Well, a U.S. Senator has now taken to directly explaining away — or at least trying to provide excuses for — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent invasion of Ukraine. The Senator is Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, who sought during a Senate hearing on Tuesday to attribute blame for Russian violence against Ukraine to interests other than Putin. Paul’s argument directly props up the Russian regime’s insistence that the conflict is something other than a brutally devastating war that Vladimir Putin chose to launch. As Paul put it: “While there’s no justification for Putin’s war on Ukraine, it does not follow that there’s no explanation for the invasion.” Subsequently, he began to speak of past U.S. support for Ukraine’s potential membership in NATO.
In reference to a recent re-establishment of the U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s potential NATO membership, Paul asked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “Why was it so important last fall, before this invasion, to continue agitating for Ukraine’s admission to NATO?” To that, the Secretary replied: “Not a question of agitating for Ukraine’s admission. It’s a question of standing up for the basic principle that we strongly adhere to that there should be and will be an open-door policy when it comes to NATO membership… This goes to the heart of the international system and the international order, and part of that is a basic principle that one country can’t dictate to another the choices it makes about with whom it allies, its foreign policies, its decision — or not — to try to engage with the European Union, with NATO.” Paul subsequently complained about the U.S. having — as he put it — pushed “for something that we knew our adversary absolutely hated,” referencing Ukraine’s potential NATO membership.
Congratulations to @EmmanuelMacron on his re-election. France is our oldest ally and a key partner in addressing global challenges. I look forward to our continued close cooperation — including on supporting Ukraine, defending democracy, and countering climate change.
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 24, 2022
So what would Paul suggest? Simply abandoning the principle that countries should be allowed to choose their own destinies? That would mean setting aside democratic principles in favor of authoritarian force. Paul spoke positively of the ramification of Ukraine’s lack of membership in NATO that U.S. troops haven’t joined the fight in the country against Russia — but there’s no guarantee that Russia would have still invaded Ukraine if it was a part of NATO. (The alliance comes with agreements among members to participate in the defense of other members in the event of an attack.) For Paul to imply that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was essentially inevitable — even with NATO membership — seems rather fundamentally inept. Blinken subsequently pointed out: “If you look at the countries that Russia has attacked over the last years: Georgia, leaving forces in Transnistria in Moldova, and then repeatedly Ukraine, these are countries that were not part of NATO. It has not attacked NATO countries, for probably a very good reason.”
Rand Paul to Blinken: "You could also have argued the countries [Russians] have attacked were part of Russia – part of the Soviet Union.
Blinken: "It's the fundamental right of these countries to decide their own future.. [and] that does not give Russia the right to attack them"
— Michael McAuliff (@mmcauliff) April 26, 2022
At that point, Paul cut in with even more explicit excuses for these violent confrontations, remarking: “You could also argue the countries they’ve attacked were part of Russia, were part of the Soviet Union rather.” Except… these countries, at the time of these attacks, were no longer part of the Soviet Union. Paul is pulling in decades-old historical details to provide apparent excuses for violence. Blinken replied: “I firmly disagree with that proposition. It is the fundamental right of these countries to decide their own future and their own destiny.” Paul repeated his original sentiment, to which Blinken retorted: “That does not give Russia the right to attack them.” Paul claimed that allegations otherwise weren’t being raised, although it doesn’t matter if he distinguishes between the lack of moral justification for the conflict and his claims about the supposed strategic rationale behind it — he’s still parroting propaganda. Watch it below: