Mar 3 6:00 PM

McCain: Crimea ‘may be’ lost to Russia

After Russian forces took over Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula this past weekend, Ukraine’s new pro-West government has appealed to the U.S. for help. But in an interview with America Tonight, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was pessimistic about whether Ukraine would ever regain control of Crimea.

“I’m afraid that may be the facts on the ground unless there are pressures brought to bear on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, which I frankly don’t know what they are now,” he told Joie Chen on Monday. “I’m very worried about eastern Ukraine. I don’t know how far he'll go. I predicted Crimea by the way because of the importance of Sevastopol. I hope (Putin) doesn’t go further. What I think you may see is different cities and mayors and people who are sort of declaring their allegiance to Russia. I hope it’s not an outright separation.”

Russia moved into Crimea after protesters in Kiev ousted their Kremlin-friendly president Viktor Yanukovich. It is widely seen as an act of intimidation by Russia against a post-Soviet state for shifting its allegiances westward. 

McCain ruled out a military option but proposed placing sanctions on those responsible. He argued for a more hard-line posture toward Russia that is reminiscent of the Cold War, proposing that America restart missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland and possibly engage in military exercises in the Baltic states.

“The president of the United States clearly has no idea of the kind of person Putin is and what his intentions are,” McCain said, adding that Putin is “an old KGB colonel" who wants to reinstate the old empire.

McCain also accused President Obama of behaving in a way that “played right into Putin’s hands,” and slammed Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal of a fact-finding mission, which Putin accepted, as “milquetoast.” 

Russia claimed its movement into the Crimea was an effort to protect Russian nationals in the Ukraine, citing the international responsibility to protect doctrine. 

“The reason why Putin did this was to protect Russian populations," McCain said. "Well, there’s Russian populations in the Baltic states. There’s Russian populations in Poland. There are Russian populations in Romania and other countries. This could set an incredibly dangerous precedent, and obviously, a totally immoral and illegal one.”

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