HH: But South Carolina also has a GOP Senate primary 60 days away, June 10th, and I urging my listeners to vote for Lindsey Graham there. I’m endorsing Senator Graham in his reelection bid. That’s going to make some of my audience happy on 94.5 Conservative Talk in Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson, or down in Myrtle Beach on JXY-FM, 93.9 and 93.7. Some might not be so happy, but we’ll let the Senator explain. Senator, good to talk to you, great to have you on.
LG: Well, I’m in the happy camp.
HH: Well, I don’t know that that would make me all that happy. I’m not exactly Mr. South Carolina, but I was thinking last night that we’ve just got to be serious about national security going forward. Have we ever had as bad an eighteen months as we’ve had, Senator Graham, as we’ve had since 1978-’79 and ’80 as the last eighteen months?
LG: No, I don’t think so, but the worst is yet to come. And that’s what I think you’re worried about. If we don’t correct our foreign policy, the worst is yet to come.
HH: Well, this is what I want to talk about. I wrote about it today. Coming up later in the show, Robert O’Brien wrote a piece on echoes of the 1930s. Let’s start with Ukraine and Vladimir Putin. Eli Lake’s going to be on a little bit later today. He’s got a piece at the Daily Beast saying that our general who runs NATO is trying to get the Congress to do more than the President’s letting him do.
LG: Well, there is an effort through backchannels to say we need to step up. Congress is, we’ll be working on an alternative to Obama here fairly soon. Hopefully after the break, Republicans will have a more robust sanctions package as well as providing defensive weapons to the Ukrainians as our position.
HH: Do you think Putin has stopped, Senator Graham?
LG: Oh, no. I think here’s the tripwire for your listeners. On May 25th, they’re going to have a national election in Ukraine, what’s left of it. When you take The Crimea out of Ukraine, a Russian candidate can’t win, so Putin’s now put himself in a box. He will either convince the Americans, Obama, and the Europeans to throw Eastern Ukraine into some autonomous state where he controls it without firing a shot, or he will come into the east from invitations from a Russian element. But he is not going to allow the east a free and fair vote here. He’s going to control the east either through diplomacy or force of arms. And he will dismember the Ukraine. He has not stopped.
HH: Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal was on earlier this week. He wrote a column where he wrote, he began if he was Putin, he’d invade right now, because this President won’t do a thing. Do you agree with that dire assessment?
LG: Yeah, but I would try to get the same result, if I were Putin, without invading. I would try to convince Kerry and Obama to throw the Ukrainians over, and require some kind of annexation by de facto annexation of the east. But if that doesn’t work, he will certainly send troops in to aid his Russian brothers who are going to be in dire straits, according to the Russian governor. They had to do this to protect Russian interests, Russian speakers inside of Ukraine. And what does this matter? Well, it matters a lot about European stability. It certainly matters with our efforts to stop the ayatollahs from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
HH: Now Senator Graham, looking even further into Estonia and some of the Baltic nations where they have Russian enclaves, do you think Putin would stop there? Or is the U.S. profile so low and the President perceived as being so prone to inaction that he might even push into a NATO state?
LG: I don’t think so. I don’t think he, I think he’s getting a lot of, I think Moldova is the next place, Moldova, this next place, Transdniestria, that enclave of Russians in Moldova. I think he’s likely to gobble them up, but I don’t really see him going into Estonia or Latvia. But to make sure that he doesn’t, I would hope we would send more aircraft and have some soldiers deployed in NATO nations to make him think twice. But I am convinced beyond any doubt he’s not going to allow these elections to go forward on May 25th in Ukraine. He’s going to dismember that nation either through diplomacy or force of arms. And this is the worst possible time for us to be overrun by Putin when we’re trying to stop the ayatollahs from getting a nuclear weapon.
HH: Before I turn to Iran, I want to go to the Far East. Your former colleague, Chuck Hagel, was there. And I’ve never seen anything like this, either. General Chang Wanquan, their Defense minister…
HH: …said at a press conference with him, “The Chinese military can assemble as soon as some and fight any battle and win.” I don’t think a secretary of Defense of the United States has ever been treated that way.
