain presidency would have been? Yes, the U.S. and the rest of the world should denounce Russia's actions in Ukraine and put on some serious economic sanctions on Russia if Crimea is annexed. But, military aid would have the effect of pouring gasoline on the fire. There's a good reason the Ukraine government is taking a non-violent position; Russia could crush them in days, no matter how much assistance was obtained. So, military assistance is useless and would be regarded by Russian citizens as a U.S.provocation. Because McCain only knows the stick, he's the equivalent of an unguided missile and not to be taken seriously.

    March 15, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  10. Tafie

    I am a foreigner frequently visiting America. I cant understand why America deems it necessary to financially support corrupt illegitimate regimes. I know a lot of Americans living in FORESTS because the dont have means to put a roof over their heads....yet USA the HAS funds to prop up corrupt illegitimate regimes around the world

    March 15, 2014 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  11. Steve R

    I guess we are lucky Johnny Mac didn't call for an all out invasion of Russia. He just gets a little on edge if we are not at war somewhere.

    March 15, 2014 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  12. israel my people

    how in the world in this day and age could a us senator and aformer presidential contender side with the nazi party of ukraine unbeivable

    March 15, 2014 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  13. Name

    McCain lost the election, who does this guy think he is, The president ?

    March 15, 2014 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  14. Lostreader

    Kudos to Senator MCCain. Someone understands that the US must stand up to bullies like Putin.

    March 15, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  15. Pat

    Ahh yes...the GOP beating the war drums again. Guess Iraq and Afghanistan didn't get it out of their system.

    March 15, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  16. DJ Reality

    We Have 3 thousand A1M1 tanks sitting in the desert . Give then to Ukraine!!!

    March 15, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  17. mark beer

    quote.."its my first day"...Homer Simpson,in a episode where he is surounded by multi military foreign gunman.

    March 15, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  18. Lee Crowell

    All McCain knows how to do is call for U.S. military intervention.

    March 15, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Shut up, Old Man!

    March 15, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  20. dave

    So how does McCain propose to pay for all of this, tax breaks to the rich? McCain is not credible on foreign affairs matters, he wants war with everyone, doesn't want to pay for any of it, if we sent troops everywhere McCain wanted, we would have 20 or 30 wars going, and not paying for any of them. We'd be trillions more in debt, and the republicans would want to cut all the social programs. The media never asks the republicans how they will pay for such ventures, and they all know that republicans always want war.

    March 15, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  21. Mary

    Please let us bend the rules and let McCain sign up for active duty. He can lead the nation to another war.

    March 15, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  22. Nigerian

    Mr. Mc Cain, Shut up!

    March 15, 2014 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  23. bo

    Shaddap McCain, THE most hated senator iintne senate.

    March 15, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  24. Dano

    How dare McCain pledge any military support let alone long term. The West has no role in this problem, why are we even considering getting involved ?

    March 15, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  25. bo

    Shaddap McCain. Ypou are THE most hated senator iintne senate.

    March 15, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
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