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. DWT

    When was military intervention not McCain's suggestion? I understand his point, but it has to be noted that he is a flip-side of Putin. They're both Cold-War personages infatuated with a sense of their nations' respective roles as Great Powers.

    March 15, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  2. jon wilson

    Little late for that now John, Maybe we can start World War 3 in a couple of months.

    March 15, 2014 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  3. not really news

    McCain has never seen a war he didn't think we should fight.

    March 15, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  4. jj

    this county is broke and mcain wants to take us into another war ?????????????? is he crazy ??????? i would rather support obamacare than spend that money on some other country

    March 15, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  5. Rick

    Seeing McCain stand by his morals on Syria despite the heat he took, and seeing him continue to stand by them when it comes to beating back Russian aggression in Eastern Europe makes me feel remorse for not voting for him in 2008. We went to war when we shouldn't have and now we're consistently doing nothing when we should. Which mistake is bigger? Time will tell...

    March 15, 2014 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  6. Lynn Eddington

    As long as McCain can get us into another war it is right and decent. Untill our troops come back in body bags.

    March 15, 2014 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  7. George

    Shut up McCain! To think that this guy might have been president is really scary. We do not need to be drawn into another war either in Ukraine or Syria.

    March 15, 2014 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  8. Name

    That's so ridiculously stupid. We need to mind our own business. Is he trying to get into war?

    March 15, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  9. Name

    Where is the profit going to go when the blood spills? Reguardless of the outcome, there will be men in their with everything to gain so long as there is conflict.

    March 15, 2014 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  10. Corrosive

    Glad you are not president Mr. McCain!

    March 15, 2014 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  11. john

    "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."

    Our strength and credibility have been eroded by the last two senseless "wars" and the contentious sabre rattling spewed by McCain and his sidekick Graham, and lets not forget the idiot "Bush." If it was up to McCain we would be fighting in Iran, Syria and now the Ukraine.

    Mr. McCain, please go away..........

    March 15, 2014 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  12. maddog49

    JOHN MCCAIN completely overlooks the underlying issue that drives the behavior of the U.S. government. We owe trillions of dollars to foreign countries in the form of Treasury bonds.

    Consider that the 9/11 terrorists were primarily from Saudi Arabia. Yet, there has never been a hint of accusation that the Saudi government is not really on our side. Why? Because the Saudi government is a major creditor of the U.S., top ten if not top five.

    As McCain mentioned, the U.S. has been giving ground to Iran and China. Why? Because Iran is hiding behind China, our #1 creditor (around $1.3T to $1.5T). China is trying to get other countries to buy oil using yuan for payment instead of dollars. Iran would be a key supplier. Our deal with Iran, favorable to it, has the hidden agenda of getting Iran to sell oil for dollars again, even if the U.S. isn't buying the oil.

    And that brings us to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. President Obama is lining up European and Japanese allies for unified economic sanctions against Russia. President Putin has already publicly threatened to retaliate by dumping $200 billion worth of Treasuries on the world market, which would disrupt trade since the dollar is still the main world currency. Really, we need the Chinese to side with us against Russia to minimize the impact of Putin's threat. China has instead taken an official neutral position.

    I have no idea what degree of disruption a Treasury dump by Russia would bring. I think Putin is immature enough to do it without understanding how it would hurt both Russia and its trade partners.

    The only thing I can tell you is that each of us needs to write to Congress and demand and END TO BORROWING FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES. Don't let pundits tell you that the National Debt doesn't matter. The debt owed to other countries makes the United States weak. Thus we are reduced to talking tough and not being able to back it up. What McCain wants is not realistically achievable. If you want to be dominant in the world, you have to be the creditor, not the debtor.

    March 15, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  13. callinfiresupport

    Dementia isn't pretty....somebody put this guy in a nursing home.

    March 15, 2014 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  14. john

    In his op-ed, McCain wrote that Iran and China have "bullied" America's allies and paid no price

    Who bothered us when we "bullied" Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan? Certainly not Russia and China, they minded their own business.

    March 15, 2014 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  15. cssidenver

    Don't know why politicians have to inject themselves into this highly volatile situation at this time. Guess some of these guys will go to the end of the world to be seen on camera.

    March 15, 2014 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  16. Ivo Marinov

    putin is former KGB, who hates USA. PERIOD!!!
    He should be removed!!! OBAMA is just a joke...

    March 15, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  17. Cecil

    What an idiot. Military aid would just get more people killed with the overwhelming superiority of the Russians. Sure glad this man never became president or we'd be in four wars and stretched thin.

    March 15, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  18. Larry L

    Has McCain ever NOT called for military support? When has McCain not pushed America towards war? Maybe it's time for the European Union to hold it's own in one of these international crisis scenarios.

    March 15, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  19. DrStrangeLoveMcCan't

    McCain is owned by the military industrial complex. Failed in Iraq. He loves to send your kids home in a body bag for his glory only.

    March 15, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  20. Francis Vela

    McCain is an embarrassment to the U.S. Seriously, Somehow we lost all credibility to the world in the span of the last administration. Dear Mr. McCain, the sky is not falling and we will be okay. You will never be president, just let it go.

    March 15, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  21. John Pob

    Mr. McCain, with all do respect, let's not send any American troops.

    March 15, 2014 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  22. gmclenith

    I don't know where McCain is anymore. I used to admire the man, but in recent years it appears he's become a spokesman for the military-industrial complex. After spending billions in both Iraq and Afghanistan with the loss of thousands of young Americans, what have we gained. NOTHING. These countries are made up of tribal warriors who have been fighting each other for 1200 years. To think that if we go to battle with them, they are going to change when we leave, is simplicity beyond belief. It's time to rethink your approach Mr. McCain and get on the right track.

    March 15, 2014 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  23. menisino

    @ hours later & my comment is awaiting moderation? Did everyone fall asleep?

    March 15, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  24. mountainlady

    Actually it is McCain criticizing the President in front of foreign as well as domestic audiences that weakens the US in the eyes of the world. It's not surprising that other countries, especially Russia, seek to take advantage of a hopelessly divided US government. Senator McCain along with many other Republicans these days rank taking every opportunity to bash President Obama over national security or patriotism.

    March 15, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  25. moxjox

    Boots on the ground.
    Nuclear weapons
    Cruise missiles.
    C'mon, McCain...make it happen NOW...
    War is good for capitalism and American business.

    Sorry – I just got caught up in the moment...

    March 15, 2014 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
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