March 16th, 2014
11:15 AM ET
5 months ago

McCain: U.S. needs 'fundamental reassessment' of Russia relationship

Washington (CNN) - Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, urged President Barack Obama again Sunday to re-evaluate the United States' relationship with Russia and to move past any notion of a "reset" with its old Cold War foe.

"The United States of America, first of all, has to have a fundamental reassessment of our relationship with Vladimir Putin," McCain told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.


Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" just hours after returning from a Senate visit to Ukraine, the former ranking member on the Armed Services Committee swiped at Obama's dealings with the Russian president and reiterated his oft-stated belief that the White House remains woefully naive when it comes to Moscow.

"No more reset buttons. No more ‘Tell Vladimir I'll be more flexible,’" McCain continued. "Treat him for what he is - an individual who believes in restoring the Old Russian empire."

While cautioning that he does not want a "reignition of the Cold War" or to send American troops into Russian-occupied Crimea, McCain did call for some form of military assistance to the Ukrainian government.

"We need to give a long-term military assistance plan, because God knows what Vladimir Putin will do next," McCain said. "He believes that Ukraine is a vital part of his vision of the Russian empire. And we need to understand that and act accordingly."

McCain led a now-stalled effort earlier this week to push a Ukrainian aid package through the Senate. In addition to proposed sanctions against Ukrainians and Russians responsible for the violence against anti-government protesters, the bill featured $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees and $100 million for enhanced security cooperation for Ukraine and some of its neighbors.

McCain offered more prescriptions for punishing Russia, including resuming the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, pushing Moldova and Georgia toward NATO membership, and economic sanctions.

The 2008 GOP presidential nominee predicted economic sanctions would be particularly damaging to Putin's interests, but said they would remain the most difficult to impose because of Europe's dependence on Russian energy supplies.

"Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country," McCain said. "It's a nation that is really only dependent on oil and gas for their economy, and so economic sanctions are important."

McCain's comments came as residents of the Crimea region headed to the polls Sunday to decide whether to join Russia or become an effectively independent state connected to Ukraine. Preliminary results from the referendum - which both the White House and U.S. allies in Europe have denounced as unconstitutional and illegal - could come as soon as Sunday night local time.

The Arizona lawmaker slammed the Moscow-backed referendum as "a bogus deal."

"We used to call it plebiscite in the days of Hitler and Stalin," McCain said.

Sunday's remarks come a day after McCain issued a call to action from Kiev and took aim at Obama on home soil.

Speaking in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday, McCain called providing military aid to Ukraine "the right and decent thing to do." Though the senator refrained from criticizing Obama while on foreign soil, he excoriated the President in a New York Times op-ed.

"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," McCain wrote.

CNN’s Cassie Spodak contributed to this report.


Filed under: John McCain • President Obama • Ukraine • Vladimir Putin
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    It is always embarrassing to see a two time presidential candidate lose and not accept the fact that he lost while pretending he isn't living in the land of delusion by running around yelling "look at me, look at ME". Let us hope Mr. Pretend doesn't actually manage to bring us into another war before Arizona finally puts him to pasture. It is doubtful that McCain will be seeking another term and can do much damage to America should he be allowed to continue his dog and pony show overseas much longer.

    March 16, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. Gurgyl

    Why not we send John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz to Russia? Then we can send their daughter, son, wife to Ukraine, Crimea etc. Not poor Americans, blacks, Asians Americans.

    March 16, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  3. MikeinMT

    McCain wants a reset of the Obama administration's earlier reset with Russia. Let's try this, a new President with ability to set a foreign policy that is cognizant of the real world and not the fantasy world that this administration believes exists. The good news, there may be a job for a community organizer in Crimean when it comes under new government control today by Russia.

    March 16, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  4. TNPatriot

    McCain's action and statements over the past 5 years reassures America that they did the right thing by NOT electing him. As President, I feared that it would only be a matter of months before McCain would have declared nuclear war on the rest of the world. It is truly time for this man to return to which ever one of the homes that his wife owns he is able to remember how to get to and stay there for the rest of his life. This man is POISON to United States foreign policy everywhere.

    March 16, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  5. Quarant

    Moral preaching talk from the guy who sings "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" ?! Also, I just love American hypocrisy.

    March 16, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  6. Warren

    lets bomb them, They are a bunch of war hawks..

