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. erichx101x

    Of course, it's not Mcaine's kids that will be sent off to war.

    March 15, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  2. Gerald

    McCaine couldn't have said it any better if I had said it myself. Obama is clueless on foreign policy and something has to change, we have no deterrent in our words under Obama and his poor administration that talks way to much, makes threats then never backs them up. I'm surprised China and Iran haven't landed on our door steps yet

    March 15, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  3. TNPatriot

    5 years later McCain still doesn't understand that he is NOT the president because the American people did/do not want a war hungry senile fool as president. If elected, I believe that McCain would have had us involved in at least a dozen or more wars. After all, for EVERY conflict around the world during the last 5 years, McCain has urged us to send troops in on the ground and attack everybody in the world. Since he doesn't have the common sense or decency to resign, it's time for the voters in AZ. to rid our nation of this parasite.

    March 15, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  4. Stu Steinberg

    Once, again, John McCain wants to get the US involved in a war that is none of our business. Mr. McCain and his boyfriend, Lindsay Graham, has seen a crisis that must be resolved with US military involvement. These people think nothing of sending our young military people into harms' way for no other purpose than to enrich the corporate cretins who make billions off war and the provision of weapons to anyone who needs them, so long as they support US interests in their country. While not condoning anything Putin is doing, the US is supporting a far-right government that overthrew a democratically elected president–corrupt crook, that he is–and is made up of fascists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. So, basically, McCain and those like him want us to support the equivalent of Mussolini or Franco.

    March 15, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  5. Kris Kooblall

    John McCain is on the money here.

    March 15, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  6. Adam

    If Senator McCain feels so strongly about providing military aid to the Ukrainians, then he can bleed in a foxhole with me when I'm taking cover from Russian MiG's. Oh wait, of course he wouldn't...Typical Republican scum that wants to profit off of my blood, and my brothers blood.

    March 15, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  7. Bruce Eder

    McCain still wishes he were president, and his cavalier tossing around of military intervention makes me all-the-more-glad he lost in 2008. The first American who is willing to see their taxes go up or our military people involved in Ukraine, raise their hands . . . .

    March 15, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  8. dick E. Normus

    This from the idiot who gave us Sarah THE BIMBO Palin.

    March 15, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  9. Fish

    I thought the Republicans wanted to cut the budget??? Except it appears for more war!!! What do these people want besides all they can get???

    March 15, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Of course McCain wants us to provide military support. Republicans aren't happy unless we're involved in a war somewhere. ANYWHERE!

    March 15, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  11. Marcin

    That war munger would best start a total war with Russia. Imagine if this lunatic became the president. We'd still be in Iraq, there would be no end in sight for Afghansitan and he'd start a war with Iran and Syria.

    March 15, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  12. smdahl

    Can we please tell McMoron and Obomber to shut up, stop instigating illegal coups, and start cleaning up their own messes?

    March 15, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  13. Jumpy

    McCain is decadent and demented,

    March 15, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  14. jerrywalters

    Whatever john mccain calls for / thinks is necessary, I say America does the opposite. The guy has been so wrong for so long its embarrassing!

    March 15, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  15. mike

    Arizona voters MUST give McCain all the free time he needs in November 2014 to waste more American Money and American Lives around the world. Just vote him and all war mongers out so they can have all the time in the world! !!

    March 15, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  16. Adam Smith

    We cannot take care of our own veterans, but, sure, let's give military aid to a bankrupt foreign state that almost a year in arrears in payments for natural gas. McCain is losing it.

    March 15, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. Dave

    No. We can't afford another war, and we can't afford to break what little relations we have with Russia. This needs to be handled diplomatically with other countries putting stress on Russia in order to back off. Republicans are always eager to start more wars which will put us even further into debt. We're still paying on the wars that GW started without having the proper financing. It would be nice, for once, if we could stop giving money or investing in other countries, and used the money to pay off our debt first, figure out a way to bring jobs back to stimulate the economy, then worry about everyone else.

    March 15, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  18. Once Again

    Arm Syria! Arm Ukrainians! Arm Eskimos! Arm Congolese! 4 more arms and he will be an octopus!

    March 15, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Seth Hill

    Russia's invasion of Ukraine is internationally illegal. In response, Senator McCain wants us to militarily fight Russia. He also wants us to police the world. That would create WW3. We would probably win, and we probably could police the world. That would result in hundreds of years of peace, after WW3. Around 4 billion people, half the population of the earth, would probably die in the nuclear holocaust of WW3. We would be in debt for a thousand years to pay for that much military action. I'm curious how many people want that, and how many don't.

    March 15, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. pikerover

    Say this out loud John... Lets go to war with Russia.

    March 15, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  21. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    Suit up, John. The sooner I see you and many of your colleges getting ready for the fight, the more I'll feel it's the right thing to do. Til that time though, quit trying to place more and more of our citizens in harms way. War, isn't the only recourse when dealing with foreign countries.

    March 15, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. media775

    In 2008 McCain went to Republic of Georgia and shortly after the war erupted between Russia and Georgia and McCain run away quickly from the region and now McCain is in Ukraine and looks like his going to push Ukraine into a war with Russia and then he is going to sit and watch like every other coward republican .

    March 15, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. Alina

    Mr. President,

    Please save Ukrainian people!!!

    March 15, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  24. Rick

    History will repeat itself if we don't do something different from what we have been doing. Thanks for speaking out Senator McCain. I fear for America and the rest of the world. President Putin and President Obama should meet face to face and find a solution that does not involve all the military threats.

    March 15, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  25. buffalo

    Put a sock in it, John.

    March 15, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
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