“After the meeting, we kind of huddled up and talked about what happened”, Lindsey Graham told Axios, commenting on the aftermath of his heated exchange with Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting at the White House earlier this month.
Graham challenged Erdogan after the Turkish autocrat showed a group of senators an anti-Kurd propaganda video during his controversial visit to Washington.
What Graham did next might surprise you. According to Axios, he objected to a Senate resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide. When a White House legislative affairs official informed Graham that Bob Menendez was likely to bring up the resolution, Lindsey said “sure” when asked if he would object. That’s according to his own account, offered to Axios. The House passed a similar resolution late last month.
“The only reason I did it is because [Erdogan] was still in town”, Graham said. “That would’ve been poor timing. I’m trying to salvage the relationship if possible”.
Right. Or maybe he did it because Trump told him to. After all, the president has gone out of his way to pacify the Turkish autocrat on everything from the Syria incursion to the previously unthinkable procurement of Russian-made missile systems.
Last week, Menendez and Ted Cruz brought the resolution up again, only to see David Perdue block it, ostensibly because “the passage of the resolution would jeopardize the sensitive negotiations going on in the region with Turkey and other allies”.
Menendez was incredulous. “It is amazing to me that the greatest superpower on the face of the earth can’t just speak [the] truth”, he remarked.
It is “amazing”, but at the same time, it’s not surprising. After all, the US is arguably on the path to becoming an autocracy, and when they aren’t at odds with each other, autocrats tend to support their counterparts in order to send a unified message about the futility of challenging those in power.
Of course, the fact that Graham would be willing to do this is remarkable given his history of abrasive public comments about Erdogan. That, in turn, raises still more questions about why it is that Lindsey, when push comes to shove, always does the bidding of the Oval Office. Don’t forget, Rudy Giuliani has deep ties to Turkey and ran a shadowy, backdoor diplomacy initiative with Ankara in 2017 very similar to that which he presided over this year and last with Ukraine.
It’s also worth remembering that Graham sings a somewhat different tune when he thinks nobody is listening, especially when it comes to court proceedings that Giuliani at one time worked on.
On Monday, Turkey is said to have begun testing the radar on the Russian-made S-400 missile systems which have been a point of contention between Washington and Ankara for the better part of a year.
Trump made it clear in remarks after a meeting with Erdogan at the Osaka G-20 that he wasn’t inclined to punish Turkey for acquiring the technology, and that emboldened Erdogan further. Turkey was expelled from the F-35 program, but even that seems negotiable. Earlier this month, during a staged press conference following the meetings in Washington, Trump talked up a new trade deal with Erdogan.
“Military aircraft will be used in the capital Ankara on Monday and Tuesday during the testing of the S-400 system’s radar-detection equipment”, Bloomberg reports, citing a Turkish defense official.
As far as what that actually means, TD’s head of EM, Cristian Maggio, was happy to elaborate. “It means they have turned on the thing”, he said.
This is what “appeasement” looks like, in case you were wondering.