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. Jeff

    McCain is more concerned about the fate of Russians than Americans. Take away unemployment benefits and food stamps from Americans and send the money to Russia. McCain should STAY in Russia permanently.

    March 16, 2014 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  2. Mims

    Yup. send weapons to Ukraine, weather they are used or not weapon manufactures make money. the problem with all American politicians is they are businessmen with interests in one sector or another. proliferating war to make more money is their specialty

    March 16, 2014 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  3. jy95

    Give Ukraine the nuclear missiles they need.

    March 16, 2014 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  4. Boroma

    Mr Putin is a danger to world peace & security. The world must set a precendent, stop his movies by massive military build up in Ukraine & investments in Ukraine's economy. America must provide leadership in these two approaches immediately. Obama's approache to world affairs will cost the next generation untold suffering if does not change today!

    March 16, 2014 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  5. Melanie

    I suspected he was senile. But he is off his rocker.

    March 16, 2014 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  6. sam

    No, thank you GOP. We dont want to get into another needless war.

    March 16, 2014 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  7. ali

    Regardless of what anyone thinks of Obama's abilities, or foreign policy, the LAST thing the USA needs to do is get involved in Ukraine. McCain is either very ignorant or grandstanding.

    March 16, 2014 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  8. Les Moore

    McCain needs a last hurrah! like a ride in a Ukrainian fighter jet that drops a 2000lb Napalm bomb on a village full of women and children. Be like old times for Johnny Mac.

    March 16, 2014 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  9. Tom Mitchell

    As much as I hate to see the United States getting involved in yet another military conflict, I'm with McCain on this all the way. While far from being perfect, I don't have any major issues with Obama's domestic policies however, I completely agree with Senator McCain, when he says that Obama’s foreign policies are destroying our credibility as world leader and super power that is not to be messed with. Obama's inaction in Syria sent a clear signal to Putin and the rest of the world that the current administration and our country as a whole are weak. If Obama doesn't stand up to Putin, the United States and our allies around the globe will undoubtedly face growing aggression from other countries that also perceive us as being weak. Like it or not this is about more than just Crimea. We can either stand our ground here and now folks or we will most certainly face much worse in the future. If Putin and Russia want a new cold war, then I say let’s give them what their looking for and this time make it cold as the darkest regions of the universe!

    March 16, 2014 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  10. Tom Mitchell

    "Comments are not pre-screened before they post" If that's true why is my comment awaiting moderation? Anyone here care to explain that to me as the two statements seem to be in direct conflict with one another.

    March 16, 2014 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  11. Democrat

    What's happened with the right to self-determination? Actually it was the US and NATO to teach the rest of the world how to promote the right to self-determination (Kosovo since 1999).

    March 16, 2014 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  12. Anonymous

    Here he goes lets go to war.

    March 16, 2014 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  13. anoj

    Never in my life i have seen a "leader" like Mccain. I sometimes wonder if his mental status is ok. Everytime, he wants to have war. What sort of leader is he? He is a loser. He should learn some lessons from Gandhi, Mendela and Dalai lama.
    Peace is what every one is looking for. He needs some treatment.

    March 16, 2014 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  14. J.V.Hodgson

    Creating another Military war.... we will not vote for that.

    He needs to stop living in a Vietnam , Iraq, Afghanistan belief , war on terror belief era that we can win them all... 1m on call troops and a military spend exceeding that of the 10 most developed nations including Russia and China
    Ya think Putins headed for a Ukraine style Berlin wall?? Take a look at the size of Ukraine Russia borders ... impossible!! Crimea might be doable.
    Will all please go back to the agreements of 1954 nuclear and 1994 rights to Russia military re the port of Sevastopol!!??
    In the geo politics of this matter Palin and Mitt were not right. that Russia was the Geoplitical threat UNTIL:-
    1) The EU tried to push Ukraine into the European union.
    2) That the next logical step was for Ukraine to become a NATO member.
    Those are what drove Putin to sees " national security risk to Russia".
    Think Canada, and Akaska should be ours and our shale gas we are not going to supply to US Unless Quebec and Quebecquois say all Canada must speak French ala all Ukrainians must speak Ukraine not Russian.
    When you make language a political topic there is only one result historically and that is WAR.
    Stop this madness or potential MAD.

