An influential member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John McCain, has urged leaders of NATO countries to arm Ukraine to defend itself against what he says is a clear Russian invasion. The outspoken Republican said they should also impose “crushing” sanctions against Moscow to check Russian aggression.
Senator McCain had blunt words Thursday for Western leaders reluctant to call Russia's actions in Ukraine an “invasion.”
After meeting with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv, McCain said failing to clearly label it so means living in Russian President Vladimir Putin's world.
"It was argued for months that providing arms and greater assistance to Ukraine could provoke a Russian invasion; but now, Ukraine is being invaded anyway, showing that the real provocation for Putin has been the perception of Western weakness," he said.
While evidence continues to mount of Russian weapons, hardware and troops backing up rebels in Ukraine, many Western leaders avoid using the stark term "invasion." Leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, instead call Russia's actions an "incursion" or "violation of sovereignty."
They also are reluctant to provide arms to support Ukraine's military, even though it has lost ground to the Russia-backed separatists in recent weeks.
For its part, Moscow continues to deny supporting the rebels materially, while giving sympathy and moral support to their calls for autonomy from Kyiv.
McCain said Putin's appetite only grows, and that the Russian leader will keep taking more until he faces a consequence he is unwilling to incur.
"Vladimir Putin wants to restore the old Russian empire. He cannot stand a free, democratic, prosperous Ukraine, because sooner or later the people of Russia would want to have that kind of lifestyle as well," he said.
The senator urged Western leaders meeting in Wales for the NATO summit to provide weapons and intelligence to Ukraine and impose "crushing" sanctions against Russia.
Russia's deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, sent out a tweet calling McCain an “arms baron” for urging American weapons for Ukraine.
Several key European countries, including Germany, oppose providing Ukraine with weapons, but are considering new sanctions against Russia.