Senator McCain Discusses Ukraine Crisis at JFK Jr. Forum

April 24, 2014
By Doug Gavel, HKS Communications

One of America's premier statesmen, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), argued on behalf of a strong U.S. response to the political crisis in the Ukraine during a discussion last night (April 23) at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.

The government in Kiev is “very weak and very new,” McCain explained, underscoring the challenge for government leaders there who are weighing their options to respond to the Russian threat. With thousands of Russian troops stationed near the border, McCain cautioned that “the first thing we have to understand is…what does [Russian President Vladimir Putin] want. What are his aspirations?”

“He has said that the greatest disaster of the 20th century was the breakup of the Soviet Union,” McCain told the audience. “So if we understand what Vladimir Putin is and what his ambitions are and who he is, then I think we can adequately develop a response that can be effective, and it needs to be pretty tough.”

Over the short-run, McCain argued, the United States must provide the Ukrainians with defensive weapons and training. Over the longer run, he said the U.S. must help Ukraine and all of Europe to become energy independent so as to wean them off Russian oil and gas.

“We are now back in a position where we have to contain Russia,” he said, “because if Russia continues to succeed, I guarantee you Moldova is next.”

Earlier in the evening, McCain told moderator Jill Dougherty, IOP Fellow and former CNN foreign affairs correspondent, that he is not considering another run for president.

“I accept the verdict of the American people,” he said. "After I lost [in 2008] I slept like a baby -- sleep two hours, wake up and cry, sleep two hours, wake up and cry."

The Forum was sponsored by the Institute of Politics.

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Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

Photo Credit: Kristyn Ulanday

"If we understand what Vladimir Putin is and what his ambitions are and who he is, then I think we can adequately develop a response that can be effective, and it needs to be pretty tough.”

Moderator Jill Dougherty (L) with Senator McCain (R)

Moderator Jill Dougherty, IOP Fellow and former CNN foreign affairs correspondent with McCain