After a press conference in Helsinki between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that caused Republicans to question the president's commitment to America, a different Republican lawmaker has decided to get into Russian diplomacy. Sen. Rand Paul is going to Russia, according to an op-ed he published in Politico on Monday.
Paul praised Trump for keeping "the lines of communication to Moscow open" by attending the summit in Finland with Putin. Paul wrote that he wants his trip to help keep those dialogues with the country open:
In just a few weeks, I will take my own trip to Russia in an attempt to discuss common ground with their leaders and help prevent further, unnecessary escalation of tensions. We will discuss trade, cultural exchanges and how to better work for peace and prosperity in the world. I look forward to consulting with Trump between his visit and mine and to working with diplomats from both countries to have a successful trip and better relationships. Millions of lives could be at stake.
Paul said the last two years have created a "paralysis" and "hysteria" within U.S.-Russian relations. "One can be accused of 'collusion' merely for agreeing to a routine meeting with elected Russian officials who might be visiting Capitol Hill," Paul wrote.
The "hostile climate" won't achieve anything meaningful for either country, he wrote. "The hostile climate created by Russophobes has resulted in a vacuum in cultural, educational and even legislative exchanges, while elected officials from both Washington and Moscow are now on so-called ban lists," Paul wrote.
Trump and Putin had a two-hour-long, one-on-one meeting (save for some translators) on Monday to begin the summit. During the news conference afterward, Putin denied Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Politico. (Even though 12 Russian intelligence agents were indicted in the latest development in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.)
During the press conference, Trump said he would pursue peace with Russia despite any potential political risks. "I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics. As president, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people," Trump said at the conference.
In reply, Paul tweeted that he was "glad to hear" Trump's position on a Russian dialogue.
Russia and America have "overlapping interests," Paul wrote. Because of this, America must find a balance between historic allies and countries like Russia, he said. "We must find a way to keep our historic allies, while realizing that threatening Russia through NATO expansion is not the answer," Paul wrote.
This doesn't require making all decisions with Russia in mind, but instead, Paul argued, recognizing that American actions have the potential to impact Russia. "Of course, we don’t have to make decisions based on whether they will or will not make Russia mad. But we should at the very least recognize the impact of our actions before we take them," Paul wrote. "There seems to be a lack of thought and rush to action among some who criticize the president for meeting with Putin."
"Russia doesn’t need to be considered our friend," Paul added.
Paul wrote that diplomatic relations between the two countries are just as important now as they were during the Cuban Missile Crisis. "Throughout history, including during the height of the Cold War, both sides maintained constant dialogue and communications. Even during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we had diplomatic relations and constant communications," he wrote.
The date for Paul's trip to Russia has yet to be announced, but he wrote that he wants to consult with Trump upon his return before his own departure for Moscow. Trump departed Finland after the meeting, according to the White House pool report, and is expected to be at the White House on Tuesday.