Georgia’s president calls Rand Paul ‘Russian line’ on NATO, Ukraine ‘quite laughable’
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili on Thursday called statements from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) criticizing NATO’s expansion as provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin “laughable” and said the senator was repeating Russian propaganda.
“That’s the usual Russian line,” Zourabichvili said in an interview with The Hill on Capitol Hill, where she is meeting with lawmakers.
“Anything that touches to reinforce the security of its neighbors, it’s something that is a provocation and a threat for Russia, and it’s quite laughable.”
Paul, in a hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, sought to criticize U.S. support for Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO as crossing a red line set by Putin — a notion rejected by Blinken, who said it undermines sovereign nations’ right to decide their own foreign policy.
Paul, while specifying he was not justifying Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, noted the invasion of Ukraine was part of a pattern of Russia attacking former Soviet states, adding that Russia’s invasion and occupation of territory in Moldova and Georgia were also because “they were part of the Soviet Union since the 1920s.”
Blinken rejected Paul’s proposition, saying “it is the fundamental right of these countries to decide their own future and their own destiny.”
Zourabichvili said she has not reached out to Paul for a meeting but invited the Kentucky senator to visit Georgia “and see what we have to say.”
Zourabichvili is in Washington meeting with lawmakers in an effort to get the U.S. to show more political support for Georgia in the midst of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and occupies two of its territories on the northern border.
A meeting with Vice President Harris was canceled because the vice president tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Zourabichvili met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday and was also meeting with senators, including Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who visited Tbilisi last week.
Zourabichvili raised warnings that Russia is capable of fostering destabilization in Georgia and Moldova while it is fighting in Ukraine and called for Washington and European allies to be more vocal with their support for the Eastern European nations.
“It’s very important that our partners at this time pay attention to what’s happening in both countries, despite the fact that of course, the priority … that the support to Ukraine should continue and be reinforced,” she said.
Zourabichvili highlighted a proposal for a referendum, from the separatist leader in the Russian-backed and occupied Georgian territory of South Ossetia, as a threat that Russia will seek to annex the territory, like it did following a staged referendum in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
She further pointed to recent explosions in neighboring Moldova’s separatist Transnistria region, which is backed by Russia, as important for the U.S. and Europe to show support for Moldova.
“We are the two countries that are closest to Russia with occupied territories … and where Russia can play … games,” she said.
“There should be attention to these two other points where there could be attempts by Russia … to create a sense of destabilization.”
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