McCain on Russia: ‘We Need to Impose the Most Severe Sanctions’

Arizona senator says Malaysia Airlines plane crash scenario was clearly orchestrated.

Jake Tapper, Sen. John McCain and Ron Fournier
National Journal
Rachel Roubein
July 17, 2014, 2:44 p.m.

A fast-paced news day in­clud­ing a downed Malay­sia air­liner and the launch of a ground as­sault in Ga­za led up to Na­tion­al Journ­al and CNN’s first Polit­ics On Tap event Thursday fea­tur­ing Sen. John Mc­Cain.

The Ari­zona Re­pub­lic­an called for severe sanc­tions to be put on Rus­sia if pro-sep­ar­at­ist groups are found to be at fault.

The event — some of which will air on CNN — was held at a bar in Wash­ing­ton and was sched­uled to cen­ter around the hu­man­it­ari­an crisis at the bor­der, midterm elec­tions, and the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s evol­u­tion.

In­stead, Mc­Cain began by ad­dress­ing re­ports that an an­ti­air­craft mis­sile was in­volved in the crash of a Malay­sia Air­lines plane.

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“We know for sure that the air­plane — when it struck the ground — it had already been hit,” Mc­Cain told me­dia and Cap­it­ol Hill and K Street pro­fes­sion­als in at­tend­ance. “In oth­er words the debris is spread over a 10-mile peri­od, so it couldn’t have just been the plane in­tact hit­ting the ground.”

Earli­er in the day, a Malay­sia Air­lines plane left Am­s­ter­dam and headed for Ku­ala Lum­pur. A sur­face-to-air mis­sile struck the plane with 280 pas­sen­gers and 15 crew mem­bers aboard, crash­ing the air­liner in east­ern Ukraine, me­dia out­lets re­por­ted as the story de­veloped. It is un­clear if Amer­ic­ans were aboard the air­craft, Mc­Cain said Thursday even­ing.

It was prob­ably not a mech­an­ic­al fail­ure, Mc­Cain said, be­cause the plane wouldn’t have come apart. A sur­face-to-air mis­sile that came from a sep­ar­at­ist-con­trolled base or just over the bor­der in Rus­sia is the only lo­gic­al con­clu­sion, he said.

Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden offered U.S. as­sist­ance to Ukraine Pres­id­ent Petro Poroshen­ko, and the U.S. will send a team to Ukraine to in­vest­ig­ate the in­cid­ent. The U.S. will also help sup­port an in­ter­na­tion­al in­vest­ig­a­tion, Pres­id­ent Obama told Malay­si­an Prime Min­is­ter Najib Razak.

Also on Thursday, a 10-day-long con­flict in Is­rael came to a head when Is­rael launched a ground of­fens­ive in Ga­za. The ob­ject­ive is to deal a “sig­ni­fic­ant blow to Hamas’ ter­ror in­fra­struc­ture,” Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu said in a state­ment.

Mc­Cain blamed Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry for un­suc­cess­ful ne­go­ti­ations.

“All this in my view began when our sec­ret­ary of state raised the ex­pect­a­tions about the Is­raeli-Palestini­an peace talks,” he said. “The situ­ation today has something to do with that total fail­ure.”

If a coun­try con­tigu­ous to the United States launched thou­sands of mis­siles at the land and its people, the Amer­ic­an gov­ern­ment would take the same mil­it­ary ap­proach as Is­rael, Mc­Cain said.

“Most any­body that looks at it ob­ject­ively, what do you ex­pect the Is­rael­is to do when people are launch­ing hun­dreds of rock­ets at you?” Mc­Cain asked at the event.

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Since early last week, the con­ver­sa­tion in Wash­ing­ton has swirled around the hu­man­it­ari­an crisis at the bor­der. Both parties and cham­bers are ana­lyz­ing Obama’s re­quest for emer­gency sup­ple­ment­al fund­ing — and some are form­ing their own solu­tions — to ad­dress the surge of un­ac­com­pan­ied minors flee­ing vi­ol­ence and eco­nom­ic dis­par­it­ies in Cent­ral Amer­ica’s North­ern Tri­angle.

Chil­dren are cling­ing to trains as they jour­ney to the United States, Mc­Cain said.

“Are we go­ing to say, ‘Wel­come’ — as some of my lib­er­al Demo­crat col­leagues want — and sub­ject these young people to that?” he asked. “Of course not.”

Ex­pand­ing em­bassies and es­tab­lish­ing con­su­lates in El Sal­vador, Guatem­ala, and Hon­dur­as could help the res­id­ents ap­peal for asylum be­fore at­tempt­ing il­leg­al entry to the U.S., Mc­Cain said.

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