March 15th, 2014
05:04 PM ET
9 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. Charlie

    kick McCain's butt out of the Senate...he is nothing but a war-monger. Why is Ukraine our issue? Where is Europe?

    March 15, 2014 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  2. Guadalupe Smith

    World war 3 coming soon

    March 15, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  3. todd

    Ukraine can keep McCain, we'll keep our aid.

    March 15, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  4. Roland

    I have to say I was not expecting myself to agree with McCain I'm also not sure why the West in general hasn't at least send Ukraine weapons to defend themselves.It really does make the West look like they are on the back foot.What prevents Russia from annexing more territory if it is not stopped in Ukraine? The treaty that removed the nuclear weapons from Ukraine in 1994 was dependent on all the powers respecting it's territorial integrity. So they should in fact be given some nuclear weapons.

    March 15, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  5. jc

    With all due respect Mr Mcain should stop making wacky statements and go sit down somewhere. He is irrelevant, unless you watch Sunday morning conservative cable tv

    March 15, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  6. Chris

    McCain has gone over the edge!

    March 15, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  7. Joel

    I would agree it is right and decent if there was a more solid recipient on the other side. Ukraine is a muscovite satellite who has some steps to take before they should be sold cutting edge US designs. Simply arming a dot on the map is making this world a bit much. I'd take make a dot and a face. But no more arming dots.

    March 15, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  8. Alina1

    As an Ukrainian I am horrified of these news, this is the worst "favor" that America can do.. Please stay with us not for us. Stay away.

    March 15, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  9. maryd

    John needs to step back, he makes every situation worse.

    March 15, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  10. just asking

    why hasn't obama gone over there to show our support and personally deliver 10,000 sniper rifles to the ukraine military along with 1,000 us military instructors? $1,000 a head for every russian soldier you hit. 500 body bags a week going back to russia and they won't stick around too long. it is the only thing they understand.

    March 15, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  11. gadzod

    Cuts this, cuts that. Military cuts on military personnel and their families continue, but lets use money we don't have to help another country......

    March 15, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  12. mike johnson

    ... so McCain is at it again...there is no fool like and old fool

    March 15, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  13. Tony in Maine

    John, John, John,

    You lost in 2008. You are not relevant. Pretending to know what your talking about is not helpful to those who must do the heavy lifting. Please accept that and move on with your life.

    March 15, 2014 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  14. Aztecm

    Why doesn't Putin and the west (Ukraine gueded by western leaders) make a deal for Russia to purchase the Crimean Peninsula.
    The Russion military is already leasing the military facilities, and could arguably be defending their existing interests. But in the effort of peacefully settling things, why not consider a deal to sell Russia the Crimean areas. Russia supplies huge amounts of natural gas through the Ukraine, and the money Russia would owe, could be used as a very large credit toward future Natural Gas. MCain is a war hero that I many times love, but at other times resent (war war war, see John Stewart Daily Show the other day)). Lets not be so hasty in our need to go to expensive wars when a solution is potentially still possible. Fox news might have a stroke if we spent any more money. Oh wait, that only counts if we spend it on our own people for things like health care and education, war is ok to blow cash on anytime. Signed, the former moderate Republican, cahsed out by the right wing Tea Party and Libertarian takover of the Republican party.

    March 15, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  15. Kuron

    The Republicans are screaming at the Democrats about the deficit yet say we need more defense spending. Such military aid would easily cost in the billions of dollars; so to that I say, "Don't spend the money sending military aid to Ukraine and you will have both cut the deficit and increased military spending."

    March 15, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  16. porkchops

    This man is out of control. John, it's time to retire.

    March 15, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  17. Tony D

    Power, speaking to press after the session, said that if Russian troops had crossed further into Ukraine it would be an "outrageous escalation."

    ooooooooooouuuuuuuu.... that's telling them! The Russians are quaking in their boots, I'm sure. We guaranteed the security of Ukraine when they gave up their nukes along with the UK so why aren't we both helping them? Is the world going to allow Putin to pick off country after country to rebuild the old Soviet Union? Putin smells weakness and opportunity. Ukraine has every right to destroy Russian gas pipe lines going through their country. I hope they do to teach the cowardly Europeans a lesson about laying down with the Russian Bear.

    March 15, 2014 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  18. John

    McCain, the perpetual warmonger. The "right and decent thing to do" is, mind your own business. But then, as you believe in US military intervention on a never ending, global basis, slip on a uniform and provide it yourself.

    March 15, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  19. William Zabel

    Like usual McCain is a fool and a liar. Russia has not invaded the Ukraine, they have troops in Crimea which they are permitted under treaties. McCain needs to shut up before he gets everyone killed.

    McCain, you damn fool, you should have been left in Vietnam.

    March 15, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  20. Woody

    I voted for Mr. Obama but this is one time I think we need to act before we have another Hitler to deal with !

    March 15, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  21. Coffee Party

    And where's the money gonna come from?

    The rich don't want to pay for anything and the poor have no money left.

    The GOP is just itching for any reason to start a long protracted war with Russia to justify more money for the military.

    March 15, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  22. Name

    Mccain has been everywhere including Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and now Ukraine. His mischievous acts are disastrous keeping those states in total chaos. Now he wants direct military aid for US confrontation in Russia. MCain you are crazy!

    March 15, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  23. HenryMiller

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

    The US needs to stay the hell out of this miss.

    March 15, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  24. Salade Legume

    stay out.

    March 15, 2014 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  25. Richard

    I agree with Senator McCain. I also agree with former President John F. Kennedy who stated in his inaugural address that we should be willing to sacrifice for freedom. It is time for all of us to return to the words of President Kennedy, who said that "ask not what your country can do for you, rather ask what you can do for your country.."

    March 15, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
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