    March 16, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. kurt

    We've already done that.

    I love the GOP guys who talk about what we should do... as we're already doing it. Then they come out later as if it were their idea.

    We've set it up so that we're putting sanctions in place with Russia as if they were a rogue nation like Iran. It looks like most of Nato is going to go along, and even China isn't coming out against it (or at least not getting Russia's back like they have on past issues). Let's not forget China has a long border with Russia... they are NOT onboard with an expansionist Russia.

    We're kicking them out of the G8. They're losing favored trading status with just about every nation of import. They are being isolated.

    All of this should have happened after they invaded Georgia... but the US President at the time decided to treat that conflict as if it were Georgia's fault and excuse Russia. The rest of the world went along, Russia got no consequences and the current administration was handcuffed as to what we could do. So we tried to win them over with kindness.

    That failed utterly. But that was our only option based on our tepid response to Georgia.

    Now we're taking the actions we should have after Georgia. And it wasn't because of GOP pressure... it was already happening when the GOP started trying to suggest it.

    Now we aren't going to go to war with Russia over Crimea or the entire Ukraine. We don't have enough vested interest in that region to justify a conflict with Russia. But we ARE kicking them out of the global economy. And long term that will do more then a war will.

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

    I was just reading about the close ties between Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi .

    It makes total sense that they have a great fondness for each other .

    Corruption can never succeed alone . Russia and Italy have the same GDP , crazy .

    March 16, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  9. u suck

    McCain has always one arrogant solution without ununderstanding the problem... Exactly as he did with Egypt which ignored him & all Americas power & did what they see fit for their benefit.
    YOU HAVE NO POWER ANY MORE ESPECIALLY WHEN UR SUPPORTING TERRORISTS

    March 16, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. rs

    I think that it isn't so much that the U.S. needs to re-assess its relationship with Russia- but rather that we need to understand a couple of simple points:
    First, that if the situation were reversed (that the U.S. had lost states that became "independent"), that at some point our national pride, and indeed patriotism would demand their return to the U.S. It is utterly naive to think that Russia is not so motivated.
    Second, we need to admit that the Ukraine is (just like Georgia was) of no strategic value to the United States. Why in the world do we think "our" cause is furthered by muddling Russia's plans?
    Third, that despite our urge to support peoples seeking self government, that as is so often the case, it simply isn't that simple. Large swaths of urban Ukraine is populated by Russians. Thus, no logical patrician plans present themselves.

    Lastly, our nation has suffered almost 14 years of neglect: our economy was crushed, the treasury robbed. We have a sustained high-level of unemployment, and mis-guided government policy that supports only the rich. Our infrastructure is failing, and we need new roads; deep-water ports for trade; high-speed rail; and a space program that doesn't make us go hat-in-hand to the same Russians to get our astronauts into orbit.

    To do so means we must abandon the GOP's insane "we hate government" and anti-tax policies. End the wealthy welfare. Return this nation to Eisenhower level tax rates ( 87-92% at the top) and get America moving again.

    March 16, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  11. GOP = Greed Over People

    I see the GOP is trying to clear up that "inner city culture" by starting a war and using those "generations" that do have "integrity gained from work" as cannon fodder.

    I wander why "patriotism" has avoided the children of the wealthy, say the 5 strapping sons of Mitt the twit. Guess they are following the footsteps of daddy the draft dodger, by spending his vulnerable drat years in France.

    Bring back the draft and the random lottery, and these rich, white and some cases, senile, old men will stop the drumbeat to war, if their kids are in the draft pool.

    March 16, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. Tampa Tim

    And the republicans ask, "Can we have another war, . . . please, let us have another war, come on, just one more war, please, please, please."

    March 16, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  13. Thalia

    It's always about "MONEY" hey Republicans. Because your "faith" for money and the golden calf want you to start wars so you can profit from brining oil and gas to the poor and suffering people around the world, at top market prices. How heart warming, not he barley mentioned the struggle of Ukranians – just world power and energy.. .

    March 16, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  14. anthny76

    Stop giving tax breaks to grossly rich corporations while sending money (and young men) from the working class to fund your war industry machine.

    Invest in America. I know some struggling small businesses, struggling homeowners, poverty stricken cities, and an education system that need some support.

