July 17th, 2014
02:58 PM ET
4 months ago

McCain: 'Profound repercussions' if plane shot down

(CNN) – If the Malaysia airliner in Ukraine was shot down, then the United States will need to take action against the assailants, two Republican senators argued Thursday.

"If it is the case, then we're going to have to act and act in the most stringent fashions, including real sanctions, including giving the Ukrainians the ability to defend themselves, which we have not done so far," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.

While early speculation about the crash has focused on the possibility of the plane being shot down, it's still unclear exactly what caused the tragedy.

Did surface-to-air missile take down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17?

McCain emphasized that he doesn't know how the plane crashed, but also argued that if the incident was caused by pro-Russian separatists, as Ukrainian officials have claimed, then the violent situation on the Ukrainian-Russian border could require heightened intervention by the U.S.

"If, if - I keep emphasizing if - it was a missile that was launched, either by Russia, or the quote separatists which in my view are indivisible, it would have the most profound repercussions," said McCain, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Plane tragedy escalates the Ukraine conflict

"It would open the gates for us assisting, finally, giving the Ukrainians some defensive weapons (and) sanctions that would be imposed as a result of that. That would be the beginning."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told CNN's Lisa Desjardins that if the plane was shot down by Russians or pro-Russian separatists, it would be a "game changer."

“If they are responsible – and I have no idea they are – you would take the sanctions we’ve unilaterally imposed, toughen them and get the world behind them," he said. "Start arming the Ukrainian military is what I would do.”

Graham also sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Meanwhile, McCain argued there would be no strategic reason for either side to intentionally bring down a passenger jet, saying it must have been a mistake, if in fact it was hit by fire.

"It's impossible for me to imagine this thing being - if it is a shoot down - nothing but a tragic mistake on their part," he said.

“I just cannot believe that no one in their right mind would want to shoot down an airliner.”


Filed under: John McCain • Russia • Ukraine
soundoff (271 Responses)
  1. Longtimer

    ANOTHER war McCain? We don't even know what happened and you're already issuing threats. Pathetic. Obviously if this wasn't an accident or air craft failure, whoever committed this act doesn't care about your threats. Perhaps you should consider that for a moment.

    July 17, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  2. Name

    Yes because we know that people who go to war and kill eachother over imaginary lines on a map would never kill innocent people! McCain needs to put a cork in it like Hillary.

    July 17, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  3. kws11

    US officials will wag their fingers vigorously, while making very stern faces.

    July 17, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    Well the President just placed more sanctions on Russia the other day. So what's the end game McLame? War with Russia? I'd rather cripple them economically.

    July 17, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  5. Steve

    Is John going in yet again? That goodness this buffoon was not elected president.

    July 17, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  6. harry

    EMPTY heads make the MOST noise............. McCain THINK before you TALK!..

    July 17, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  7. MisterE

    He wants to arm the people who may have done it without the facts.
    What a fool.

    July 17, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  8. John

    Mcain....instead of all of your "if" scenarios, why don't we just find out what happened first instead of publically determining retaliation "if" this or that happened....Glad he didn't get elected...it would be one new war after another.....

    July 17, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  9. floyd from illinois

    Somebody ought to remind Mccain that he lost.

    And somebody ought to tell him that it is customary to fined out what happened before committing to a course of action.

    Sheesh, what a numbskull.

    July 17, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  10. nathan lee wood

    America threats; nothing but a joker; this McCain; and Obama administration

    July 17, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  11. stevek77536

    Mr. McCain, its not our circus and they are not our monkeys. Let the involved countries in that part of the world deal with it. President Obama's sanctions, in cooperation with the EU, are having their effect, which is why we elected him and not you.

    July 17, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  12. citizenUSA

    No one wants war but it may be better than sitting around looking stupid as the world starts to discount America.

    July 17, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Obama will scratch his testicles and wonder what happened.
    At least McCain will do something.

    July 17, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  14. CALIFORNIA

    Obama will just sit back and get his information from the local news.

    NEXT CRISIS????

    July 17, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  15. kebcarerra

    McCain thinks we are the world police .

    July 17, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  16. Zoso

    I am a relatively conservative person and I absolutely deplore when McCain opens his mouth. He and Cheney should retire from commenting.

    July 17, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  17. mike

    "If it is the case, then we're going to have to act and act in the most stringent fashions, including real sanctions, including giving the Ukrainians the ability to defend themselves, which we have not done so far"

    I fail to see how the plane being shot down, even if by the Russians, would have any bearing whatsoever on arming the Ukrainians. Not saying we should or shouldn't...just that McCain's is displaying the rationale of a senile man again.

    July 17, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  18. fredb

    John McCain will take any opportunity of any tragedy to get press time.
    You are not in the State Department, Johnny, so why should we care what you think?

    July 17, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  19. Dan

    I am sure Obama will put out another red line........

    July 17, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  20. AZ Dem

    It's President Obama's fault! lol

    July 17, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  21. sonny chapman

    Russia shoots down a Malaysian commercial jet. Let's arm the Ukrainians with some really bad hardware ?
    Bin Laden attacked America on 9-11-01. Let's invade & try to occupy Iraq ?

    July 17, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  22. Rick McDaniel

    McCain needs to stop trying to get the U.S. into a war, every time something happens around the world.

    Yes, the Russian Army probably shot down this plane........and they will have to answer for that, to any number of countries.........however, Malaysian Airlines also is responsible, for ignoring the FAA warnings to re-route airliners away from the Eastern Ukraine.

    With 2 major problems regarding their aircraft, in a short period of time, which make no sense, at all.........passengers need to really consider whether it is safe to travel on Malaysian Airlines.

    July 17, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    OK but what if it turns out that the Ukrainian army accidentally shot down this plane, then what?

    July 17, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  24. Jeba

    Really? Why do you throw Hillary into the mix–woman hater

    July 17, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  25. BobPA

    Why does the US always have to "take action?" Let Malaysia take action.

    July 17, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
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