July 17th, 2014
02:58 PM ET
4 years 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. Melissa

    Sugh a tragedy and very scary times right now. If this plane was shot down and the USA steps in to do something, I fear it could escalate into somethng bigger very quickly. China sided with Russia in their fight with the Ukraine and they dilike the USA. I worry that this could escalate into an all out world war if careful, thoughtful steps aren't taken.

    July 17, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  2. JSilva

    I am not going to listen to a politician that won't admit the bush/Cheney team bamboozled the public into Iraq, and named Sarah plain , excuse me, palin, as his running mate.

    July 17, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  3. wolfie

    Excuse me. I am trying to understand the difference between McCain starting a war and Palin having a microphone. Can you please explain that?

    July 17, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  4. Jan

    John (Foghorn Leghorn) McCain never met a war prospect he didn't like.

    July 17, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  5. lookfortruth

    And what if this plane was shut down by Ukrainian army, which would not be for the first time they do it by mistake? What repercussions then McCain will suggest? Shut up and wait for investigations. Within 30 minutes of crash Ukrainian officials already made all conclusions – it is the other side. How unprofessional!

    July 17, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |

    Sanctions is all that was mentioned. I think we all know that no US troops would be anywhere near this deal. The prospect of bludgeoning Putin with more sanctions is inviting though..

    July 17, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. yehudalev

    Steve and Brian: absolutely agree that McCain could've plunged us into a war with a possible quick escalation to the old "balance of terror" being tested once more.
    There is a possibility (just my speculation) that the plain was blown up in midair by an onboard passenger, with the aim to worsen the Russian-American/European-Ukrainian crisis, by pointing an accusing finger towards Putin. I do not think that he'd be so arrogant, cynic and STUPID, to go that way.

    July 17, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  8. BigdaddyUSA

    There goes war monger McCain read to blow some more of our money.

    July 17, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  9. oliver

    John McCain calling for boots on the ground? Never would have guessed it.

    July 17, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  10. Robert

    Nobody who has said it was shot down has yet bothered to offer the evidence that makes them think that other than that people have weapons that could do it. Did anyone see a missile? Is there any sort of radio communication where the pilot indicated a foreign object was approaching? Starting to blame people for stuff early is half the reason that nobody can get along. Is there a connection between this flight and 370? They are same airline. Maybe there was a bomb on the plane. Maybe Malaysia Airlines has a big security problem. Was it even an attack at all? In the video, you don't see any kind of smoke or flames before it hits the ground. Does this fit with a missile attack?

    July 17, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  11. onestarman

    Putin called to say he was 'Sorry' minutes after the plane was shot down – So I think we have an answer as to what happened.

    July 17, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. Cygnus_X1

    Another false flag operation to get us into war, like the Lusitania. If McCain became president we'd probably be at war with Mars by now.

    July 17, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  13. Who Cares

    we need to stay out of all this......

    July 17, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  14. Michael

    Send Johnnie McCain to scold them.

    July 17, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  15. worldforesight

    McCain has totally lost his mind. Every time he opens his mouth he talks about going to war. Whether it is Syria or Iran or Ukraine or Nigeria. The man has totally gone gogo. He needs a bobo to soothe his ego.

    July 17, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  16. oliver

    Angela: "My grand parents were prisoners of war to the russians during the 2nd world war..I ve heard the horror stores..they were brutal...."

    Wouldn't that make your grandparents Nazi's? I guess you never heard the war stories about some of the things they did?

    July 17, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  17. Thomas Wells

    1. Screw both of them.

    2. We have problems on the border!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 17, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. Luke

    Doesn't McCain every shut up? – his first reflex is always war, war, war – sometimes I wish the Vietnamese had just kept him.

    July 17, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  19. Joan

    Does anyone care what McCain says? He thinks he is president. He has made so many mistakes. All he ever wants to do is get us involved with every country and at the same time ignoring the needs of all Americans here at home. McCain is my senator and all I can say he should retire to his seven houses and keep quiet. The people have spoken in a general election.

    July 17, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  20. anonymous

    Team Russia
    if you think about attacking Russian – 1 advice..... BRING BODY BAGS.... LOTS OF BODY BAGS.....

    we won't need them... our weapons don't leave much left of you clowns. what little is left, the animals clean up.

    July 17, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  21. Chris

    Thank you president McCain for chiming in again.....God you and Cheney....

    July 17, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  22. daniel

    In case you all did not notice, 23 AMERICANS were killed today by either the Russians or these separatists. The chances of this not being a missile strike are slim given where the tragedy occurred and the elevation of the plane when it went off radar. Obviously due diligence is in order here, but should we conclude that this act occurred via missile strike, intentional or not, there will be consequences. If you chose to let this slide because this is mother Russia, then so be it, but isolationism is not the remedy here. If we turn our backs on this, then we will further embolden Russia, ISIS, North Korea, Iran, and everyone else who could threaten our international/national interests. So I have no problem with McCain's comments. Thank god none of you are senators!

    July 17, 2014 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  23. Mad_In_CT

    Dear Senator "McGoo" McCain and BFF, Lindsey:

    We know you like war. The taste of it. The feel of it. The smell of it. Here's a tip: unless either of you are in the intel biz, shut your warmongering pie holes and leave the "war" decisions to the experts. If you like war that much, I suggest you buy a copy of Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 3; lock yourself in your respective basements and go hog wild to your hearts content. No need to show up for work. Congress isn't doing anything anyway. Wouldn't be the first time senators get paid for doing nothing!

    July 17, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  24. bachcole

    It is a little early to be pointing fingers.

    July 17, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  25. carol baltzell

    Mccain states he doesn't know how the plane was brought down but he is ready to go to war. To MaCain and all his buddies have at it.

    July 17, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
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