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. Craig in Pa.

    Okay John, how about you and Lindsey Graham spearhead this and lead the troops in there!?

    March 15, 2014 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |

    Ifyou want to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine, may I suggest that *you* go over there and out *your* life on the line. The people do not want involvment in yet another war.


    March 15, 2014 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  3. Blue Alliance

    McCain thinks he is President......!!! What's he doing undermining Obama at a time like this? This is a good example of the GOP not acknowledging Obama's wonder leaders like Putin take advantage when they see how divided America is. GOP supports Putin – Dems support Obama. Disgusting!!!

    March 15, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  4. shelley

    GOOD LORD! He wants our troops in Egypt, in Syria…AND the Ukraine… does this man EVER stop????? What the heck??????

    March 15, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  5. oldswede

    Sen. BombBombIran is not the President, thankfully. What a dangerous fool he has become.

    March 15, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  6. Chris Asking Question

    Why does it seem that McCain wants to get the US involved in another armed conflict?

    March 15, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  7. rker321

    McCain needs to enlist again and go and fight another war, but please take as many Tea Party people as you can.

    March 15, 2014 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  8. waheid

    McCain needs to shut up! His narcissism and outsized ego is outpacing his meager ability. There was a time not long ago when politicians of both parties rallied round the flag and supported the President/Commander-in-Chief in times like these. But those were different times and different politicians. Now their allegiance is to themselves, their party, and whatever it takes to get re-elected.

    March 15, 2014 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  9. rker321

    McCain needs to enlist and go and fight his war. and please take as many of the Tea Party people as he can.

    March 15, 2014 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  10. 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 hacks.

    March 15, 2014 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  11. Dave - Phx

    The McCain and his rich wife can give all the aid they want.

    March 15, 2014 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Shut up McCain

    March 15, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  13. Brian

    Can somebody please remind him that he lost the Presidential election?

    March 15, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  14. E. Snowden

    McCain. Always eager to do a little warmongering.

    March 15, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  15. GOP = Greed Over People

    All I can say, is thank God this dodderin' old fool is not the President!!! Obviously he thinks he is, in his addlepated, old brain.

    And could someone tell him, there are no Sunday morning microphones in Kiev!

    March 15, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  16. Dimmus

    "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." – Up to now Zero killed in Crimea, it is bad for credibility of the United States. US must interfere and change zero to many thousands as was in other countries where US interfered.

    March 15, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  17. Chris

    McCain is a relic living in the past. He is right out of the 18th century. I wondet if McCain would be such a war monger if his family was in harms way. I cring everytime this man apens his mouth.

    March 15, 2014 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  18. Dorothy

    John McCain wouldn't know "right and decent" from Shinola.

    March 15, 2014 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  19. Alvin Sweeting

    What ever happened to national politics ending at the boarders? Show the President some respect and worry about Senate business.

    March 15, 2014 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  20. LJ

    This is why I am glad McCain never became President.

    March 15, 2014 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  21. Tim

    If this is so important, why are we sending freshman senators like Chris Murphy?

    March 15, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  22. bushdiver

    McCain is definitely a war monger. It's a good thing he is not the US president. He would have the US get into an armed conflict with Russia which would not be a very good move. Americans are already crying about the few troops they've lost in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past 10 plus years. The causalities would be much greater confronting the Russians not to mention that we just can't afford to get involved in another conflict.

    March 15, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  23. ScottCa

    I actually agree with McCain UN and NATO aid should be sent to the Ukraine.
    Russia should also loose its vote on the security council, since they clearly are unable to abide by international laws.

    March 15, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  24. Bill

    War monger McCain does anyone take him seriously Lets see we need to prop up this Pupet Government that we just paid out 5 billion to came about .. To bad they turned out to be NAZI but lets support these mad men anyway.
    I'm sorry But Putin has not Killed anyone and teh Russian peopel Want him there and who can blam them .
    Imagine if you woke up and was under a new Government and the Lunatic in Charge said you can no longer do Business in English . You would be Out ragedThis is what this Lunatic Government we are supporting has just decreed without a vote of teh people. Wake up My Wife is from Crimea all her friends are happey teh Russians are there . The only reason McCAin does not want them there is because he is Bought and Owned Buy Big oil and the MIC I'm Sick of Lieing disingenious polititions like him. He calls for death and destruction every time anything happens. tell me why do we have to flex our Mussel everyTime something HAppens.
    Putin HAs been discribed as a THug over and over againin the Media he speaks German Russian and English. he is a student of Oreiental Philosphy . hes not a thug he is a very smart man The US HAs grossly underestimated him .. One thing I know for sure he see's the Chess game way ahead of the Idiots we have Running this country. This is the Age of tecknolgy Russia has many weapons No one but them Know of they are the leaders in the world in Scaler energy weapons. Which make Nukes worthless By the way..
    He Knows the west is conspiring against him and have been for a long time.
    Just like the lapanise never saw teh a bomb coming don't think the smug US might get the same kind of surprise.
    Your dealing with a man that does not make mistakes and were listening to a lapdog Media spin from the Fools in charge of the US. This could be the biggest trap mankind has ever seen.

    March 15, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  25. MarkA

    Let's send McCain an M-16 so he can go after those
    Rooskies himself.

    March 15, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
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