Fresh off a visit to Ukraine, Sen. John McCain laid out his proposed plan for U.S. action against Russia’s intervention in Ukraine on Sunday.
The Republican from Arizona led a bipartisan delegation of senators to Kiev over the weekend to communicate U.S. support for the new government. Right now, as citizens of Crimea cast their votes in a referendum to become part of Russia, McCain says he’s not sure what could stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from annexing the territory. But the U.S. isn’t out of options just yet.
“The United States of America, first of all, has to have a fundamental reassessment of our relationship with Vladimir Putin,” McCain told Candy Crowley on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning. “No more reset buttons, no more ‘tell Vladimir I’ll be more flexible.’ Treat him for what he is.” The senator was referring to the Obama administration’s hopes of resetting tense U.S.-Russia relations, and President Obama’s remarks during missile talks in 2012 to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that Obama would have more flexibility “after my election.”
McCain continued: “That does not mean reignition of the Cold War, but it does mean treating him in the way that we understand an individual who believes in restoring the old Russian empire.”
Here’s what the senator thinks the U.S. should do next:
- Impose economic sanctions where it would hurt most. “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country,” he said. “It is a nation that’s really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy.”
- Provide a long-term military assistance plan, which could include supplying the Ukrainian government with weapons, ammunition, and intelligence support. “No boots on the ground,” McCain said, though he did suggest delivering humanitarian aid to the region using U.S. military aircraft.
- Resume a Bush-era Pentagon plan to build a the missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic that Obama canceled in 2009. Back then, the proposal was met with hostility from Russia.
- Put Moldova, a nation that remains well under Russia’s “sphere of influence,” on a path toward NATO membership. In 2008, when Ukraine began talks to join the military alliance, Russia resisted the eastward expansion of Western influence.
- In the future, provide Ukraine and European countries with natural gas, crude oil, and other energy supplies to ease those nations’ dependence on Russia. “We are an abundant energy exporter,” McCain said. “We should be using that — it is a long-term strategy we should be figuring out right now.”
- Make “a long-term commitment to the freedom and democracy and the assistance we can provide Ukraine, including, over time, regaining Crimea.”
McCain has been one of the most vocal critics of Obama’s handling of the Ukraine crisis. His impassioned speech on the Senate floor Thursday, the visit with new Ukrainian leadership, and frequent media appearances are the latest examples of the senator’s “back-seat presidenting” of the global crisis.