When a dictator speaks, the world ought to listen to his words, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Newsmax.
"[Vladimir] Putin has said openly in a speech last year, on many occasions, he wants to reconstruct the Soviet Union, that Ukraine is a fiction of a nation, he wants to eradicate Ukraine," Graham told Monday's "Rob Schmitt Tonight." "He's not looking for a buffer against NATO.
"So I take him at his word."
Graham noted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is going to speak to Congress this week to ask for a no-fly zone, but that should only come as a red line against nuclear or chemical weapons.
"Here's what I believe: The Ukrainian people are kicking his a**," Graham told host Rob Schmitt. "If we would help them with fighter jets, MiGs to go in and help the Ukrainians fight in the sky, and more anti-aircraft defense systems that Ukrainians could turn the tide on the ground."
Diplomacy with Putin, who might seek to de-escalate with having only taken the southern part of Ukraine, Graham noted, is a fool's proposition.
"Here's what happens when you misread your enemy: You live to regret it, if you're lucky," Graham continued. "I believe that Putin wants to reconstruct the Soviet Union, bring Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine back in the sphere of influence; that if you gave him half of the Ukraine to end this war, he would take the other half in a year or two.
"He took Crimea, now he's trying to take the entire country. He will not stop here. How many times do you have to believe people at their word, based on what they've done in the past?"
While the Biden administration fears the escalation of providing jets to Ukraine would prompt Putin to attack NATO airbases, Graham said Putin is merely out-maneuvering President Joe Biden.
"I think he's bluffing when it comes to nuclear war; I think he understands that nobody wants a nuclear war, Rob," Graham said. "A nuclear exchange ends up with nobody winning. He's trying to bluff Biden and it's worked like a charm.
"I'm not for a no-fly zone at this point in time, but if they use chemical weapons – Putin against the Ukrainian people – I'm for a no-fly zone."
Graham also is not backing down at calling for a regime change in Russia, including asking for someone in Russia to stage a coup against their leader – something critics have considered reckless.
"I think what's reckless is letting Putin get away with being the largest war criminal in the 21st century," Graham said. "I think it's reckless to believe that you can allow Putin to win in the Ukraine, and China will not invade Taiwan. I think it's reckless to let the Iranians believe we don't have the resolve to stop their nuclear ambitions.
"The most provocative thing you can do in the face of aggression and the bad guy is to appear weak."
Yet, that is precisely what Biden has done, Graham added.
"On Biden's watch, it seems like the every bad guy in the world is in the mode of taking all they can while they can," he said. "So yes, I want Putin to go. I want the Russian people to take him down. I'm not advocating American ground forces in Ukraine or Russia, but I am advocating that the Russian people fix the problem.
"I am convinced – and if you disagree with me, great – the world would be better off without Putin. He deserves to go – either through some judicial process or just take him out – because if he wins in Ukraine, world order as we know it will fall apart."
Graham predicts "Ukraine is a dress rehearsal in China's mind for Taiwan."
"So, I'm begging the Biden administration: Write down some crippling sanctions against China, if they begin to bail out Putin, and you'll have a lot of bipartisan support," he concluded. "If you don't put it down on paper, nobody's gonna believe it."
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