McCain blames Obama for Russia's 'newfound assertiveness'

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore GOP strategist: 'There needs to be a repudiation' of Roy Moore by Republicans World leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report MORE (R-Ariz.) said Thursday that President Obama’s “empty threats of red lines” have emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In remarks at the Atlantic Council, McCain said Russia has been “bullying” more countries than its neighbor Ukraine, which has recently been the center of political and social unrest. 

“This pattern of behavior amounts to a Russian bid for a kind of quasi-imperial dominance over its neighbors — a newfound assertiveness that has only grown in the void left by the [Obama] administration’s absence of leadership in other parts of the world, especially Syria," McCain said at the event. "President Putin has been emboldened by President Obama’s empty threats of red lines and the resulting loss of U.S. credibility."

McCain returned from a trip to the Ukraine last weekend with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). They traveled there, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee said, to support the “peaceful aspirations of all Ukrainians,” and their right to determine the future of their nation. 

Since their return, Russia purchased $15 billion in Ukrainian bonds and reduced the price of gas it sells to the Ukraine. These actions, McCain argued, exemplify Russia’s geopolitical ambitions.

The U.S. is now in a “bizarre” situation, he added, in which Americans are working with Russia to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal; Russia is simultaneously “supplying [President Bashar] Assad with conventional weapons to continue the slaughter and maintain his hold on power," McCain said.

“If the United States is unwilling to stand up to [Putin] in the Middle East, he can do as he wishes closer to home. And he has,” McCain said.