- Sen. Lindsey Graham had some tough words for President Donald Trump on Russia, Syria, and North Korea on Sunday.
- He wondered why Trump has not been tougher on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Amid talk that Trump might pull all US military support from Syria, Graham said leaving Syria would be “the single worst decision” he could make.
- He also called for a formal peace treaty between North and South Korea.
Sen. Lindsey Graham gave President Donald Trump some harsh pointers on his foreign policy approach on Sunday and offered a veiled attack on Trump’s approach to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Graham wondered aloud on “Fox News Sunday” why Trump has allegedly not been very vocal about opposing Russia.
“The president for some reason has a hard time pushing back against Putin,” Graham told Fox News host Chris Wallace.
“This is the ’80s all over,” he added. “If I were Trump I would look at the Reagan playbook.”
Former President Ronald Reagan has been hailed for setting the groundwork for the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the eventual end of the Cold War.
Amid new tensions with Russia over its alleged poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom last month, Trump’s administration has taken strong action on the issue, but it took Trump personally over a week to comment on who the perpetrator might have been.
“It sounds to me like it would be Russia, based on all the evidence they have,” Trump told reporters last month, according to CNN. “It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia and I would certainly take that finding as fact.”
Trump added: “As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.”
The Trump administration recently expelled 60 Russian diplomats and announced the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle over the poisoning. Russia then also expelled 60 US diplomats, part of a broader diplomatic rebuke that included the expulsion of a total of 150 western diplomats from its borders.
But Trump has also refused to implement sanctions against Russia that Congress had already voted into place, and has frequently stopped short of confronting Putin about Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.
Trump said last year he believed Putin when he told him Russia did not interfere in the election, in contradiction to the findings of US intelligence agencies.
“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump said in November. “I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.”
Trump also has a long history of praising the Russian leader.
Trump is in danger of making “the single worst decision” on Syria
After speaking about Russia, Graham turned to US policy in the Middle East and North Korea.
Reports this week have suggested Trump has been musing about pulling out of Syria unilaterally, which would be at odds with his administration’s official policy.
“We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon – very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump said.
Graham said he vigorously opposed this idea, saying it would be “the single worst decision” he could make.
“When it comes to Syria, do not read the Obama playbook, one foot in and one foot out,” Graham added.
Obama had been criticised for his supposedly uneven approach to the Syrian conflict, and for failing to play a more active role in preventing the war from spiraling out of control. Trump’s policy in the country has been slightly more aggressive – while his predecessor said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons was a “red line” for the administration but did little to back up this notion, Trump last year ordered a military strike against a Syrian government air base after dozens were killed in a chemical attack. The move though was not without controversy, and allegedly broke international law.
The US has continued to support the Syrian Kurdish forces in northern Syria, who have recently come into conflict with Turkey, a strong US ally.
On North Korea, Graham said that negotiations should remain focused on denuclearization – but also on another, less talked-about goal.
“Here’s the goal of the negotiations: to make sure that North Korean gives up its nuclear program,” he said. “And maybe get a peace treaty with North Korea, South Korea, the United States, and China.”
North Korea has technically been at war with the South since 1950, and only signed a ceasefire agreement in 1953 at the end of the Korean War.
A formal peace agreement would be a landmark in the history of North-South relations.