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. Mike

    Sorry, but if McCain wants to support military aid to Ukraine, he can and should personally finance it out of his own pocket and put his own name to it. He shouldn't drag the US into a protracted conflict with Russia just because he's on some idealistic crusade to stick it to Putin and support whatever tom-dick-and harry government is currently brown-nosing America. His wish, his money, his legacy.

    March 15, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  2. Andrew

    Give the old guy a gun and let him have at it. He won't be happy until all young American's have been POW.

    March 15, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  3. Alex

    I am glad that McCain is not the president of the U.S.

    March 15, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  4. Jim

    McCain, you live in the glory days of the cold war. You need to stay home and change your diaper, and drink your prune juice.

    March 15, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  5. Green mountain

    McCain retire. Go home.

    March 15, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  6. Dr. Hemlock

    Only because he thinks the Viet Cong are involved somehow.

    March 15, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  7. BenjaminIA

    The fact that we (The U.S.A) are no longer the world's only superpower has nothing to do with President Obama. We as a nation face a situation more akin to pre WW:I and WW:II that what we have experienced since, and at the same time unlike any other, due mostly tot he threat of nuclear war and the prospect of WW: III. We have created many enemies over the past decades, and no new allies that could effectively swing the tides of war in the past several decades, due in large part to the foreign policy of past presidents, both R and D.

    To blame President Obama and our nations current leaders for a situation they inherited after decades of foreign policy is simply irresponsible, and a move by a Republican party desperate for any means to sway public opinion in their favor before the next presidential election.

    What to do in the face of this new provocation from Russia requires better men than me to decide, but it is most certain that in the face of this conflict weakening the already tenuous perception of our President, when he has done nothing but champion the middle and lower class while trying to appease the 1%, is irresponsible in the most dire of ways.

    March 15, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  8. Lardeau

    GET MC CAIN OUT OF THERE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He is provoking The Bear !!!! HE HAD HIS DAY !!!!!!!

    March 15, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  9. tata

    McCain exaggurated US strength to Georgia, and when fire became hot, McCain vanished from the battle field and Goergia lost Ascetia an Abhasia. Now he went again to Ukraine fooling them to play with fire. He has made now Ukraine to lose Crimea because he gave false hope that US will put their boots in Ukraine. Ukraine will lose the whole Eastern region if they continue to listen to McCain illusion.

    March 15, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  10. Plain white t

    Mr McCain has always been one for more war and military spending....great ways to buy votes.

    March 15, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  11. Nick

    1953 all over again?

    March 15, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  12. deee510

    Here we go.McCain wants a war. He won't be satisfied until we're in another decade of war.

    March 15, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  13. ELMO

    Senator McCain you were around when agreed with the Russians to not park NATO nations off their door step. The Crimea is a done deal, anything you want to attempt short of direct intervention will be too late.

    March 15, 2014 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  14. Rogue351

    War is never "right" or "decent". If McCain thinks it is, his values have been damaged beyond repair. McCains time in office is up. It should be the governments job to keep us out of war unless absolutely necessary. How can anyone take this man seriously after his attempt to put Palin in as Vice President ? Seriously one of the biggest lapse in judgment ever made by a person running for high office. It was inexcusable then and should not be forgotten. His choice speaks volumes about the ability of this man to make sound decisions that benefit this country.

    March 15, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  15. pablo mayhew

    Arizona Senator John "Goldwater" McCain must be experiencing onset Alzheimer's Disease, as he has, clearly, overlooked three weighty and onerous issues inre: the situation in Ukraine: 1.) He is not president–indeed, he lost the 2008 presidential the same man whom he now publicly chastises; 2.) the situation in Ukraine, as it currently stands, was brought on by those who share McCain's ideology in the Obama administration–the same nitwits who believe the answer to world diplomacy lies in force rather than finesse. And who, on this occasion, have seen their efforts at clandestine coup d'etat come totally unravelled; and 3.) the country he seems so comfortable and confident baiting, Russia, has access to something like 8,500 nuclear weapons....And yet he persists. It is a quite fortunate thing that McCain DID lose the 2008 election; the only politician I can think of who would be more dangerous to have as commander-in-chief, at present, is George W. Bush. Thank God for small miracles, eh?

    March 15, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  16. Anna Lurie

    Has anyone ever considered that the reason other countries may view the United States is that public criticism by Republican leadership of the president is what gives other countries license to consider the United States weak. That they repeat what a shitty president Obama is and as time goes on people in other countries start to believe it. Emboldening them to do stuff like this. I'm not saying anyone is doing anything illegal or that these individuals such as Senator Mccain are entitled to freedom of speech. However, they are doing just as much damage as anyone else to U.S. foreign image. All in the name of political vendettas

    March 15, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  17. MaryM

    No More Wars!! No more Americans dying on the other side of the world !!

    March 15, 2014 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  18. Mark

    Why? Is McCain over there anyway? McCain needs to retire as soon as possible. This is NOT our fight. The United States is not the police of the World anymore. Why? Do the old timers in Washington not understand this?

    March 15, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  19. Steve

    Golly Gee Whiz Beav – John McCain sure sounds like a bought and paid for Senator, who is owned lock, stock and barrel by the military industrial complex that Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about. One can only hope that the American people wake up soon before these nut jobs take us over the edge.

    March 15, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  20. Scott

    Great, McCain wants us to go to war with Russia

    March 15, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  21. vr13

    What is McCain doing in other countries, promising support from the US? Not representing the official government stance on the matter, he is misleading and inciting those people. Who pays for this "Congressional delegation" trip? Why is speaking on behalf of the US?

    Another troubling thing in McCain's speech was, that not inserting ourselves there will cost our interests. Is that why we are there, for our own interests, and to make sure we are projecting power? So much for a democracy loving country. Someone, bring McCain home and ground him.

    March 15, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  22. me too

    Mr. McCain may or may not be wrong, but regardless, he has overstepped his bounds by making such a speech on a world stage. Whatever his wishes and aspirations are, he is not President, nor even Secretary of State. If he had any class he wouldn't be such a public blowhard against the US. It is my opinion that is why we are losing respect of the world. Too many so-called patriots so eager to deface her and bring shame on our house for their own glory. If it were left to McCain we would be already enmeshed in WW III.

    March 15, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  23. Ducati

    Yeh, and who is gonna pay for that? You sir?

    March 15, 2014 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  24. vr13

    McCain has a troubling tendency going to other countries promising our help to bunch of suspicious parties. How does the mess in Syria and Egypt going for people there? And now he wants our weapons in Ukraine.

    March 15, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  25. Mr. Bil

    I am sure glad we didn't elect John MCain President, we would be in four more wars by now.

    March 15, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
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