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Budowsky: Rand Paul’s Putin problem

If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton runs against Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for president in November 2016, and Russian strongman-for-life Vladimir Putin remains in power, Clinton could win a victory approaching a 50-state landslide, including reluctant support from many conservatives and Republicans alarmed by Paul’s policies on national security.

As Republicans engage in presidential debates during the primary season and the party nominees square off in presidential debates in the fall of 2016, there will be an empty but crucial chair in the debates for Putin.

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Rand Paul has a Vladimir Putin problem, a national security problem, a presidential stature problem and a commander in chief problem. Paul began his short national career by staking out nonintervention positions so extreme that reasonable people might worry Paul as president would be the Neville Chamberlain appeaser of our time, guaranteeing a green light for aggression to bad guys such as Bashar Assad as he mass murders Syrians and Putin as he bullies and bludgeons Ukraine.

Apparently realizing that his earlier isolationist philosophy had poorly positioned him in a dangerous world, Paul has shape-shifted to a new opportunism of incoherence and vacillation.

One moment Paul says he might support a military attack against Iran. Then he implies he might accept a nuclear-armed Iran and follow a policy of containment. Then he says he won’t tell us what policy he prefers, comparing himself to Ronald Reagan.

First Paul charged that Dick Cheney championed the Iraq war to make money from Halliburton. Then he retreated. Maybe Cheney’s motive for the Iraq war was not money, he flipped, but then maybe it was, he flopped.

In his self-appointed national address answering President Obama about Syria, Paul claimed that Obama would ally with al Qaeda, which was a lie. He then opposed any effective U.S. response to Assad’s mass murder in Syria, for which Assad would be grateful.

Then Paul opposed American economic aid to Ukraine, claiming this aid would help Russia, when the aid was designed to help stabilize Ukraine against Russia.

During the 2016 GOP primaries, one or more Republican primary opponents will almost certainly suggest that Rand Paul is Vladimir Putin’s poodle.

So far the big losers in the Putin aggressions include freedom in Russia, which Putin is destroying, the integrity of international agreements, which Putin is attacking, the sovereignty of Ukraine, which Putin is undermining, the stability of global security, which Putin is destabilizing, and the presidential candidacy of Paul, who meanders between isolationism, opportunism, appeasement and incoherence citing Ronald Reagan as his guide.

Clarity is called for.

Putin was raised, trained, educated, indoctrinated and remains steeped in the Soviet KGB culture of large nations dominating small nations, expansionist powers seeking hegemony over neighbors, dictatorial rule that destroys political opposition at home, and the destruction of freedom of the press while wielding the weapons of deceit.

When Clinton compared Putin to Hitler, to the degree Putin uses lies to invent pretexts to justify attacks against nations, she was right. Nobody suggests NATO go to war against Russia, but the former secretary of State demonstrated in that comment a clarity about events and understanding of history.

What went wrong in the 1930s was that America and democratic Europe, exhausted by the Great Depression, were too tired to resist Hitler early in his fascist project when world war might have been deterred.

While Putin masses troops on the borders of Ukraine and arms the modern equivalent of Brownshirts to destabilize the area, we have reached the moment when America and Europe must prove their will to execute full sanctions against Russian oil, gas, minerals, arms sales and banking.

This would moderately hurt the Western economies in the short term. But it would cripple the Russian economy so severely that all the lies in the state-controlled Russian press could not hide the damage that Putin’s aggression would do to the people of Russia.

Rand Paul treats national security as though war and peace are the stuff of opinion polls, political posturing, shallow thinking and trite slogans. If Vladimir Putin continues his crimes it would be political suicide for Republicans to nominate Paul to run against Hillary Clinton. About this, even many Republicans agree.

 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.