March 15th, 2014
05:04 PM ET
8 years 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.

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"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. Tom

    John McCain the war hawk, needs to keep the blood on his hands. American troops would be in Ukraine if McCain had his way. Someone please call the hospital McCain needs a test for Dementia

    March 15, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  2. Honesty

    Putin is a russian McCain and a student of Kissinger. First McCain's visit resulted in Ukrainian revolution to which Putin countered with annexing Crimea. This second visit and a promise of the military aid might force Putin to do the next step which is taking eastern part of Ukraine. In his eyes he's protecting russians in Russia first and russians in Ukraine second.
    I believe it is time to calm everybody down and not ignite new tensions. I think that only after McCains and Putins will pass on there will be peace. The neurological make up of these people's brains is still inside the framework of the cold war. They just stuck there and continue sticking.

    March 15, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  3. Alpha Money Man

    Senator McCain looks for any opportunity to portray himself as someone who knows, simply because he's served on the Senate Defense Committee throughout his career. Apparently, he forgets that he doesn't have any experience being the president. If he or other future republican president like, they can choose to waste $600B/year on senseless wars when they are in power – history will judge everyone. Right now, I think people are sick and tired of hearing war songs all the time.

    March 15, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  4. Kay

    It's funny how McCain is always for military aid. Is he investing in the military machinery and equipment? Or does he just love to aid fuel to the fire?

    March 15, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  5. YeahRight

    Yet another leftist warmonger..

    March 15, 2014 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  6. john o'halloran

    Make no mistake here. There will be no real help for Ukraine. The only thing this senile old man is looking for is really more millions into the coffers of the Republican and Israeli bigwigs who control the arms and ammunition industries. Lives mean nothing to these people unless it can be used for political gain. We have enough debt on our plate as it is. Disgusts me! Really!

    March 15, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  7. John

    Why didn't McCain say this about Bush when the same thing happened in Georgia on his watch?

    March 15, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  8. annieL

    While I realize that Senator McCain has served his time in the military very honorably and bravely and respect him for that service, I am tired of him blaming, criticizing and undermining the President of the United States, who is also our Commander in Chief, every time there is a conflict somewhere in the world and calling for us to send troops almost every time, as if military intervention is ALWAYS the best response. It isn't. President Obama has done a great job diplomatically, working with our allies, to bring power to bear on dictators and aggressors. If Senator McCain wants us to fight, he needs to put his uniform back and be the first man on the ground. And pay his own way, too. War is a big expense of taxpayers.

    March 15, 2014 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  9. Dave

    If Russia can park their war ships in the Black Sea to block the Ukrainian Navy then perhaps we should come to the aid of the Ukrainian Navy by parking a US War ship on the other side of the Russian War ship from the Ukrainian ship. Kind of a squeeze play going on. See how big the Russian ship feels when they have guns pointed at them from both directions. I bet they blink and leave. Then next, at the invite of the Ukrainian Government why not put a UN troop involvement in place to basically oppose any further Russian involvement in the area including air assistance from Russian by their violations of sovereign airspace.

    March 15, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  10. bassnw

    My God, think of the world if McCain had been elected! We would be sending our young people all over the world to die in conflicts McCain would have initiated that have nothing whatsoever to do with the USA's security. To call him a loose cannon would be too mild – more appropriate would be War Monger. He certainly likes to travel to hot spots around the globe and embarrass us – I thought foreign policy debates were to be held within our borders, not overseas. Oh well, Republicans...thinking people don't take them seriously anyway. They would be a joke if not so dangerous.

    March 15, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  11. Yuri Levchuk

    This is a very good idea. Once Ukrainian army has the right weapons, it will defend Ukraine and make Russia pay the real price for its aggression.

    March 15, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  12. Max

    mccain is off his meds again. the US has no business in that part of the world

    March 15, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  13. Mitt Rumknee

    Why does the US always get involved when there is an incident somewhere in the world? We should mind our own business!! This is why we are 18 Trillion in debt!! Iraq trillions wasted, Afghanistan trillions wasted. Americans killed. McCain doesn't care we pay 500 billion in interest each year. For the next President we will be 30 trillion in debt and paying 1 trillion in interest a year!! Geniuses in DC!!

