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. Elliott Carlin

    You have to love a Senator who worries about Ukraine's sovereignty, but doesn't give a bloody crap about our southern border.

    He needs to retire, like 20 years ago.

    March 15, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  2. Jerry

    We bomb the hell out of Serbia so Albanian criminals can take control of Kosovo and sever it from Serbia, yet cry "foul!" when Russia invades the Crimea so they or their agents can sever it from the Ukraine: where is the difference? We destroyed Serbian infrastructure, decimated their military equipment, and killed their people. I don't see Russia bombing bridges in Kiev or Ukrainian airfields, do you?

    I may be against what Russia is doing in the Crimea just as was against what they pulled in Georgia a few years back and all the crap we & NATO pulled in all of the former Yugoslavia. Every bit of it all can be considered "illegal" under so-called "international law". By the same token, many can make cases FOR the actions either under international law or for "overriding humanitarian reasons". The hypocrisy of the West – the "we can do it but you cannot" – may be what bothers me most.

    March 15, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  3. Krehator

    McCain still thinks the Berlin Wall is up. He's lost in the sauce. Thank God we didn't put him anywhere near the launch codes.

    March 15, 2014 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  4. lgbarn

    Shut-up old war this time. We are just closing out the longest wars in our history and he ants us to get back into another one.

    March 15, 2014 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |

    That's right McCain!!!

    Give aid to another country instead of helping your own people who haven't been paid their unemployment since the end of December 2013 because you and most of your other GOP cronies decided to vote "NO" against renewal!

    Because of the high unemoloyment rate... Higher than unemployment was back in 2006-2007 when the benefit program was implemented and signed into law by none other than George W. Bush himself people can't pay their mortgages, put food on the table for their families, pay their bills, etc. They haven't been paid in months!

    The people who vote for these di-nothing-GOP voted you in and 90% of the people in this country feel that unemployment extended compensation should be reinstated! Remember that come this November's election!

    I guess ot seems fitting that 1 of 218 Czars in our American Congress would like to provide 15 billion in aid to the Ukraine instead of its own!

    March 15, 2014 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  6. RobertM

    "The most unjust peace is preferred to the most just war." Cicero

    March 15, 2014 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  7. sf

    Obama is a fool and a coward. The second coming of Jimmy Carter.

    March 15, 2014 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  8. AmericanPatriot

    Go home McCain, you terrorist. Stop embarrassing us and your old self.

    March 15, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  9. Gee

    Then we should give John a full Army issue and an M4 carbine and point him in the direction of the Ukraine. Old rich white guys always want war.

    March 15, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  10. Tudi

    Yet another terrible military idea from the never ending war right.

    March 15, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  11. gwvaio

    I'm so glad he's not president. Does he ever say anything else besides "SEND THE MILITARY IN" goodness!

    March 15, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  12. Pablo695

    McSame – still wrong, still wants another war. Just say NO!

    March 15, 2014 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  13. Christopher

    This is nothing more than a pure land grab by Russia. Anyone who can defend this action and the intimidation of their thuggery is either blind or too stupid to know the difference between right and wrong.

    Slava Ukraini

    March 15, 2014 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  14. Jason

    No more war John,,,,PLEASE go home and retire gracefully.....Or get thrown out of office....Why are you on this free trip???You do nothing in the Senate I guess, so it gives you something to do.....GO HOME!!!

    March 15, 2014 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  15. gregdougall

    Why is McCain there? To fund the military industrial complex? Why is he not visiting the slums in the U.S., helping the people he serves?

    March 15, 2014 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  16. gregdougall

    Why is McCain there? To fund the military industrial complex? Why isn't he visiting the slums of the U.S., serving his own country's citizens?

    March 15, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  17. Peter

    McCain is not a statesman. He is a terror to the world by always being pro-war. US supported the illegal vote of Kosovo to leave Serbia! Yet now Crimea is illegal? We invade countries continually. Go Russia!

    March 15, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  18. kommy

    Ukrainian "guards" were rigging with explosives transit gas station. After self-defense forces arrive, the "guards" took a cover in nearby village.

    March 15, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  19. Wandering CPA

    I am shocked, just shocked, that McCain's solution to the problem is to provide military aid and/or assistance. His toolbox for solving problems only has one tool in it. It would be comical if it didn't put the lives of America airmen, sailors, marines and soldiers at risk.

    March 15, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  20. Olaf Big

    John, oh John! It's time to get over your Vietnam experience, hard as it may be. We know you don't like Russian military, but this simply makes no sense. What do you want to send to Ukraine that will help to push back Russia?

    March 15, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  21. Thomas Rice

    If he wants to give them aid so bad he should start by giving it out of his millions,,,
    Hey John, you suck

    March 15, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  22. Warren

    Why do members of the GOP always call for war? Because this time it's a set up to call Obama weak, knowing full well military action will not be used in this case no matter who is POTUS.. It's just lip service from a lip flapper who has nothing to lose.

    March 15, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  23. djanson

    No worries Mccain obama is about ready to draw another line across the sand and putin will shake in his boots and heed.

    It is so good to have intellectual idiots in power, sorry did i offend you progressives of lying is a virtue.

    March 15, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  24. Liz

    Just what we need another war...while we have obligations why do we have to constantly send our men in? Its more of a Euro concern we should be calling European soldiers to action through the UN not ourselves.

    March 15, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  25. Andy

    He's just a monkey.
    I want to share my personal point of view on the situation in Crimea.
    There's a severe media war already going on between Russia and the West. For the first time in decades Russia strikes back and uses the same propaganda tricks so natural for Fox, CNN, etc. And they didn't expect it. And believe me – Putin is much smarter than you may believe. He does have an ace in the hole. Like Khrushchev, when we we shot down U-2 and kept silence of capturing the pilot ALIVE until USA declared it was not a spy flight – and finally – deus ex machina – checkmate. So, the West IS NOW AFRAID to introduce any real sanctions. We've got what to say and to do to ruin the US economy which is in fact a BIG BUBBLE (like dollar). Waiting for Monday!

    March 15, 2014 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
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