    March 16, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  15. Thalia

    Oh I like you Republicans – GREED and the WILL TO WAR FOR MONEY – my two favorite SINS...

    ^ – ^

    March 16, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  16. pkMyt1

    Yup, we need to start another proxy war like the good old days. The only ideas the GOP have is lets go back and do what we did in the good old days.

    March 16, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  17. rs

    Perhaps the GOP first needs to think about the needs of America and Americans- for a change.

    March 16, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  18. Jimmy

    McCain: U.S. needs 'fundamental reassessment' of Russia relationship Lets just any time a shot is heard in the wind McCain wants to send in troops. He got us to Lybia. Now the Ukraines need to send it's defense force to the region to show force.

    Lets all agree War is coming. A war in Europe and the In Asia. China next week will annex a Island then we will have a World war. Or the coming of no one. but one or the other is going to happened. This is going to take 10 years. What the Russian and the China's make the mistake is that we The United States can borrow from ourselves to pay for War they both have alot of people who are being given welfare payments to survive and for them to go back 50 years in order to please nothing. It is no longer take that hill. If we really wanted to let Russia and China Citizens know the truth we can override the switch. Ask Snowdon. I want to than Snowdon for his help in getting Russia to KIev yea they could not have done this without him.

    March 16, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  19. pinochled

    If we followed the advice of McCain or his buddy Graham, we'd soon be embroiled in a proxy war against Russia.

    March 16, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. Jimmy

    I have a questions during Sochi and the Terriorist Actors, how did they suppressed them, No news agency questions the tactics, yes the wall of protections but you had to travel into get there. So did this no reporting give Putin the belief that he can get away with this someone need to find out what happened around Sochi during the Olympics that made them stop.

    March 16, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Thanks Grandpa Munster. Now go back to sleep.

    March 16, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @anthny76: "Stop giving tax breaks to grossly rich corporations while sending money (and young men) from the working class to fund your war industry machine.

    "Invest in America. I know some struggling small businesses, struggling homeowners, poverty stricken cities, and an education system that need some support."

    ----–

    Yes, we have plenty of work here at home to invest in; specifically infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers report card for 2013 gave our nation a D+.

    The Report Card depicts the condition and performance of the nation’s infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report card—assigning letter grades that are based on physical condition and needed fiscal investments for improvement.

    Estimated financial investment needed by 2020: $3.6 trillion. Think of all the jobs and revenue – not to mention the INFRASTRUCTURE – that would result from this kind of investment in OUR country!

    March 16, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @kurt: "We've already done that. I love the GOP guys who talk about what we should do... as we're already doing it. Then they come out later as if it were their idea. ...Now we aren't going to go to war with Russia over Crimea or the entire Ukraine. We don't have enough vested interest in that region to justify a conflict with Russia. But we ARE kicking them out of the global economy. And long term that will do more then a war will."

    THANK YOU for your thoughtful, factual post!

    March 16, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. Joan

    A lot of people are ignoring the elephant in the room in this whole issue and it starts with I and ends with Q. When American politicians start spouting off about Russia invading Crimea breaking international laws because it is a sovereign nation, other nations see the hypocracy in the claim. Bush invaded Iraq which was a sovereign country based on a lie, they had no WMD's and no Al Queda and it caused the deaths and injury to thousands of people and cost America billions of dollars and its reputation for decades to come. It is hard for Pres. Obama because he was against the Iraq war and correctly so. Many countries around the world still think that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should be tried for war crimes. So to take the holier than thou road is not credible. It is "do as I say not what I did". It seems that the people of Crimea might want to go back to Russia just as the people of the Ukraine want a say in their own government. It is hard to understand why Putin is destroying the good will he has been slowly recovering over the last couple of years. He has helped with the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria which is huge. He has supported the strategies used to get Iran to agree to not making nuclear weapons. Despite the tons of critical coverage before the Sochi games, they pulled off very successful games. The venue was beautiful, the people friendly and the ceremonies were gorgeous. There are two ways to be a world leader, one is by being a bully and the other is a diplomat which is the only way to gain respect. He was on his way to the latter but is squandering it all now.

    March 16, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  25. Gary

    Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" just hours after returning from a Senate visit to Ukraine,
    So Candy's "go to" senater flew all the way home to be on her show. Poor John, so desperate to be on telivision.

    March 16, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |