McCain said on Wednesday Russia’s alleged cyberattacks against US political organizations to influence the 2016 presidential election amount to an “act of war.”
“It’s an act of war,” McCain, a staunch opponent of Russia, told reporters on the US Capitol in Washington, DC.
“If you try to destroy the fundamentals of democracy, then you have destroyed a nation,” said McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“I’m not saying it’s an atomic attack. I’m just saying that when you attack a nation’s fundamental structure, which they are doing, then it’s an act of war,” he continued.
McCain also accused Moscow of committing an “act of war” against the United States last week, and demanded stronger sanctions against Russia over the hacking, which the US intelligence community claims amounted to meddling in the US election.
McCain has been a virulent critic of Russia and President-elect Donald Trump, who has repeatedly cast doubt over the claim that Russia launched cyberattacks on the US.
On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee, led by McCain, is to hold the first public hearing in Congress on the alleged hacking.
McCain and other top congressional leaders have pledged to press legislation on sanctions against Russia in addition to those announced by President Barack Obama last month.
On December 22, Obama announced a series of economic sanctions against Russia, as well as expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, over allegations that it interfered in the 2016 presidential election through cyberattacks.
McCain has criticized the sanctions as insufficient and overdue.
However, Trump, the incoming US president, has repeatedly questioned the accuracy of US intelligence pointing to Russia’s responsibility for the hacks and has said it was time to “move on.”
The US claim has been rejected by Moscow. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which published the stolen emails, has also denied that the Russian government provided the files.