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. paul

    Why does the US government allow bills that need passing to get bogged down with all these add-ons instead of voting for a stand alone bill?

    March 15, 2014 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  2. John in Brooklyn

    Interesting that when there is a Republican in the White House and is handling a global crisis, the GOP labels critical statements from Democrats – particularly when they accompany them with self-promoting junkets – as "unstatesmenlike" or, worse, "treasonous". However, when there is a Democrat in office, the GOP seems to feel that THEIR critical statements and trips are entirely appropriate. The hypocrisy is palpable!

    March 15, 2014 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  3. Natalya

    Mr. McCain is right. USA , Great Britan, and Russia signed Budapesht memorandum that guaranteed the protection of Ukraine in return of disposal of nuclear weapons. This is critical. Millions of people in Ukraine are at stake.

    March 15, 2014 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  4. Antonio

    I guess his meaning for restoring US credibility and strength is go to war again and get into more debt huh. How lucky we are he wasn't elected President.

    March 15, 2014 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  5. no name

    I love how McCain would easily thrust us into multiple wars. The guys is an idiot. I think he should lead us into battle if the fool thinks we should dismantle Syria, beat Russia, save the afghan people, and wipe out China. We might as well bomb NK while we are showing our might huh? McCain.........PFFFF!..Thank God the American people didn't vote this idiot in.

    March 15, 2014 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  6. McCainWhoIsMcCain

    How long some barely educated bottom grades military soldier the whole achievement of whom was being shot off bombing Vietnam tells what is the best for US

    March 15, 2014 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  7. Koleman

    The nutty old boy is calling for the nuclear war starts tomorrow. He s got not long to live himself and he d be only too happy to take the world with him. It s not enough for him that the US has created this mess in Ukraine by staging a Nazi coup right on the Russian's doorstep. It was just a naive politics to hope the Russians would not react.

    March 15, 2014 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  8. cwindt

    Shocking our nation's biggest warmonger again crying for military intervention.

    March 15, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  9. independant jim

    McCain always has the same solution to a world problem -- Military Dominance -- then find a diplomatic solution IF the diplomatic solution is the complete surrender of the opposition

    March 15, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  10. Ray

    McCain generously offered the first billion $$ and will lead the troops on the ground when they invade Ukraine. Nice guy, but he still owes the U.S. the cost of the jet he crashed. He screwed up that mission, but still screws over the American voters who vote for him.

    March 15, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  11. 1alien1

    thank the american voters for not chosing mccain and palin. one that loves sending our troops to their deaths and another that is still trying to figure out who the good korea is

    March 15, 2014 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  12. rad666

    McCain, grab a gun and head to the front line and represent America.

    March 15, 2014 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  13. Calvin

    John McCain "Cold Warrior"

    March 15, 2014 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  14. Mr. Balls

    The world is watching. The shining examples in Afghanistan and Iraq make it clear what kind of outcomes are possible when the United States intervenes in the affairs of other countries when those countries are divided internally.

    March 15, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  15. cwindt

    Shocking our nation's biggest warmonger again calling once again for US military intervention. Obama is no better, a wolf in sheep's clothing using McCain as the default spokesman for US military aggression.

    March 15, 2014 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  16. Kingregis

    Warmonger who makes America look bad.

    March 15, 2014 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  17. OleDawg

    As a staunch Republican McCain is NUT'S !

    March 15, 2014 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  18. Tom in Flagstaff

    McCain has not recovered from Vietnam. Whenever there is an opportunity for the USA to undertake military action, he is leading the charge. I thank God that the deliberative Barack Obama is our president–and not the impulsive, angry John McCain.

    March 15, 2014 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  19. trash is trash

    no more war hawking! It is not our problem. The GOP and con-nservatives need to worry about jobs and our economy. Get off the WW2 cionide pill. Nobody care!

    March 15, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  20. doyle

    McCain is sure trying to get the U.S. into another war

    March 15, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  21. Jerry

    Them Republican war mongers are at it again,

    March 15, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  22. jan

    Does John McCain think the loss of men, national treasure, prestige, influence – "right and decent?" This warmonger would have had us fighting in Syria, Egypt, and God only knows where else. McCain never met a war possibility he didn't like as a means to get his name out there.

    March 15, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  23. ihavea screwloose

    What kind of person are you if you don't keep your word? A person with no sense of honor or integrity.
    What kind of country backs out of a contractual obligation? A country no sense of honor or integrity.

    March 15, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  24. wotudezerv

    mccain says this is too serious for partisanship. i wonder if he knows what the word means given his partisan position. almost no one in the US wants US troops involved in a land war in Ukraine, so calling for military support, which can lead to boots on the ground, is irresponsible partisanship. Of course, the lunatics on the GOP right will use this situation to blame obama again, but they do that even when they drink too much and get a headache, or cheat on their wives and get caught. Still, McCain is weakening the nation with his constant attacks against the President. Shame on him and all the GOP racist hacks.

    March 15, 2014 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  25. gahh

    Yeah, but remember he also supported Bush invading Iraq and Afghanistan. This man calls for war every time something happens in another country, that's none of our business. He should be called the war senator.

    March 15, 2014 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
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