Rand Paul says US support for Ukraine in NATO played a role in Russia’s war

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In a controversial exchange of views at a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that US support for Ukraine’s accession to NATO contributed to Russia’s decision to invade. Blinken protested vehemently against Paul’s remarks, which were also criticized by Russia’s experts.

Paul, a libertarian-oriented lawmaker and longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy, said both Republican and Democratic administrations had “agitated” for Ukraine to join the security bloc – a result that Russian President Vladimir Putin has called a red line. .

“While there is no justification for Putin’s war against Ukraine, it does not follow that there is no explanation for the invasion,” Paul told Blinken during a hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “You can also argue that the countries it attacked were… part of the Soviet Union,” the senator said; Putin has long wanted an “sphere of influence” over former Soviet states.

Blinken, fresh from the meeting with Ukrainian leaders in Kiev earlier this week, noted that NATO maintains an open-door policy. He added that it was “quite clear” that Putin based his invasion on the belief that Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign nation, and that Kiev’s status as a former Soviet republic did not mean that it had given up the right to choose its own foreign country. politics.

The top US diplomat also said the Kremlin did not respond meaningfully to Washington’s attempts to quell Putin’s national security concerns before the invasion.

“We, senators, will not be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians,” Blinken said. “Our purpose is to ensure that they have in their hands the ability to repel Russian aggression and actually strengthen their hand at a possible negotiating table.”

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Retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, Director of European and Russian Affairs for the National Security Council under the Trump administration, criticized Paul’s remarks. “By that logic, Britain is entitled to attack the United States and the former possessions of the colonial powers. What century is he living in?” said Vindman.

Charles Booker, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Paul in November, accused his opponent of “pushing Putin’s propaganda in the Senate.”

It reflected an attack in 2017 by the late Senator John McCain, who had accused Paul of “working for Vladimir Putin”. Paul aroused the anger of the Arizona Republican as he tried to block Montenegro’s accession to NATO.

Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for Paul, said in a statement after the hearing that Paul sympathizes with Ukraine and has clarified his support for Kiev’s fighting.

Paul has previously messed with Blinken during the Foreign Affairs Committee’s meetings. Last year, he grilled Blinken about a drone attack during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that killed 10 civilians.

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