Tags: Donald Trump | ISIS/Islamic State | John McCain | Russia | Syria | War on Terrorism | Vladimir Putin

McCain: Putin More Dangerous Than ISIS

MSNBC's "Morning Joe"

By    |   Tuesday, 17 January 2017 09:26 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin is more dangerous to the U.S than ISIS, Sen. John McCain agreed during a Tuesday morning interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"I know that Vladimir Putin's ambitions are different than the United States' priorities," said the Arizona Republican, who heads the Senate's Armed Services Committee.

"A great example of that is while Vladimir Putin was using his air power to hit the hospitals and the moderate opposition in Aleppo, they sat and watched ISIS take over Palmyra. Vladimir Putin's priorities are to restore the Russian empire – that's what they are, okay, as long as we understand that."

Putin, continued McCain, has taken over Crimea while dividing several countries, including Georgia and Ukraine, all with the ambition of restoring the Russian Empire, and the senator does not think the United States can work with him in any way, including using Russia in the fight against ISIS or potentially for an ally against China.

"You can work with him like Ronald Reagan did, in a position of peace through strength, which means first of all we've got to rebuild our military, which has been decimated over the last eight years, including a 21 percent reduction in funding thanks to [President] Barack Obama and the Congress."

Putin, meanwhile, is "closing the gap militarily" between Russia and the U.S. States, and "that should alarm us all," McCain said.

"Look at his behavior," McCain said. "Look at what he has done. He has made no bones about what he wants to do. And he's done it. He's played a very weak hand in the most clever fashion. He's got the world's 15th-largest economy and yet he's now a major player in the Middle East.

"There's nothing more significant than the Russians, the Iranians', and the Turks inviting the United States to come to a peace conference. The United States isn't even part of it, they're being invited. How far we've come."

McCain said he hopes President-elect Donald Trump listens to the people he is surrounding himself with, particularly retired Gens. James Mattis, Michael Flynn, and John Kelly.

"He's surrounded himself with some very, very bright people," McCain said. "I hope that he would listen to them. I think that [Secretary of State nominee] Rex Tillerson can do a good job if he puts his priorities straight. So, I hope that he listens."

Trump, in an interview with The Times of London, appeared to put Putin on the same footing where he is concerned as with German Chancellor Angela Merkle, "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough noted, but McCain said that should not happen.

"There's no moral equivalent," McCain said. "Vladimir Putin is the guy that's sent airplanes with precision weapons to strike hospitals in Aleppo, killing thousands of innocent men, women, and children. He's a thug and a butcher."

McCain admitted he worries, but he also worried under Obama as he "watched our military being dismantled and watched the world being set on fire because of his desire to withdraw America from the world stage.

"And calling ISIS the JV and saying, tell Vladimir I will be more flexible when I'm re-elected. So, I've been worried for a long time, especially under Barack Obama and the foreign policy which is characterized the last eight years."

McCain is planning to release a white paper, "Restoring American Power," in which he will outline how budget cuts and sequestration have decimated the United States' military forces.

"We now have the smallest Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps we've had," McCain said. "It's fun for me to blame Barack Obama for everything, but the Congress shares responsibility with this passage of sequestration, which is mindless, across-the-board cuts which have nothing to do with discrimination of what we need or don't need."

Further, the cuts have harmed the military's morale and readiness, McCain said.

"Our uniformed military leaders have told us that because of sequestration, the men and women in uniform are in 'great danger,'" McCain said. "We have an obligation to those men and women who are serving in the military, not to put their lives in greater danger, and it's getting worse.

"So, yes, we have a lot to do and we've got to spend some money. I'm glad that the president-elect has committed to doing that as well."

Also, McCain said Tuesday he has his concerns about Tillerson, especially when it comes to his receiving a "friendship award" from Putin.

"The greatness of America is our moral superiority over Russia, the old Soviet Union and other dictatorial regimes," McCain said. "The strength of America is because of our moral superiority. When we sacrifice that, then we are betraying what America is all about."

Meanwhile, McCain said he hopes Trump will strike a message of unity when he gives his inauguration address Friday, as "we've got to bring our country back together."

McCain also made rounds Tuesday to CNN and Fox News.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is more dangerous to the U.S than ISIS, Sen. John McCain agreed during a Tuesday morning interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Vladimir Putin, Morning Joe, foreign, policy
Tuesday, 17 January 2017 09:26 AM
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