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. America First

    Thank goodness McCann never became president. Why should America pay for the military needs of ither nations? Europe owns this issue. Not America. We are only just starting to recover from the previous GOP initiated war expenses. America has its own priorities: the most expensive medical coverage in the world but not the best quality, student debt levels where other countries invest in their future instead, low salaries, infrastructure needs to make us competitive, Research to grow American industry, debt levels which are improving but still too high, america says it believes in self determination for countries. Let them work this out for themselves.

    March 15, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  2. PJ

    McCain would have us at war with Iran, Syria and now Russia!! This old warmonger needs to retire. The US doesn't have to carry all the load for the rest of the west. Nor do we need to put troops on the ground just for the heck of it. Fortunately, our President believes in Diplomacy and in keeping us out of wars we don't belong in.

    March 15, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  3. JAKE

    Is this the same John McCain who was photographed with his arm around a Ukrainian fascist leader a few months ago? He has no credibility.

    March 15, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  4. yogi

    This is getting soooo old and so predictable, McCain and the military power: First shoot, then aim. Republicans miss the finesse, the intelligence and the vision to deal with complex foreign issues, their solution is always military.

    March 15, 2014 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  5. menisino

    Obama is weary about heightening tensions? What planet is he on? Are you going to just stand there with your teeth in your mouth as Putin takes over East Ukraine & makes you look like the most pathetic U.S. President everÉ

    March 15, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  6. Stuffitu

    Well the Russians moved more forces across the border today. I am sure that Obozo had anice time at golf today and probably even figure out some more ways to screw hard working, taxpaying Americans out of more of their money. The needs of the dope addicts, welfare frauds and corrupt unions keep growing and it's darn near time for them to steal another election for the democrat liberal "progressives."

    March 15, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  7. joejmauro

    Our politicians are still paying off the war machine companies,or should i say repaying.

    March 15, 2014 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  8. Bryan

    Where does our senate get off passing. 1,150,000,000.00 $ to a former Soviet country? Could we spend this money at home on something that makes sense?

    March 15, 2014 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  9. billmosby

    We won't really be able to be the same superpower we once were because everybody thinks taxes are too high, even though they are well below the levels that prevailed during the cold war. Facing up to the Russians would take a lot more money than today's one per centers (and 47%ers, for that matter) would let go of.

    March 15, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  10. ihavea screwloose

    What kind of person doesn't keep their word? A person with no honor.
    What kind of nation doesn't keep it's word? A country with no honor.

    March 15, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  11. manomundo

    There's no war McCain doesn't like. Why risk a clash with a nuclear power?

    March 15, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  12. Kris

    Thank god McCain isnt president or we would be in world war 3 already. That old fart is insane

    March 15, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  13. GI Joe

    There he goes again.

    Trying to act like he's the head honcho and take us into another war. Wonder if he's willing to sell all his assets and pay for it? Or if he will send his daughter and other republican senator's kids to fight this time? I doubt it.

    Cindy - take away his passport and keep him away from the phone and D.c..

    March 15, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    It might be Ukrainian suicide to give military assistance to Ukraine; there is no way they can defend themselves against Putin. Their only hope is someone militarily coming in to go against Russia...that's not going to happen.

    March 15, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  15. Beverly

    He travels all over the world on the U.S. Taxpayers dime and then wants us to spend more money? All of our politicians are out of touch with reality. The reality is: the U.S. is broke. Any monies given to other countries by us are borrowed from China. It has to stop. We cannot save the world; we'll be lucky to just save our country from being overridden by illegals.

    March 15, 2014 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  16. MOModerate

    I just can't take seriously anything McCain suggests after he inflicted that nut job from Alaska on us.

    March 15, 2014 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  17. Tom

    Another bit of wisdom from A.H. McCain. Keep them coming boy!

    March 15, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  18. Eric

    Im sure a bunch of russians will show up sayin ghow we need to stay out it but the fact it letting a tyrant just take countries is a bad precadent to allow. We owe Ukraine aide military and otherwise., whether this aide is passive in the form of a missle defense system around russia or active with troops and military equipment something must be done to stop this here and now

    March 15, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  19. Vivelvin

    To give some military assistance to Ukraine may just be inviting their suicide/genocide. There is no way they can militarily win against Russia. Their only hope (if you want to call it that) is that some other country, with the war machinery equal to Russia's, is willing to come in the moment Russia's military crosses the border. That's not going to happen. So the Ukrainian people have to decide to live under Russian rule or die trying to save a spot on the map for themselves.

    March 15, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  20. Joe

    Senator McCain's answer to every world problem is war. You would think after decades of living on this planet he would have learned more about life and humanity.

    March 15, 2014 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  21. rob0rah

    Oh sure, get us into another war! Iraq and Afghanistan are not enough. Now it will be against Russia!

    March 15, 2014 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  22. joe

    If Crimea votes to secede, the USA should not let democracy prevail there. Just like here in the USA, Crimea needs a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich!! Screw what the people want!!

    March 15, 2014 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  23. Majestic

    Just ask Rand Paul what the U.S. should do. How about Sarah Palin? Ask them if we should supply military help in the region.

    March 15, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  24. davmar71

    Why is Uncle Fester in the Ukraine stirring things up? I thought the GOP demanded fiscal restraint. that is until it comes to giving suppoert away for military spending. The US has no skin in the game in these old USSR countries in Eastern Europe. Let the European Union handle this.

    March 15, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  25. bobsomeguy

    McCain would call for military aid for a dispute at a liquor store.

    March 15, 2014 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
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