Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the White House needs to get cracking on sanctions against the Viktor Yanukovych regime as violence escalates in Ukraine.
“The president should be working with Congress to prepare a set of sanctions against Ukraine that would be put into effect unless this comes to a halt,” McCain said Tuesday on CNN.
“It’s been mentioned a couple of times by Secretary Kerry and others, but we have to have the gun loaded there, ready to fire that bullet if these continue. The second thing I think we have got to do, speak up for these people. You know, one of the greatness of America is speaking up for people that are trying to assert their rights,” he added. “The president of the United States, as far as I know, has not really said anything. And, if he has, it hasn’t been very forcefully. And, then, third of all, we should work closely with the E.U. and with the IMF to get a package so that they can bail out their disaster of an economy, so that they will be ready to sign it and move forward with a new government.”
President Obama has not spoken with Yanukovych in nearly two years and has left the handling of the crisis up to Joe Biden.
“And we have to side with the protesters and the power has to be dispersed from the hands of Yanukovych, who changed the constitution and put virtually all power in the hands of the president,” McCain continued. “And watch out for Vladimir Putin, because he will try to make mischief because he believes that Ukraine is part of Russia… we need to understand that Vladimir Putin really is committed to this whole idea of the Russian empire, or the Russian near, abroad.”
McCain said he doesn’t know exactly how Putin will react, but “nothing would surprise me.”
“And I think we ought to tell Putin that interference in a way that — in the ways that he might do it would be totally unacceptable to the United States,” the senator added.
Members of Congress have generally condemned the violence, but policy prescriptions have been few.
“Events in Ukraine now threaten to descend into chaos. That can be avoided only if all sides refrain from violence and make every effort to resolve this crisis peacefully,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said last night. “The U.S. must continue to strongly support the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is the lone lawmaker to have introduced legislation on the crisis. His resolution states that the U.S. government “should immediately review security assistance funding for any organization in Ukraine involved in repressive efforts that violate the civil or human rights of the people of Ukraine” and the State Department “should immediately consider the imposition of targeted sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, against the perpetrators of state-sanctioned violence in Ukraine against peaceful protesters, journalists, and other members of civil society.”
That bill has one co-sponsor, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho).
“The struggle is so severe, because Putin decided he is an almighty king of all the post-Soviet countries and like Sauron would like ‘to rule them all, to find them, to bring them all and in the darkness bind them’. Therefore he payed Yanukovych 15 billion dollars not to join the EU and to kill democracy in Ukraine. Moreover, he has sent army criminals to torture ukrainian activists in the fields and ammunition for ukrainian killer-police,” states an open letter from a Ukrainian opposition activist to the English-speaking world, posted online today.
“USA and Europe don’t help us at all, only do the diplomatic talking. We are left alone, fighting in blood for democracy and our dignity… We have never had a king to rule us and can’t be tamed. We have fought for our independence since forefathers. And we are the last chance of all the post soviet countries to stand for their freedom. We are the last hope of Belarus and Georgia,” the letter continues.
“People are dying for national freedom here. Not literally, but actually. More than 25 people dead, thousands injured. Everything that you have seen in the ‘Brave Heart’ movie is taking place in Ukraine right now… They can take our lives, but they can’t take our freedom. We are not afraid to die, we are afraid to live like slaves under bloody regime of Putin’s dictatorship!”