July 17th, 2014
02:58 PM ET
6 years ago

McCain: 'Profound repercussions' if plane shot down

(CNN) - If the Malaysia airliner in Ukraine was shot down, then the United States will need to take action against the assailants, two Republican senators argued Thursday.

"If it is the case, then we're going to have to act and act in the most stringent fashions, including real sanctions, including giving the Ukrainians the ability to defend themselves, which we have not done so far," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.

While early speculation about the crash has focused on the possibility of the plane being shot down, it's still unclear exactly what caused the tragedy.

Did surface-to-air missile take down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17?

McCain emphasized that he doesn't know how the plane crashed, but also argued that if the incident was caused by pro-Russian separatists, as Ukrainian officials have claimed, then the violent situation on the Ukrainian-Russian border could require heightened intervention by the U.S.

"If, if - I keep emphasizing if - it was a missile that was launched, either by Russia, or the quote separatists which in my view are indivisible, it would have the most profound repercussions," said McCain, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Plane tragedy escalates the Ukraine conflict

"It would open the gates for us assisting, finally, giving the Ukrainians some defensive weapons (and) sanctions that would be imposed as a result of that. That would be the beginning."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told CNN's Lisa Desjardins that if the plane was shot down by Russians or pro-Russian separatists, it would be a "game changer."

“If they are responsible – and I have no idea they are – you would take the sanctions we’ve unilaterally imposed, toughen them and get the world behind them," he said. "Start arming the Ukrainian military is what I would do.”

Graham also sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Meanwhile, McCain argued there would be no strategic reason for either side to intentionally bring down a passenger jet, saying it must have been a mistake, if in fact it was hit by fire.

"It's impossible for me to imagine this thing being - if it is a shoot down - nothing but a tragic mistake on their part," he said.

“I just cannot believe that no one in their right mind would want to shoot down an airliner.”

Filed under: John McCain • Russia • Ukraine
soundoff (271 Responses)
  1. ever4lasting

    McCain is a danger to this country and everyone in the middle east. He is a dangerous fool

    July 17, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  2. thalladm

    John McCain needs to retire pronto! No one cares for his
    opinion, no one! Speaking acts of aggression, when you serve
    on a committee, it is not the same as Commander and Chief!

    July 17, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  3. royal58

    I meant they don't even "know" if any Americans were on board the flight. (above comment)

    July 17, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. Ed

    I just want to see some nukes fired off.

    July 17, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. yogi

    Isn't it interesting that McCain is always the first to respond in a situation where he has the opportunity to escalate a situation with more violence. This man has an obscene fascination with war and he will grab any opportunity to get another one started.

    July 17, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    McCain is a war monger. Always the first to want our sons and daughters to lose their lives over any conflict. This IS a tragedy but we are not the worlds babysitters and protectors

    July 17, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. JoeSunCity

    Thank god McCain was not elected President, we would be involved in at least 6 wars otherwise.

    July 17, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  8. ever4lasting

    They needed a reason to invade Ukraine well they manufactured one.

    July 17, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    We could always fire a heat- (and publicity) -seeking McCain missile.

    July 17, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. so

    WOW- "sometimes I wish the Vietnamese had just kept him".... that is awful to say first of all. No one said that about this ANTI AMERICAN-AMERICAN who was a "POW" for years, and ABANDONED his country, we should have left him right where he belonged. Second of all, he never said "WAR". But, if there were 23 Americans on that flight, we SHOULD do something about it. Its one thing for Russians and Ukrainians to gun each other down for senseless reasons, but for a passenger aircraft to be taken down (not that it is confirmed, but i'm sure the people over there investigating have a better idea that YOU do.) why WOULD WE JUST BRUSH IT OFF LIKE IT DOESN'T MATTER?!

    July 17, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. paul

    The total plane debris being in a open field on the ground in one spot indicates the plane came down in tact ( crashed for unknown reasons ) if the plane had been shot down it would have discentigrated in the air strewing debris for miles, what people saw thinking it was falling debris is in fact fuel indicateing the plane could be straight up, straight down or upside down, I do not think it has anything to do with pro russian activists, russians or possibley ukarainians , my deepest regrets to the families on board, airport security trys to do the best possible for our safety with airport inspections , they are very proffessional , kind and curteous to us travellers , we appreciate thier proffessionalism, regards

    July 17, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  12. jane smith

    - July 3, 1988: Iran Air Flight 655 Aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from the American naval vessel U.S.S. Vincennes. All 16 crew and 274 passengers were killed

    July 17, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    If they are responsible – and I have no idea they are –
    Yes, make that perfectly clear before someone from that part of the world takes offense at you and come looking to shut your yapping mouth up.
    If you don't know then may I suggest you shut the f up until you do know, and then shut up anyway.

    July 17, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. YoonYoungJo

    It seems to be a tragic mistake. There would be no strategic advantage to shooting down a commercial air liner.

    July 17, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. Dave - Phx

    Not McCain and Graham the warmongers again.

    July 17, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    Angela: "My grand parents were prisoners of war to the russians during the 2nd world war..I ve heard the horror stores..they were brutal...."

    Wouldn't that make your grandparents Nazi's? I guess you never heard the war stories about some of the things they did?
    BAM!! OH SNAP!!
    And down goes Frazier!

    July 17, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  17. adam

    Oliver: The Germans attacked from the West and the Russians attacked from the East. The Russians pretended to be allies/liberators and murdered and imprisoned people as they took over their countries. If you don't know what happened, shut it. People who had families murdered don't take kindly to your words.

    July 17, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  18. Two Cents

    Why don't they get married to one another and go away for an extended honeymoon? We are SICK of hearing from these two jerks! Hate, hate, hate. Kill, kill, kill. McCain is still suffering from PTSD and Graham, well, if you remember from the Rolling Stones interview: he's lonely.

    July 17, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. adam

    Robert: One radar system saw a surface-to-air missile system turn on and track an aircraft right before the plane went down Thursday, according to the official. A second system saw a heat signature at the time the airliner was hit, the official said. The United States is analyzing the trajectory of the missile to try to learn where the attack came from. Yes, there was a missle and it was fired form Russia.

    July 17, 2014 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  20. Alluh

    McCain brought us Sarah Palin, that's all we need to know about his clarity of judgement

    July 17, 2014 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  21. ConanTheGrammarian

    “I just cannot believe that no one in their right mind would want to shoot down an airliner.”

    Doesn't this mean he believes that someone in their right mind would shoot down an airliner?

    July 17, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
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