- By Paul McLearyPaul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. He joined the Washington office in 2015 after working for Defense News, where he was also on the Pentagon beat, and covered stories relating to Pentagon spending and the defense industry. While there, and in a previous incarnation as a New York-based reporter, Paul embedded with U.S. Army and Marine Corps units in Iraq and Afghanistan to cover ground combat operations, where he got inside a secretive drone program being run out of Bagram air base. He has also traveled with the U.S. Navy, covered NATO meetings in Europe with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and stalked major international arms shows in Paris and London.
Add this to the list of monikers people have used to describe John Kerry: “Not Delusional.”
The backhanded compliment came from the combined pen of Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who in a blistering statement on Wednesday sarcastically applauded Kerry for taking a hard stance with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov over the Russian bombing campaign in Syria.
“Finally, a real power move in American diplomacy,” the duo write. “Secretary of State John ‘Not Delusional’ Kerry has made the one threat the Russians feared most – the suspension of U.S.-Russia bilateral talks about Syria.”
The State Department released a statement earlier in the day reading out a phone call Kerry had with Lavrov, where Kerry told him that Washington holds Russia responsible for bombing hospitals and civilian infrastructure in Aleppo. The United States, he added, “is making preparations” to end ongoing talks with Moscow on a ceasefire and information sharing agreement in Syria.
Kerry and Lavrov struck a deal on a ceasefire last month after marathon negotiations, but it fell apart within a week after Syrian and Russian planes struck a U.N. aid convoy near Aleppo, and unleashed a ferocious air campaign on the city itself, killing hundreds of civilians.
The “delusional” crack came after Kerry pushed back earlier this week on comments from McCain that he was “intrepid but delusional” for negotiating with the Russians over Syria.
“So I mean, John McCain wants to talk about ‘delusional,’” Kerry said on Monday. “Where’s the congressional vote for force? Where’s the congressional vote to go do something? They weren’t even willing to help support a vote to get the chemical weapons out of Syria. We got that out by talking to the Russians and by actually taking action.”
McCain and Graham weren’t done after coining a new nickname, however. If the talks are are really off, they write, there will be “no more lakeside tête-à-têtes at five-star hotels in Geneva,” and “we can only imagine that having heard the news, Vladimir Putin has called off his bear hunt and is rushing back to the Kremlin to call off Russian airstrikes on hospitals, schools, and humanitarian aid convoys around Aleppo.”
And they saved what was perhaps their most biting turn of phrase for last: “After all, butchering the Syrian people to save the Assad regime is an important Russian goal. But not if it comes at the unthinkable price of dialogue with Secretary Kerry.”
Photo Credit: John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images