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. gary

    No, McCain .. No USA military aid, help, arms, etc. Shut off the USA military war machine and it's madness. USA stay out of it ... none of our business! WE can only make it worse.

    March 15, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    The US gave Ukraine 1$Billion dollars. They can use that to buy military aid from the EU.

    March 15, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  3. Brad

    Oh great, now Mr. War Monger wants the troops in danger again. Why didn't he take his trusty pistol with him and get on the front lines?

    March 15, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  4. Me 2

    This guy is a war monger. No more aid for his Republican Military Industrial Complex buddies when they crap on the poor in this country.

    March 15, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  5. onlyforbrian

    How did McCain even get elected? If I were Putin I'd be telling the U.S., NATO , or anyone else in the west, "Provide Ukraine with one gun, one bullet, any military assistance of any sort and we will consider it an act of war" once again an American senator wants to start a proxy war, but cheers on Israel for commandeering any military aid being sent to the Palestinians. The U.S. takes hypocrisy to unheard levels

    March 15, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  6. Truth

    No no no no no NO. Stop it McCain your creating WW3...

    March 15, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. KR

    Old & senile John McCain needs to retire!

    March 15, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. Nicholas c

    Everyone sees where this is heading..... all out war! This is the beginning to a bad movie. World War I started July 1914, i hope history doesn't repeat itself this time.

    March 15, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  9. tata

    Exxagurtion of Americas strength

    March 15, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  10. Tellingitlikeitis

    NO, NO, NO!! Let's not get involved militarily. Let the countries duke it out. Obama is not that stupid to get us involved like the Bushes did.

    March 15, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  11. VJ

    Why in the world we should go to Ukraine????

    March 15, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  12. pablo1111

    Senator McCain can sometimes be off his rocker. This makes as much sense as his VP choice did. There is no way a military response to the Ukraine situation would help; stick with diplomacy, even if it gets zero results. Far fewer people will die.

    March 15, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  13. lasparky11

    McCain & the rest of the GOP are idiots out of touch with reality. Russia is not some small time non nuclear country. Russia has the 2nd largest non nuclear military in the world only behind ours. Sanctions are good military intervention or military aid stupid on a good day. Cool heads are what we need now, not saber rattling.

    March 15, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  14. glorydays

    Is there any place on this planet he doesn't want "military" action?

    March 15, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  15. ToraFetah

    Evil evil McCain. You need to be a taught a very good lesson by the Russians and Chinese.

    March 15, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  16. Danny

    This is the same nut-job that advocated arming and aiding the Syrian "rebels." If we do anything diplomatically, we should tell Russia they can have Crimea if they agree to take McCain too.

    March 15, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  17. jose vazquez

    There he goes the hawk Mac going rogue and trying to get the US in a cold war type military confrontation in which he can not join either physically ethically or morally. Shameful

    March 15, 2014 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  18. steve

    So McCain wants to start a World War over this?? Maybe he(McCain) doesn't realize the US is broke and broken or maybe he does. What better way to take the people's attention on Washington away than to start something that they suppose will get the American people's attention elsewhere while the politicians continue to line their own pockets & sell the US down the road!!

    March 15, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  19. george

    listen, what are we going to go to war with russia over crimea?

    honestly, i don't care if russia takes it. i don't see how crimea is even remotely an american interest.

    March 15, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  20. Rogue351

    McCain is always the first to ask for military intervention. This is the typical GOP / Tea Party response. This is the reason the United States has been at war more often than not in my time on this planet. It is 100% unacceptable for the USA to be involved in yet another war. The GOP / Tea Party is constantly talking about how much of a burden the poor place on this country. Wars started and funded by the GOP cost thousands of times more than the poor or universal healthcare. How about cutting off all of these huge companies taking billions in tax payer money for war and put that money back into the USA. Instead of creating different better ways to kill people the USA should focus more on it's own people. The USA spends more on our military than all other counties combined and our soldiers still live a very modest life style. It is the big companies making all of the money most of which only pay a select few high salaries. Enough with funding the rich. These big companies have McCain in their pocket and it is time for a change. Enough war, enough with the GOP / Tea Party. Enough with making the rich even richer via military contracts for weapons we do not need to start wars that cost us all more and more. Education, Infrastructure, clean water, roads, healthcare. These are the priorities, not more guns, missies, wars. Enough is enough. This nation was not funded to be the police department for the rest of the world.

    March 15, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  21. penguin

    The money would be better spent at home

    March 15, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  22. mark beer

    Go Russia,the usa petro dollar is done.The Rothchild Zionist is falling

    March 15, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  23. Neal

    I elect senator John McCain to put on his uniform and to call up all of his family too. We will start with that.

    March 15, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  24. Erick Holmes

    People in this country don't realize the consequences if we give Putin what he wants. He clearly wants to rebuild the Soviet Union, and we're letting him.

    March 15, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  25. Seattle Sue

    How many wars do you think we would be fighting if Bomb them McCain had won the election in 2008? I would guess quite a few as that is all McCain and Graham wants to do as long as it's someone else doing the fighting. Yes I know McCain was a POW in Vietnam, but you don't have be a rocket science to get captured. And yes McCain was responsible for five plane crashes ad finished 4 or 5 from the bottom of his class at Annapolis.

    March 15, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
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