Sen. John McCain said the fast-moving situation in Ukraine can be resolved but that the United States must not underestimate Russian President Vladimir Putin and his belief that Ukraine is still part of Russia.
“Vladimir Putin still has visions of the Russian Empire, and I think we ought to realize that and treat it accordingly,” Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.” “He does believe this is a Cold War game, even if the president doesn’t.”
President Obama said last week he doesn’t think the conflict in Ukraine between pro-Western demonstrators and Moscow-backed leadership in Ukraine is a competition between the U.S. and Russia.
“I think this is an expression of the hopes and aspirations of people inside of Syria and people inside of the Ukraine,” Mr. Obama said. “Our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.”
Mr. McCain said he doesn’t envision the kind of “catastrophe” in Syria occurring in Ukraine, but “the quicker we get the Ukrainian economy moving again, the less likely” a broader conflict is.
“But do not underestimate Vladimir Putin,” he said. “That does not mean another Cold War. But it does mean that we shore up our friends, we help their economies, we move countries, frankly Ukraine, I would have at least [the] beginning of a process to move them into NATO, if they wanted to.”
Mr. McCain said Mr. Obama is not “afraid” of going up against Putin; he simply has a different view of the world.
“On ‘Meet the Press,’ the president’s National Security Advisor [Susan Rice] said, ‘well, there are some who want to put boots on the ground.’ I’d like to know who that is. It’s certainly not me,” Mr. McCain said. “I certainly think there’s a range of options. We could be doing a lot more and should have done a lot over the last [few] years. … it’s horrendous what’s going on there.”