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
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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.

“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.

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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