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. Name

    warc=more money for mccain empire

    March 15, 2014 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  2. john middleton

    "This is too serious for partisanship," McCain said. And jobs, healthcare, immigration, etc., etc., are not.

    March 15, 2014 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  3. Gail me

    He is baying for yet another war? Syria, Iran and now Russia LMAO

    March 15, 2014 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  4. fat4eyes

    Giving too much direct military aid to the Ukraine may risk US interests as it has already flipped to align itself with another power once before. You don't want another Iran with F14s scenario happening. However helping militarily in the current crisis may be the only way to stop the Crimean annexation. The trick is to do all this without starting a European war, which noone (particularly the Ukranians) wants.

    March 15, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  5. Kit76kat

    Perhaps it is time for retirement for McCain. We are having so much budget deficit and he wants us to go for another war, seriously! May be McCain do not need to worry about money and job because you are all covered as a perennial politician. But common citizen like me job and country's good financial health matters the most. Stay away from war and handing out tax payer's money.

    March 15, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  6. CoreGen

    Macaque can call 911 and try to get help.

    March 15, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  7. Ron B

    McCain is losing it. His old school mentality would have us invade every country on the planet in order to restore USA creditability when in fact, there is no loss of creditability whatsoever.
    You're a tired old man. It's time to go to bed

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

    I'm against any military assistance that could put us at war with Russia. Anyone in their right mind would agree to this. Sorry but Ukraine is not our issue. Now maybe it's time for limited NATO involvement but this could get out of control really quick.

    March 15, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  9. Dad dee oh

    If McCain's bio will be filmed, Steve Martin best fits the role. Both share the looks and they are jokers. Steve though does it for a living. Why would anyone urge the pres to start the war?

    March 15, 2014 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  10. Alan

    Is that what the American people want? Military conflict with Russia?

    March 15, 2014 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  11. sausagelad

    McCain is irresponsible and out of touch. The Ukraine has not chance of shooting it out with Russia. Military aid will be costly and eventually end up in the wrong hands. There will be needless bloodshed.

    March 15, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  12. Mark Causey

    John "Let's Go To War" McCain needs to learn to keep his friggen mouth shut.

    March 15, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  13. Haskins

    McCain is past his retirement.

    March 15, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  14. jimmie

    TYPICAL McCain – call in the troops start up the tanks and nukes. This guy is dangerous !

    March 15, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  15. Fed Up

    Does John McCain, and for that matter anyone in the Senate and House ever read history books or pay attention to history? Are we to continually pay for the defense of every nation on earth that has a tremble over a larger neighbor or a dictator threatening them? We are in serious financial trouble here at home. Have any of our leaders gone out into the general population to see the suffering of so many people? We have nuclear weapons. Do you think anyone is going to attack us but Russia or China later on? And what purpose would it serve them. They know we are strong. We don't have to run to the aid of everyone on the planet because at this point in time we have the military capability. Let the other nations settle their own disputes unless we see a defnite aggression as we did in WWI and WWII. Let's finally clean up this mess we have at home. In fact the world needs to clean up its act. How long are men going to think that wars are solving anything but killing our young men and now women and destroying our planet and taking up funds that we need for health and scientific achievement? What a great world this could be if we stopped putting money into military and starting sharing things. I have lived for nearly 75 years and have watched this just mind-numbing stupidity go on long enough. I am realizing that we will never wake up until it is too late and we have destroyed ourselves. Thanks for listening.

    March 15, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  16. Barry

    McCain is an idiot. Bomb em back to the Stone Age is not an option. Fortunately this fool was not elected President.

    March 15, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  17. sean

    I m so glad McCain isn't our president, we'd be in World War 3 if he was, nukes would be flying.

    March 15, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  18. Vicki

    Senator McCain is always to ready to use violence and risk the lives of our husbands, brothers, and sons. Many of us don't think their lives are worth sacrificing for something far away and not a direct threat

    March 15, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  19. jdawg

    McCain is the scariest person on the planet. where he goes trouble is soon to follow.l

    March 15, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  20. Hey Hey

    There's a reason why McCain isn't the President.

    March 15, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  21. Winston5

    Yah, it's Obama's fault we have no credibility in the world. McCain should retire.

    March 15, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  22. hajkdeh

    McCain should be given a Hero of Russia medal for his adding to Russia's territories and crashing US jets. Every time he messes with Russia, he either crashes a jet, destroys US military base, gets into Russian camp. His failed missions include Vietnam, Georgia, South Ossetia, and now Crimea. Ukraine is next. Thank you tovarisch McCain for destroying everything you touch.

    March 15, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  23. bato balani

    Russia is creating an enemy on its border for Ukraine will soon be a member of NATO just like Georgia.

    NATO is slowly creeping on Russia's border because of its attitude.

    March 15, 2014 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  24. G Cabral

    If it is true that Russian forces are in process of moving out of Crimea to invade the Eastern Ukraine, the question must be asked "where is the Ukrainian military" in fulfilling its obligation to defend the country? Long-term military aid should be given, but also a commitment of support now in the form in which it would be needed; perhaps fuel, logistical and other support that should be provided by the US and Europe. But first the Ukrainian armed forces must show up in defense of its homeland.

    March 15, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  25. Holli

    Oh my Lord. It is not for us to decide. These nuts are going to start WW3!!!! Get them out before they damage us beyond repair.

    March 15, 2014 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
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