John McCain appeared on Morning Joe earlier to react to the latest developments in Ukraine, including the tough talk from Joe Biden earlier today. McCain didn’t rebut Biden’s warnings to Russia as much as he wondered what the Obama administration planned to do for a follow-up. McCain interjected, “Or else what?” at the end of the replay of Biden’s remarks. McCain warned that it’s not just the Ukrainians asking the same question, but also US allies and NATO partners in the Baltics:
Earlier Tuesday, Vice President Biden called on Russia to stop supporting the pro-Russian groups who have taken over a number of government buildings in the eastern part of the country.
“Or else what?” McCain asked after listening to Biden’s remarks on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Or else what? What is the vice president saying, if they continue to do this, what will we do?”
McCain, who has called on the United States to offer light military weapons to Ukraine, said Russian President Vladimir Putin is keeping troops lined at the eastern border to evaluate his options. He warned the United States should not underestimate him.
It’s a long segment, with this exchange near the halfway mark. Joe Scarborough noted in the run-up to the topic that a bipartisan consensus seems to be emerging for some kind of limited Western intervention in Ukraine — not military per se, but certainly with energy supplies and perhaps with “light” arms. Scarborough quoted NY Times columnist Nick Krystof as saying that Ukrainians “will not forgive” the West if we stand by and let Russia dismember their nation.
McCain, as one might expect, followed up with a robust argument for more intervention. That is especially true to keep the Baltic states from falling into despair over Western fortitude. Unfortunately, McCain then goes on to insist on intervention in Syria, too, and then suggests that the political lessons of the Vietnam War show that the US will sustain costly and lengthy interventions as long as they know what’s at stake. That’s probably the opposite of what people think when they consider the lessons of Vietnam, thanks in part to the man who is now Secretary of State, and it’s hardly the most attractive analogy for the pro-intervention argument.
McCain’s right that we’ve misread Putin for the last five years, but he’s likely misreading the American public on this point. How did we do with the less-lengthy and much-less-costly Iraq War, which actually succeeded in producing a unified, representative republic in the midst of Arab monarchies and dictatorships?