Senators Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), two of eight senators visiting Ukraine, told Ukrainians they will push President Obama to send weapons and military supplies there.
Led by McCain, the group includes Durbin, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
McCain, who ran against Obama in 2008, said if he were president, he would have already given Ukraine all the military assistance they needed because, according to him, that is exactly what would stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading and violating Ukraine’s sovereignty. As reported by KyivPost:
“To make it happen, all the president has to do is order it tomorrow,” McCain said. “He can have it done tomorrow.”
“Obviously the situation is very tense,” McCain said, speaking to journalists in Kyiv late on March 13. “It is unclear what (Russian President) Vladimir Putin will do now, whether he decides to move in eastern Ukraine or not, although he has certainly taken all the steps to facilitate such a step–the movement of troops and their concentration in western Russia, the largest airborne operation that the Russians have carried out since World War II.”
Concerning the needs of the Ukrainians, McCain said:
First of all, they need small arms but they need other military equipment as well. There needs to be a training regimen also. A lot of their military is not well trained, nor ready to fight. That shouldn’t prevent us from getting arms to them, not just to defend themeless [sic] but as a signal that we are supporting them. I think it’s vital to give them arms and I think it’s also vital to send a message that we’re willing to give them arms with which to defend themselves from an imminent invasion of another party of their country.
McCain went on to say the Ukrainians are “desperate” and that when he asked the “most senior defense guy in uniform” what they needed, he responded, “Everything.”
Durbin completely agreed with McCain:
“Ukraine does not have a might [sic] army. It has a small army,” Durbin said. “Yanukovych had hollowed it [sic] out this army and weakened it to the point where in the words of the prime minister–we don’t have anything that floats, flies or runs. They are at ground zero in terms of military capacity with few exceptions.
Time and again, they asked us for military help. They need it. I think they should have it. They have to have the wherewithal to defend themselves.”
But Murphy was cautious and told reporters the situation must be handled diplomatically and not militarily. “There is no military solution; there’s only a political solution,” Murphy said. “Given the pitiful state of readiness within the Ukrainian military, I think it’s important to be careful about approving these requests.”
Russia controls Crimea, the autonomous republic of Ukraine, and the peninsula has a referendum on Sunday to allow the residents to choose to stay with Ukraine or join the Russian Federation. Ukraine’s parliament approved Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov’s request to form a 60,000-strong national guard for defense against Russia. Moscow sent 200,000 soldiers to Ukraine’s border and engaged in military exercises, claiming it was necessary to familiarize the soldiers with unfamiliar land. Turchynov wants Ukraine to prepare for an invasion from Russia from the east.