John McCain say Vladimir Putin a bigger threat than Islamic State

Republican also says he is concerned by reports Jared Kushner discussed setting up a secret communications channel between Moscow and Trump’s team

Making Canberra the first stop of an Asia Pacific visit this week, Senator McCain also said he was confident that Donald Trump’s administration would prevail in stabilising Afghanistan, as Australia announced it would boost its contribution to the training mission.

“I believe this national security team that is around the President now, General MacMaster, General Kelly and General Mattis – they are developing a strategy and that strategy means victory,” he said.

However, in an interview with the ABC’s 7.30 Senator McCain also conceded that President Donald Trump sometimes makes him feel “nervous” about international security.

The chair of the US Senate’s powerful armed services committee said the US-Australian alliance was “more important than it’s ever been” amid the war on terror and tensions in Asia.

Senator McCain is visiting the region for security talks but his presence in Australia has sent a reassuring message after Mr Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s personal relationship got off to a rocky start over refugees during their testy first phone call in January.

In the interview on Monday night, Senator McCain labelled Mr Putin as the “premier” threat to global security.

“I think ISIS can do terrible things and I worry a lot about what is happening with the Muslim faith,” he said.

“But it’s the Russians who tried to destroy the very fundamentals of democracy and that is to change the outcome of an American election.”

See also  Trump's lawyer former associate found guilty of illegal campaign financing

In a show of the bipartisan esteem for Senator McCain, he will separately address the Coalition’s joint party room and Labor’s caucus meetings on Tuesday morning

He completed a whirlwind series of meetings with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Monday, and will meet Mr Turnbull on Tuesday.

“We are certainly in very interesting times and our relationship in my view is more important than it’s ever been,” he told Ms Bishop.

Senator McCain said China’s aggressive territorial ambitions in the South China Sea remained a worry and believed Australia would ultimately side with the US over Beijing in a serious dispute.

“I do not predict confrontation with China. I think it would be of the utmost seriousness, but I do believe in freedom of navigation. I believe that it is clearly illegal to be filling in these islands,” he said.

“I understand the importance of Chinese trade with Australia and I think it’s very legitimate.

“But when it comes to standing up for human rights and the basic principles which guided both democracies for all this time, I think it will always come down in favour of the United States.”

He warned unless Beijing restrained North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un and his nuclear weapons program, it could result in a “very serious crisis along the lines of the Cuban Missile Crisis”.

Senator McCain was welcomed to the House of Representatives chamber by MPs with a round of applause, with Mr Turnbull praising him “as one of the strongest voices – none stronger – in the United States today for the Australian-American alliance”.

See also  Trump's lawyer former associate found guilty of illegal campaign financing

more recommended stories