Sen. Lindsey Graham said Friday that his visit to Georgia, Ukraine and Poland, at Sen. John McCain's behest, persuaded him that the U.S. and its allies must take tough steps to prevent further Russian military aggression against its smaller neighbors.
Graham, an S.C. Republican, called on NATO to “stop war-gaming on tables in Brussels” and to begin military exercises in Europe to show its commitment to protecting member nations.
“I found a Russia on the move, a Russia that is trying to intimidate its neighbors who are Democratic in nature,” Graham said. “This (Georgia) conflict is not about a border dispute. It's about the desire by Russia to send a signal to its democratic neighbors that Russia is a dominant power.”
Poland is a NATO member, and the U.S. backs Georgia's effort to join the trans-Atlantic organization.
Graham was joined on the trip by Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent Democrat from Connecticut. The two men, McCain's closest Senate friends, met with the leaders of Ukraine and Georgia on Wednesday, then conferred with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Thursday.
Graham and Lieberman briefed McCain in a call from Warsaw. “I told (McCain) that there was unity in Georgia, Russia is doing a lot of damage, the Poles and Ukraine see this as a very big step in the wrong direction by Russia,” Graham said. “Basically, that your view, John, of Russia being up to no good is correct.”
Diplomats and analysts say there's little the West can do – short of going to war with Russia – to check its military muscle-flexing in the Caucasus.
Graham said the United States and its allies should accelerate Georgia's NATO'S bid, reconsider Russia's membership in the G-8 group of advanced industrialized nations and freeze Moscow's campaign to enter the World Trade Organization.