I join the many accolades written about Sen. John McCain during the past week. The Ukrainian people could not have had a better friend than Sen. McCain. He was a hero and a patriot, as well as an advocate of a stronger military and continuing U.S. leadership against advancing authoritarians in Russia, China and the Middle East. He was also a politician who understood the importance of compromise.
There is one area where Sen. McCain was uncompromising: his longstanding strong support for Ukraine, which predates his courageous appearance in December 2013 when thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets of Kyiv to demonstrate their hopes for membership in the European Union. Despite security concerns, he addressed nearly 1 million people gathered on the Maidan on December 15, 2013, with the words “The free world is with you. America is with you. I am with you.” Moreover, as Stephen B. Nix of the International Republican Institute in Washington noted, “John McCain scared Putin because he knew that deep down, he will always stand by his principles.”
With his passing, it may be appropriate to reflect on Sen. McCain’s relationship with the Ukrainian diaspora, where many considered him a true friend of Ukraine and a hero for standing up to Russia. However, when he ran against Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, a substantial portion of the Ukrainian diaspora deserted him. Support for Sen. McCain from Ukrainian Americans should have been 99 percent, instead, to my shock and dismay, the organization Ukrainians for Obama popped up on the East Coast. Very likely this effort influenced the majority of the diaspora to vote for Sen. Obama, a novice and, as history has shown, a weak and empty suit.
Had Sen. McCain won and become president of the United States, it is not unreasonable to venture that Crimea would still be part of Ukraine and an invasion of eastern Ukraine would not have taken place. To this day it remains a puzzle why so many Ukrainian Americans deluded themselves into supporting an unknown, unproven candidate like Mr. Obama, not once but twice, and why they thought he was better for Ukraine than the late great John McCain. May his soul rest in peace!