LG: Well, the Japanese-Chinese island dispute is very much affected by Ukraine, but yes, they’re flexing their muscle in the region. And all of the regional players in the orbit of China are much cowered now. But here’s what’s likely to happen. Obama’s trying to disarm the world of nuclear weapons. His legacy, I think, Hugh, could be proliferation of nuclear weapons. I think South Korea and Japan are going to have a nuclear capability of their own if we don’t get stronger, because they’re faced with the North Koreans and the Chinese. So one of the results of weakness by Obama is to have South Korea and Japan, and maybe the Sunni Arab nations to feel like they’re got to acquire nuclear weapons to deal with their enemies, because they cannot count on the United States, and one final thought, if the Ukrainians knew back then what they know now about Russia, they would have never turned over their nuclear arsenal. So the message from all of this is don’t count on the United States. You’d better arm yourself to the hilt to protect your interest. And I’m afraid that’s the legacy of American weakness.
HH: You see, this is the foreign policy military clarity that has led me to endorse Senator Graham in the election primary he’s got in 60 days. And I stay on nuclear weapons for a second, Senator. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Pentagon intends to cut the number of submarine missile launch tubes from 336 to 240 by 2018, and the number of nuclear bombers from 96 B-52’s and B-2’s today to 66 by 2018. Is that reckless, in your view?
LG: Beyond reckless. No one’s following the lead of disarming. The world is growing stronger when it comes to nuclear weapons. The North Koreans are now going down a plutonium track. They have the capability to produce a plutonium bomb every month. Sanctions didn’t work with stopping the North Korean program. It’s not going to work with the Iranian program. If I go back to the Senate, my number one goal is to replace the Defense cuts with cuts from entitlement programs and other wasteful elements of the government reforming entitlements, cutting the government in a more responsible way, and restoring Defense spending to historical averages, and to stop the gutting of our nuclear deterrent force. I want to go back to the Senate in the worst way to get our military in shape to fight and deter war, because right now, we’re going to a 420,000 person army. The threats are growing, and we’re gutting our military. Well done, Barack Obama.
HH: Now the President’s budget cuts Tomahawk and Hellfire missile acquisition to near nothing, kills off the A-10, I think it stretches out the F-35. Anything we can do about that this?
LG: Yes. Kelly Ayotte’s leading a charge, and I want to get on your program about this. The A-10, the Taliban fear this weapons more than any. The F-35 has been delayed to 2021. There’s a gap in our defenses here. We’re going to stop the retirement of the A-10. We’re going to plow more money back into Defense. I’m a Ronald Reagan peace through strength, but you can’t say peace anymore. There is no peace to be had with radical Islam. I’m security through strength. We’re going to have to build up our conventional capabilities, maintain a nuclear deterrent force, and the biggest nightmare of all is for the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon. You throw the whole Middle East into a nuclear arms race. A weak military, a weak intelligence community at a time we need it the most is a big challenge the next Congress.
HH: I’m curious if you’ve had a lot of conservatives with whom you sometimes spar, and I’m among them, come around to this point of view which is we really don’t have time for our domestic disagreements, that you know, people like Graham and McCain and Ayotte, Rubio, we’ve got to keep our serious people on the front bench making these most important arguments?
LG: Well, I would say I’ll put my willingness to keep America from becoming Greece up against anyone in my party. I will do what’s necessary to reform entitlements and reform spending. But the military footprint comes first.
HH: That’s exactly why I think you…are you doing, by the way, are you breezing in South Carolina? I know you never take anything for granted, but are you working…
LG: We’re doing well, because the world is getting in such bad shape. We’ve got needs at home like the Port of Charleston that I’ve been looking after. I’ve never forgotten where I came from, but I think people understand that I have a clear view of the threats we face from radical Islam to nation-states like Russia and Iran. And South Carolinians buy into the idea America is always better off when she is strong, not weak. And we’re doing very well, and I appreciate your endorsement, and we’ll have some time in the next 60 days to talk about what the Republican Party should be standing for domestically, and on the foreign policy front, to distinguish ourselves from what I think is a dangerously weak president.
HH: Senator Lindsey Graham, great to have you on. Good luck in the next 60 days. I think people have just got to put aside their minor disagreements and focus on the big stuff as Senator Graham is doing in the Senate every day on these Defense matters – military spending and foreign affairs. Thank you, Senator.
End of interview.