Rand Paul Says Biden Pushed Putin Into Attacking 'Soviet Union' Countries

Senator Rand Paul accused the Biden administration on Tuesday of pushing Russian President Vladimir Putin into attacking "Soviet Union" country Ukraine by advocating for its admission into NATO.

Ahead of Russia's invasion, President Joe Biden supported Ukraine being able to join NATO, formally the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, if they so choose to—a longstanding position among U.S. presidents.

During a senate hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, Paul, a Kentucky Republican, blasted Biden for "agitating" Putin through his support of allowing Ukraine to join NATO. Rand's argument opposing Ukraine's NATO admission has become more prominent among some in the GOP in the last few years as more Republicans embrace non-interventionist foreign policy.

Paul and Blinken clashed over the issue after Paul criticized the Biden administration for "advocating for something that our adversary absolutely hated and said was a red line."

"There is no justification for the invasion, I'm not saying that. But there are reasons for the invasion," said Paul, who has long advocated for a more isolationist foreign policy. "In fact, had Ukraine been in NATO, as you've advocated for, and many others have advocated for, we would now have troops in Ukraine."

Rand Paul blames Ukraine NATO for invasion
Senator Rand Paul pointed to the Biden administration’s support of Ukraine’s entry into NATO as a reason for Russia’s invasion during a senate hearing on Tuesday. Above, Paul speaks during a press conference in Washington D.C. in October 2017. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

During the tense exchange, Paul also pointed to Ukraine and Georgia — another country Russia invaded in 2008 — as previously being part of the Soviet Union as a "reason" for the invasion.

"You could also argue the countries they've attacked were part of Russia," he said. "Or part of the Soviet Union."

Blinken hit back that that "doesn't give Russia the right to attack them," pointing out that many ex-Soviet Union countries were "liberated from being part of this empire by force."

"It is the fundamental right of these countries to decide their own future and their own destiny," Blinken said.

Paul explained that he was "not saying it is not" their right to determine their sovereignty, but doubled down that Ukraine and Georgia "were part of the Soviet Union since the 1920s."

In a statement to Newsweek Tuesday afternoon, Paul's Communications Director Kelsey Cooper defended the remarks.

"While 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," the statement said.

Cooper said Paul has "expressed publicly many times before, he has a great deal of sympathy for Ukraine," pointing to remarks during his testimony where he said, "I'm proud of how well the Ukrainians have fought, I'm supportive of their cause."

Videos of the exchange amassed hundreds of thousands of views Tuesday afternoon on Twitter, where many condemned Paul's comments and some accused him of spewing Russian propaganda.

"Rand Paul is sowing the seeds for Putin apologism. You can see whose side he's on," wrote the Lincoln Project, an organization of Republicans who oppose former President Donald Trump and his influence on the party.

In addition to the Ukraine invasion that began in February, Russia also began an invasion of parts of Georgia in 2008, seizing two regions, Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), and recognizing them as independent republics.

Update 4/26/22, 6:20 p.m. ET: This story was updated with comment from Paul's office.