On Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Russia’s potential rationale for invading Ukraine.
During the exchange, Blinken “firmly disagree[d]” with the “proposition” that Russia’s invasions of other countries were justified if they were part of the former Soviet Union, with Paul asking whether the U.S. “agitating” for Ukraine to join NATO in 2021 played a role.
Paul was quickly criticized by those who interpreted his argument as a justification for the invasion of Ukraine.
His communications director, Kelsey Cooper, further explained Paul’s position to The Daily Wire, saying, “[w]hile there is no justification for Putin’s war on Ukraine, there is an explanation for the invasion, which was the point Dr. Paul was making.”
“Any other interpretation of the exchange is a blatant attempt to misinform,” Cooper claimed. “As Dr. Paul has expressed publicly many times before, he has a great deal of sympathy for Ukraine, and clearly stated his support for them in his exchange today, saying: ‘I’m proud of how well the Ukrainians have fought, I’m supportive of their cause.’”
In a short clip taken from the exchange that was widely circulated on social media, Paul stated, “you could also argue that the countries [Russia has] attacked were part of Russia,” before correcting himself to say “part of the Soviet Union.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): “The countries that have been attacked, Georgia and Ukraine, were part of the Soviet Union … since the 1920s.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “That does not give Russia the right to attack them.” pic.twitter.com/jnlRP6wAsN
— The Recount (@therecount) April 26, 2022
“I firmly disagree with that proposition,” Secretary Blinken replied. “It is the fundamental right of these countries to decide their own future and their own destiny.”
“But I’m saying that the countries that have been attacked, Georgia and Ukraine, were part of the Soviet Union … since the 1920s,” Paul responded, to which Secretary Blinken said, “but that does not give Russia the right to attack them.”
“No one’s saying it does,” Paul interjected.
While the complete exchange lasted almost seven minutes, the 39-second clip was quickly condemned by critics online. Charles Booker, a Democrat running against Paul, accused the incumbent senator of being a “puppet, essentially, for Vladimir Putin,” and “trying to protect an invasion that has destroyed maternity wards.”
Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) implied that Paul was arguing that Russia has a right to former members of the Soviet Union.
On social media, a 2017 clip of the late Senator John McCain was also shared, during which he accused Paul, his then-colleague, of “working for Vladimir Putin,” following Paul’s objection to a resolution that would permit Montenegro to join Nato.
McCain said that the “gentleman from Kentucky” and others who may object would be “carrying out the desires and ambitions of Vladimir Putin.”