McCain: 'Treat Putin for What He Is'

Sunday, 16 Mar 2014 12:34 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Crimea's referendum vote to rejoin Russia is a "done deal" Sen. John McCain said Sunday, and shows that the United States and the Obama administration need to make a "fundamental reassessment" when it comes to dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"No more reset," said the Arizona Republican, who appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" following a trip to Ukraine ahead of Sunday's vote in Crimea. "Treat him [Putin] for what he is.

"That does not mean the 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."

McCain, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he does not want "boots on the ground" over the Ukrainian situation, because there are "a whole lot of things the United States of America could do," including economic sanction and providing military equipment and assistance to Ukraine.

Obama's "reset" policy when it comes to Putin has led to the United States and its leader looking weak in the eyes of Putin and the rest of the world, McCain said in a New York Times piece on Friday.

According to McCain, President Obama's belief that "the tide of war is receding" around the world so the United States can afford to scale back its military presence is a miscalculation.

That "reset" policy, coupled with Syrian President Bashar Assad's crossing of Obama's "red line" without consequence, has emboldened Chinese and Iranian loyalists, al-Qaida terrorists, and aggressive actors like Putin, whom he called "an unreconstructed Russian imperialist and KGB apparatchik," said McCain Friday.

"God knows what Vladimir Putin will do next," McCain told CNN host Candy Crowley Sunday. "He believes that Ukraine is a vital part of his vision of the Russian Empire. And we need to understand that and act accordingly."

But sanctions are vital when it comes to dealing with Putin and Russia, as is energy assistance for Ukraine and other countries dependent on Russia, said McCain.

"Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country," he said. "It’s kleptocracy; it’s corruption. It’s a nation that is really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy, and so economic sanctions are important."

The United States also needs to resume plans for missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, McCain said, which ended in President Barack Obama's first term after the Russian government protested.



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