    March 15, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  14. s v

    America should defend Ukraine with all her military and economic might, as soon as Ukraine becomes the 51st state.

    March 15, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  15. Not again

    No the right thing to do is stop this before it happens! This is ridiculous.

    March 15, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  16. Bradley Barnett

    Why isn't there any surprise that John McCain wants to give military aid to Ukraine. I think we all know why this man never made it to the White House or became President……unfortunately with less 'rattling of the sabres' he might have made it;instead we are left with a man who does NOT know what to do. He speaks far too much through John Kerry,making the United States look inept. We don't need to be 'planting seeds' so 20 years from now; we are facing a 'cold war'.

    President Obama allowed President Putin to carry the peace torch this summer by giving Mr. Putin great power, in proposing his 'chemical weapons proposal'. Obama hasn't thought about foreign affairs since then because his signature presidential accomplishment, 'Obamacare' blew up in his face.

    This country needs a leader to address our potentially serious foreign policy issues and he doesn't exist, Hagle is an administrative mouthpiece and Kerry simply talks too much. Bush worried me but now I see at least Cheney and Rumsfeld were capable men. This administration has no leadership. It does have many people,in Congress and outside this country who recognize that the United States is 'running away'…………in the opposite direction.

    March 15, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  17. jeff

    Another Vietnam war.....

    March 15, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  18. amlcpamaine

    Sure, Mr. "Bomb bomb Iran" would love to see escalation – he lives for it. And yet the lily-livered GOP cowards in the Senate voted AGAINST increasing the insurance and health benefits for our enlisted veterans. What scum they are! The talk big and are quick to send our precious enlisteds into battle, but play politics with the services that are NECESSARY to care for these brave soldiers and sailors after they're burned out or wounded. McCain is scum.

    March 15, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  19. George

    USA go home and stay out of other county's business. We don't need another war, that can't be paid for.

    March 15, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  20. Name

    May be they should respect the results of elections and not stage coups?
    Elections have consequences, remember, Mr. McCain?

    March 15, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    That's something that america should of done long time ago was to send military aid to Ukraine and not only to Ukraine but the other countries that surrounds Russia! And the European Union needs to wake up and boost a military funding that would be able to resist Russia no ofense but I belive that U.K is the only country that would stand a chance against Russia in Europe it's only a matter of time when Russia's military modernization will give the confedence to invade the rest of Europe and not worry about the nuclear arsenal that France and U.K has Russia already developed a S-400 all purpose missle that could reach as far as 400 kms and at a speed of up to 5 mach but Europe keeps on sleeping waiting for America to do everything !Russia cant keep a steady population and thier growing a population of old farts! Migration sucks they dont trust outsiders and Neo nazis killing them and Russia has no real control over it's country the best interest of Russia is to become the new Europe and most likely to send the intire nuclear arsenal to rain on America they figure it would be hitting two birds with one stone but yea lets keep sleeping though nighty night people!

    March 15, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  22. thenamedoesntmatter

    this old fart doesnt even know who to attack.. If his own kind or anyone else in the world. He would use force against anybody who said anything about anyone, this guy is a clown. Retire, you are too old.

    March 15, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  23. dennis

    I would support the US going in with nato if the people in all the surrounding countries were out in the streets demanding action. Everyone is sitting home watching Miley.

    March 15, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  24. Cooler

    May be they should respect the results of elections and not stage coups?
    Elections have consequences, remember, Mr. McCain?

    one should recall the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, a flagrant violation of international law (such as it is), under the pretext of a genocide of the Kosovars. Or the illegal invasion of Iraq justified by imaginary weapons of mass destruction. And dozens of other illegal interventions in Latin America and the world over.

    March 15, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  25. DougNJ

    Beginning to think the Honorable Sen. McCain is a One Trick Pony. Seems no matter what, it needs more military.

    March 15, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
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