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. ss

    Once again Republicans find money for their interest and then easily deny the people of the US any.

    March 16, 2014 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  2. HistoricParallels

    1. Russia goes to war with Ukraine (Soviet Union goes to war with Afghanistan)
    2. USA decides to give anti-Russian forces military aid (USA gives the Mujahadeen sting ray missle launchers)
    3. Fill in the blank...

    March 16, 2014 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  3. Dwayn

    Well Putin has shown the world that he is actually acting like a German leader from 1932 -1945. Without respecting the will of the Ukrain people he is creating 'Lebensraum' for the Russians. This has to be stopped. Russia leaders are playing a very dangerous game by creating a querillia against Russians in the world. Russia can be a big country but not a world power anymore, so one day Putin will loose his face to the rest of the world.

    March 16, 2014 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  4. Greg

    They need to put this old boy out to pasture.. In the last couple years every time some foreign country has a military comes McCain YELLING military intervention of some kind. Makes you wonder if he's losing it or getting kickbacks from some defense contractor.

    March 16, 2014 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  5. dimalynn

    Supply Senator John McCain with the uniform of his choice and a couple of guns and allow him to stay there in person, providing long-term military assistance to Ukraine. It is the right and decent thing to do.

    March 16, 2014 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  6. manuel

    What goes around comes around... No empire will survive forever

    March 16, 2014 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  7. S. Singh

    If US did not interfere, this conflict would have not grown. Why is US policing the world....they should mind their own damn business.

    March 16, 2014 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  8. debg

    I wish McCain would just SHUT UP!! After being involved in that quagmire of Vietnam, he is trying to get the US involved in everything. Just retire you old coot!

    March 16, 2014 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  9. Claire Kunkle

    I believe that McCain's argument (or at least the part of the argument presented in this article) is illogical. I don't disagree that we should intervene, but the reason shouldn't be "because the US currently looks weak". It should be because what Russia is doing is wrong. When power-hungry leaders commit atrocities, whether in Syria or Crimea (or Sudan or any of the number of places experiences military conflict) It's not because of a "disregard for America's credibility around the world". THE WORLD DOESN'T REVOLVE AROUND AMERICA. Other countries don't just do things because they think America won't act. They do things to gain power and boost their own position in the world. What they do is evil and a violation of UN Human Rights Initiatives. THAT should be the reason we step in to act, not because we're worried that we're looking weak.

    March 16, 2014 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  10. tito arellano

    people of the world are watching how the two great leaders of the world act in a critical reflects the behavior being in the communist and democratic country while McCain posses both in the guise of democracy ...

    March 16, 2014 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  11. oharris30

    What is wrong with McCain??? Does he not know that putin is a ticking bomb and I mean a nuclear bomb? Exactly why do we he to help the Crimean people? Why should we send our yourng people back to war to be killed for other countries? I wish McCain would retire and shut up! President Obama knows what he is doing. we do not need to encourage Putin any more than he already is. This is not our business and we need to stand down as the president is doing. McCain just wants to go to war with everybody. Syria and now Russia. Why doesn't he stay over there and fight? This is ridiculous ! The repubs don't know what they want. first they are condemning the president for increasing the debt and spending our children's money but now he wants to start a 3rd world war and make sure our children don't have a future. I certainly hope the president is not falling for this crap.

    March 16, 2014 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  12. belseth

    "to restore the United States' credibility and strength around the world."

    You mean after Bush Jr destroyed our credibility?

    March 16, 2014 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  13. Stop wasting time

    Somebody tell McCain to shut his mouth.

    March 16, 2014 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  14. Illuvatar

    So to which hot spot will Sen. McCain travel next to advocate military intervention in other people's affairs?

    March 16, 2014 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  15. Yuri Levchuk

    US, Give Ukrainians weapons and we will fight. You promised to protect our sovereignty. Keep your promises.

    March 16, 2014 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  16. Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran!

    Has there ever been a conflict or war McCain didn't want to participate in ?

    Time to hang it up Grandpa 'Cain. Let more sophisticated and thoughtful people take a leadership roll. Your time is done.

    March 16, 2014 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  17. Daimler

    McCain is instigating Ukrainians to go to war. If there is a war, Ukraine will become rubble like Syria. Caught in between USA and Russia.

    March 16, 2014 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  18. James Hallford

    John McCain, you are old so I understand you only see the old America. We are no longer the world's super power. How can we tell a nation what to do if we are in debt to them? How can we tell a nation not to invade another nation when we have done it twice (Iraq and Afghanistan)? I know you will use words like freedom and democracy when it comes to the two nations we invaded but really it was just more debt to America and the loss of clout with nations of the world. It is time for you to leave. Let the new generation replace you with ideas of not being in debt, work through negotiations and not war mongering, and the desire to make America the freest nation in the world again.

    March 16, 2014 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  19. koreel

    "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."

    No wonder retirees didn't get a cost of living adjustment on their social security checks. We've bankrupt the country with two decades-long wars and now McCain has found another one.

    I'm not voting for anybody who approves this. Period.

    March 16, 2014 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  20. Jason

    Thank God senator McCain has the courage to say what most people believe; an equivocal American foreign policy leads to a risky world.
    Putin took Georgia in early 09 and now Ukraine. He has protected a butcher in Syria. Next is Poland? Or the Baltics? All the while, President Obama goes on late night talk shows in his quest to find his mojo.....
    Lord help us.

    March 16, 2014 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  21. Ed Cherrie, Jr

    McCain can demonstrate his skill at crashing American Fighters just as he did in Viet Nam.
    Senh him over there immediately!!!

    March 16, 2014 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  22. victor

    I dont get it
    Always america looking for it intress and ignor other
    This wold is finish
    Inperialism no good
    Capitalism is hail

    March 16, 2014 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  23. Igor knyazevych

    As warrant of Budapesht treaties US should intervene in that conflict by bringing troops as Ukraine asked long time ago. Obama is the worst president in the USA history. Nobody will trust to USA and England any more

    March 16, 2014 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  24. Jax Beach Son

    He is a FOOL! Nuff said.

    March 16, 2014 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  25. Alandtat

    "McCain said on the Senate floor Thursday he was "embarrassed" that fellow Republicans " – he's not a Republican

    March 16, 2014 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
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