Donald Trump is not the only American politician to be striving for a better relationship with Moscow in defiance of multiple opponents who are raising a ruckus about his stance on Russia. The hysterical reaction to the US president’s summit with the Russian leader in Helsinki did not keep Republican Senator Rand Paul from doing what he believes is right — going to Moscow as the head of a US delegation, which also included Texas State Senator Don Huffines and the president of the Cato Institute, Peter Goettler, in order to spur contacts with Russian lawmakers.
During the talks in Moscow on Aug.6, he invited Russian senators to visit Washington.“Today, I met with Chairman Kosachev, and we agreed on the importance of continued dialogue. I invited the Russian Federation to send a delegation to the Capitol, and they have agreed to take this important next step,” Mr. Paul stated. It’ll be the first Russian parliamentary delegation to have traveled to Washington in nearly three years. The senator thinks "our biggest problem right now is no dialogue," emphasizing that"engagement is vital to our national security and peace around the world."
Last year, Rand Paul, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, was one of two senators who voted against the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which included massive sanctions against Russia. Prior to that, he had voted against Montenegro’s NATO membership, which was also opposed by Moscow. According to Sen. Paul, “Currently, the United States has troops in dozens of countries and is actively fighting in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen (with the occasional drone strike in Pakistan). In addition, the United States is pledged to defend twenty-eight countries in NATO. It is unwise to expand the monetary and military obligations of the United States given the burden of our $20 trillion debt.”
Unlike the majority of US lawmakers, he viewed the results of the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki in a positive light. The event prompted him to make the decision to visit Moscow and thus make a contribution to the process of gradually turning the tide in the direction of the bilateral relationship. His intention was to find and discuss common ground with Russian leaders and help “prevent further, unnecessary escalation of tensions.” He claims that “millions of lives could be at stake.” The senator wants to improve “the hostile climate created by Russophobes,” which “has resulted in a vacuum in cultural, educational and even legislative exchanges.”
Rand Paul has represented the state of Kentucky in the Senate since 2011. The senator is the son of former Republican Representative Ron Paul of Texas, a famous politician who sought the presidency three times, once running on the Libertarian Party ticket and twice as a candidate in the GOP primaries. He attracted attention for his criticism of the Federal Reserve System, the influence of bankers on political life, America’s aggressive foreign policy, and NATO, as well as the bloated state of government and the “Washington swamp.” Ron Paul has always enjoyed strong support among the ranks of the Republicans.
Rand Paul belongs to those few in Congress who do not applaud the plans for NATO expansion, including into Montenegro. In support of his opposition to the idea, he has cited George Kennan, who wrote that NATO expansion would be a “fateful error” that would “inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion” and “restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations.” The senator wants the US-led NATO operation in Afghanistan to come to an end. As he put it, “I continue to encourage President Trump that he would be a hero if he could end the Afghan war.” In general, Rand Paul believes the time has come for a new American foreign policy.
Affiliated with the Tea Party and supported by the Republican Liberty Caucus, Rand Paul was also a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Back then, he said that if elected, his first foreign trip would be to Moscow or Beijing. Like his father, the senator is well-known for being an independent thinker and square shooter. He is one of those who marches to the beat of his own drum and was under no one’s influence as he was coming around to the point of view that the relations with Russia should be normalized. He believes US intelligence services have far too big a role in American politics. Rand Paul defends President Trump, criticizing the very idea of the “Russia investigation,” which he calls a “witch-hunt”.
As President Trump did in Helsinki, during his visit to Moscow Sen. Rand mentioned the need to address the problem of the erosion of arms control. Two of the men who vied for the Republican nomination in 2016 — Donald Trump and Rand Paul — support the idea of reversing the dangerous trends in the US-Russian bilateral relationship. In Moscow, Senator Paul promised to obstruct those in the Senate who want to toughen and expand the sanctions against Russia.
In July, a group of US senators visited Moscow before the Trump-Putin summit. Despite the tensions, the lawmakers of both countries are engaged in a dialog. President Trump is in a strong position and feels rather confident as the run-up to the November midterms begins. The more criticism he receives, the stronger he gets. Rand Paul is well aware he’ll come under attack upon returning home from his Russia trip, but he likely did what he did because he believes it’ll pay off.
Things change, and those who are under fire today may end up the winners tomorrow. Senator Paul stands out for his individual views on a number of issues, including Russia. So did presidential candidate Donald Trump. Few predicted he’d become president, but he won the election. Mr. Trump was lambasted for a lot of things and polling poorly at the beginning of his term, but that has all changed now. The GOP is predicted to do well during the midterm elections and those who support the president are expected to come out as winners. Although seemingly going against the tide today, Rand Paul may be getting off to a good start to launch a successful run for the presidency in 2024.
Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.