    March 16, 2014 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  15. ggman

    but why arent the Senators thinking? Military aid to ukraine would make matters worse. russia might as well overun the whole of ukraine. cant People see the obvious? what is making america loose credibility is the moutanous debts that Keep Pilling up!

    March 16, 2014 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  16. Rogue351

    How is a war with Russia the right or decent thing for the USA ? How does starting yet another war benefit the USA in any way shape or form ? McCain is a dinosaur that has served his time in office and needs to go. McCain is always the first to jump on a military solution. How can anything this man says or does be taken seriously after he tried to put Palin in the second highest seat in our nation. That alone shows his inability to make a good choice. No one should ever forget those actions. McCain you are done, thank you for your service but your time has come. Walk away with what little respect you have left.

    March 16, 2014 04:19 am at 4:19 am |
  17. SergeyRu

    The US politics with military support to Ukraine has pushed Russian speaking people away from Ukraine. Putin did nothing to get Crimea because US support helped nazism in Ukraine to stand up. All was made by US and its allies. What did make Russia, it was only to relay on Kosovo rule. Other neighbors of Ukraine see what will happen further. Later on, they will take back parts of Ukraine too in accordance with the same rule.

    March 16, 2014 05:02 am at 5:02 am |
  18. Brigido Mendoza

    In my personal view,Mccain should be the next President of U.S.

    March 16, 2014 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  19. Frank Ryan

    So what the Senator is saying is lets fund another proxy war where millions of people die while the military complex makes billions on weapons. Hmmm, I think this has been tried a few times in the past 50 years Senator. You might want to check how well that worked out for everybody.

    March 16, 2014 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  20. Brigido Mendoza

    I believed to Sen. J.McCain said,Putin's aggression in Crimea,is a symptom of "growing disregard for America's credibility in the world. All his view is a sign that he will be a good President of U.S.A.If America and Europe did not stop putin to his aggression to Crimea.The peace and order around the world will be affected.

    March 16, 2014 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  21. Sam Holmes

    I wish Senator John McCain would call for United States to provide long-term military assistance to our OWN military. They can certainly stand cuts to the military industrial complex, but politicians are again gutting the pay and benefits of our service members. It's completely disgusting.

    March 16, 2014 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  22. dan hill

    Thank God we didn't elect John McCain as president in 2008 – and I say that as a Republican. If McCain was president, we would be trying to occupy half of the middle east by now, and well on our way to a nuclear war with Russia. The Ukraine/Crimea/Russia situation has hundreds of years of history behind it, and complexities that are well beyond the "good-guy bad-guy" simplicities of McCain's world view. Let's all calm down, let the people of Crimea have their referendum vote, and then take a measured view of whether this is a situation that requires a USA conflict with Russia.
    Not every conflict in the world requires the USA to act as judge and referee. The people of Crimea are mostly Russian, and the territory was "given" to Ukraine against their will by Brezhnev 60 years ago. My guess is that they would vote to re-join Russia whether the troops on the ground are Russian, Ukrainian, or Martian. I am not comfortable with having the USA in the uncomfortable position of denying 2 million people of Crimea their right to have a vote on their own future.

    March 16, 2014 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  23. Bert

    Ok, here we go again senator. The only solution is a military one! Might I remind you that we are talking about seasoned Russian troops, not Iraqi or Afghan rebels. And doesn't your party whine constantly about the deficit? Yet whenever there's a chance to "send in the troops" you and your cronies have no problem spending "BILLIONS"! Not to mention American lives. In this world we live in today the US would be much more of a world leader as a strong diplomat than "John Wayne", strolling in like the local Marshall.

    March 16, 2014 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  24. Gurgyl

    Deploy McCain's daughter there first, then Lindsey Graham's wife, then Jenna Bush etc, then American Poor Men etc. O.k. Before this, fix potholes on our highways.

    March 16, 2014 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  25. Wim Roffel

    Can we have a picture of McCain with the Svoboda wolfshook symbol? Svoboda controls the Ukrainian army and police so it shouldn't be a problem.

    Having McCain with that nazi symbol would say more than a thousand words.

    March 16, 2014 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
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