Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was copping it from all sides Wednesday night – annoying both Russia and Tucker Carlson—after the Republican suggested that the U.S. should shoot down Russian planes if they “ever get near another U.S. asset flying in international waters.”
Russia was the first to bite back, with Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s Ambassador to Washington, reserving some strong words for the South Carolina Senator. He wrote on Telegram and in Russian media that: “The calls of some legislators go beyond common sense.”
“The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation explained in detail the reasons and procedure for the actions of Russian pilots during yesterday’s incident over the Black Sea,” Antonov said.
“I repeat for those who did not find the strength to look at the situation objectively: our fighters did not come into contact with the American UAV . Russia did its best to prevent such incidents – it brought to the attention of the international community in advance information about the borders of the area of the temporary regime for the use of airspace established for the purpose of conducting the NVO.
“Of course, it is a shame for the Pentagon to lose expensive equipment. But in this case, accusations of unprofessionalism by the US military should be redirected to their address.”
Antonov also cited Graham’s March 2022 tweet calling for the assassination of Vladimir Putin, describing his latest comments as “by no means the first attempt by the odious legislator to provoke a dangerous escalation in Russian-American relations…Does the senator seriously believe that a direct military clash with Russia is in the interests of voters who entrusted him with the care of their lives and well-being? Intentionally attacking a Russian aircraft in neutral airspace is not just a crime under international law, but also an open declaration of war against the largest nuclear power.
“An armed clash between Russia and the United States would be radically different from a proxy war that the Americans wage remotely against us in Ukraine,” Antonov warned. Is the Capitol ready to expose American citizens and the international community to the risk of all-out nuclear war? Answer, dear senator!”
Graham made the original comments Tuesday during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, where he was asked what an appropriate response would be following the downing of an unmanned U.S. drone over the Black Sea.
Russia and the United States have offered differing explanations for the Tuesday incident; the U.S. says its MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drone was intercepted by two Russian fighter jets, one which struck the drone’s propeller, forcing it down. Moscow has denied the accusations, blaming the drone’s “sharp maneuvering” for the crash. “The Russian fighters didn’t use their weapons, didn’t come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle, and they safely returned to their base,” a statement by Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
On Hannity, Graham said in response: “Well, we should hold them accountable and say that, ‘If you ever get near another U.S. asset flying in international waters, your airplane will be shot down,’” Graham said. “What would Ronald Reagan do right now? He would start shooting Russian planes down if they were threatening our assets.”
Antonov’s statements came shortly before Fox host Tucker Carlson mocked Graham for the comments, ripping into him for “anti-American stupidity.”
“What would Ronald Reagan do?” Tucker asked. “Ooh, good question, Senator Graham. Ronald Reagan’s two-term presidency was notable for the fact that he did not declare war on the Russian air force, and therefore the United States did not go to war with Russia. And millions of lives were saved as a result.”
“It’s pretty much the opposite of the approach being pushed right now by Lindsey Graham and his friends in the war party. Their plan is to ignore our borders in the United States, but to defend Ukraine.
Tucker said Reagan would “probably vomit” had he seen Graham’s comments.
Meanwhile, Russian ships are at the location where the U.S. drone crashed into the Black Sea, according to an ABC report. National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby told CNN This Morning on Wednesday however that the U.S. had “made it impossible for them [Russia] to be able to glean anything of intelligence value off the remnants of that drone, whatever remnants there might be on the surface of the water.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Wednesday that the U.S. and Russia’s relationship is now “at their lowest point, in a very lamentable state” adding “at the same time, Russia has never refused constructive dialogue, and is not refusing now.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Wednesday at a news briefing that the U.S. does “not seek armed conflict with Russia, and I believe that at this point, we should investigate this incident and move on from there.”
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