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. ck

    mccain wants to fund war wherever he can, not to mention he's the least popular senator which is really saying something considering the 99 other incompetent goons. Get this war mongering geezer out of politics.

    March 15, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  2. cbp

    Sen. McCain's words when he spoke to the US Senate should have made every Senator sit up and think about the actions they are taking. It is very hard to read and to watch what is going on while there are so many problems in the world. So many people live in poverty without proper housing or food. How many more children will have to flee war0ton countries?.
    Each Senator seems to be trying to outdo the next hoping to run for President. Few seem to care about the American people and what is needed out here. Sen. McConnell is still trying to Keep President Obama from being re-electeded! The House of Representatives houses the do-nothing Congress. When you can spend the time voting forty or more times against a program there is something very wrong.

    March 15, 2014 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  3. bdby

    It begs the question : Why isn't NATO moving European troops to the Ukraine/Russian border? I hope they don't think American boots are going to go there.

    NATO is sitting on their hands by not mobilizing and Russia is forging ahead taking territory that won't be given back.

    Just as I thought through the years NATO is weak just like Obama and Putin reads this and took action on it.

    Don't count on American troops to save Ukraine, this is a European problem.

    March 15, 2014 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  4. Debbie

    McCain the guy who got caught has never been a military strategist. He was a POW and that deserves respect but that doesn't mean he has leadership (never led any unit) or strategist. Time to retire to Sedona Senator.

    March 15, 2014 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  5. calripson

    John McCain recently polled as the least popular US Senator with a 30% approval rate in his home state of Arizona. Get back to Phoenix and deal with America's problems you old fool !

    March 15, 2014 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  6. Mark

    Funny, McCain didn't have any problem with a bald-faced aggressive invasion of another sovereign country when he was enthusiastically supporting the US invasion of Iraq, which was based on nothing but lies, fabrications and exaggerations.

    But it's okay. When 650,000 innocent civilians die (or 2 million in Vietnam), our military-industrial-complex complicit media never lifts a finger to point out the hypocrisy. Rah rah siskombah. American bombs are just joy rides and video games, eh CNN?

    This is why we are widely hated in the world. But Americans don't want to know.

    March 15, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  7. Oh not AGAIN!

    Who let McCain in on this discussion? He's lovely and he means well but he IS senile and he IS dangerous. Please put him in a rest home for the terminally baffled.

    March 15, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  8. DB

    Shut up, John. We're not getting involved in a military confrontation because you hate Obama.

    March 15, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  9. Larry C. Wilson

    Yeah, let's go to war with a nuclear power.

    March 15, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  10. Lutz

    John McCain you lost the election to Barack Obama. Thank God. I would be scared with you at the helm. And the people decided you were not the right guy to lead the nation. Barack is getting us out of one debacle after another, and not getting us into more, undeterred by blustering critics like you. Russia is acting in its area, as the US always has in its area. The less said and done about that the better.

    March 15, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  11. tet1953

    Sorry John, not this one either.

    March 15, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  12. deejm2112

    Why don't we just invade and take over the world?

    The US isn't weak, which seems to be the latest Republican mantra to discredit Obama, it wouldn't matter to Putin, he's ignored virtually every world leader and would ignore us regardless of his perception of the US.

    March 15, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  13. Home simpson

    It's Mc Cain... Enough said

    March 15, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  14. Andre

    It would be cheaper and less dangerous in the long run for Ukraine to join NATO. None of the former East bloc countries that joined after the Berlin Wall fell (due to fear of exactly this sort of thing happening) have been invaded.

    March 15, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  15. rc

    McCain wants us in Syria, Ukraine, most of the Middle East. Thank goodness he did not win the Presidency, we would be fighting all over the world 24/7.

    March 15, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  16. Bob the builder

    McCain wants to go to war forever this is just another reason for him.

    March 15, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  17. geno marcello

    My family and I supported John McCain and Sarah Palin in the 2008 Presidential election. However, we strongly oppose U.S. military intervention in the Ukraine. Russia has every right to be there to protect her borders. This is not something that should involve the United States of America.

    March 15, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  18. Kenman

    I'm a Conservative and I say tell McCain to sit down and shut up about involving our military in Ukraine! End of story!

    March 15, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  19. deejm2112

    Putin ignored virtually the entire world, it wouldn't matter, but or course the republicans new mantra is painting us weak now, maybe we should attempt to conquer the world, would that make the war mongers happy?

    March 15, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  20. idiotusmaximus

    McCain calls U.S. military support for Ukraine "right and decent"......

    RIGHT AND DECENT??????????????????????????

    What about the Americans in this country that have little or no food to eat???????????????

    The republicans are always ready to play with bombs and guns......but screw the AMERICANS that need help just to stay alive......minimum wage???????????....they don't need it they're doing just fine as far as the far right cares or should I use the term DON'T CARE.

    March 15, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  21. Robert

    McCain is completely out of touch with reality of modern world. I wonder if he even bothers to ask if topics he pushes for are important to the state he represents. He probably thinks it is still 1970s and America can possibly punish all wrong doers and trouble makers (in his world view) and actually has resources to do that. Is he for real? In his naive idealization of American interests he is no better than his worst nightmare enemies: Mr Putin and the communists. Scary that a person like this has power over American budget and politics. And they say Putin lost his marbles!

    March 15, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  22. docdeb27

    How treasonous of McCain. Where were all these comments when Russia invaded Georgia when Bush was president? Why is this different. SOMEONE tell us why this is different and NOW it is a reflection of our president's weakness but was not then. Why?

    March 15, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  23. cplf22

    This sounds like a Ukrainian/European problem, not a U.S. problem.

    March 15, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  24. Inveanhoe

    Mccain can stay and remain there forever there as military aid.

    March 15, 2014 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  25. paul

    This is none of our business. Trigger happy McCain is once again at it !!!!

    March 15, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
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