Kenneth Casey | United States
Last Thursday, Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders introduced a resolution in the Senate that would according to him “accept the assessment of the United States intelligence community with regard to interference by the Russian Federation in our election”, “protect the election systems of the United States from interference by the Russian Federation”, “demand that the Sanctions enacted against the Russian Federation be fully implemented”, “will not accept interference with the ongoing investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller”, and “declares that the president must cooperate with the investigation”.
Rand Paul declared enthusiastic opposition to the resolution on the Senate floor, declaring “The hatred for the president is so intense, that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance”, citing President Reagan sitting down with Gorbachev to lessen nuclear tensions as a prime example. He made it clear he was not defending Russia’s involvement in our elections, but he would “rather that we still have open channels of discussion with the Russians”. Rand is echoing the position his father Ron Paul shares on sanctions and has been vocal on for many years: Sanctions are an act of war, and diplomacy is always much preferred.
You would think that Bernie being the anti-war progressive that he is would take a position similar to Rand’s, to prevent war at all cost with Russia and oppose the sanctions. Instead, he naively stated that his resolution had nothing to do with curtailing relations with Russia, which is factually incorrect considering his resolution calls for enforcement of sanctions against Russia, and sanctions are enacted in order to express displeasure with a country.
Bernie Sanders’s resolution and statements regarding Russia received criticism from well-known, highly-regarded progressive commentator Kyle Kulinski on Tuesday. Kyle, who is the host of Secular Talk on YouTube, an affiliate of the far-left online news organization The Young Turks, made a video on his YouTube channel regarding Paul’s and Sanders’ back and forth on the resolution, asserting “hope you’re sitting for this one, Rand Paul is right and Bernie is wrong.”, and goes on to point out the hypocrisy that Bernie openly admits the resolution increases sanctions, and “acts like that’s not an escalation of tensions”. He goes on to say Rand’s statement that this round of sanctions is “hyperbolic”, but that it’s “definitely the direction that it’s going in”, and criticizes the denseness in Bernie’s statement “Who’s against Diplomacy? Nobody is.” which was a response the Senator gave to Rand Paul when he pointed out the bill damages diplomacy. “Really Bernie? Really? You’re acting like there aren’t people who are against diplomacy when every time Trump sits down with Putin there are screams of he’s doing treason and he’s a traitor?”
Kyle is by no means a libertarian. He endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election, supports Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, protectionism in trade, and even helped with the founding of a group that was key to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory in New York. However, he’s been one of the few progressives to point out that Bernie is wrong on the issue of sanctions on Russia and it’s incompatible with the anti-war position held by progressives. He even went at it with The Young Turks founder and host Cenk Uygur on Twitter, stating Cenk was “prodding Trump to be more hawkish on Russia” after Cenk had complained that Trump noticeably used harsh language on Iran but not Russia.
Kyle has been one of the few commentators from the left that has not become convinced that Trump concluded with the Russians in the 2016 election, and thinks that Democrats should focus on actual issues rather than a talking point with zero policy substance. Although I disagree with Kyle on a lot of issues, I admire the fact he’s consistent with his principles and views on policy when so little few others do as such.
There’s no doubt that the “issue” of Russia interference in our election has been one of biggest talking points in the American political landscape ever since President Trump was elected in November of 2016. The dialogue regarding the issue arguably reached its apex in the aftermath of the 2018 Russia–United States summit in which President Trump met with President Putin of Russia, which occurred on July 16th.
Establishment Republicans and neoconservatives shared pretty much the same view as corporatist Democrats regarding Russia. They all want tougher action and less effort towards diplomacy. John McCain called it “One of the most disgraceful performances by an American President in my memory”. You can also take a recent bill introduced by neoconservative Lindsey Graham and corporatist Democrat Bob Menendez on the Senate floor as an example. The proposed bill would slap new sanctions onto Russia, targeting their “debt and energy and financial sectors”. Some notable senators to come out in favor of the bill include Republicans Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, and Democrat Chris Van Hollen.
This proposed bill would add onto the U.S. sanctions on Russia that overwhelmingly passed Congress in July of 2017 and was ultimately signed into law by President Trump (although he did send out a tweet in opposition to the sanctions in 2017, but even if he were to veto it, Congress had enough votes in favor to override the president’s veto). The bill only received five Nay votes in the Senate and House combined: 4 from libertarian-leaning Republicans Senator Rand Paul and Representatives Justin Amash, Thomas Massie and John Duncan; and one from an Independent Senator: Bernie Sanders.
Yes, the same Bernie Sanders that introduced a resolution in the Senate that would enforce the previously “overwhelmingly passed sanctions against Russia” was one of 5 Congressmen to vote against the sanctions in the first place. Welcome to Washington, folks.
In Bernie’s defense, he did say at the time of his vote against the sanctions he would support individual sanctions against Russia, but the thing that doesn’t make sense to me is that his reasoning for opposing the sanctions was it included additional sanctions against Iran and North Korea, and he thought that America should play a more “even-handed-approach” in the Middle East and be less reactionary in our policy towards Iran. Why doesn’t he apply the same logic towards Russian sanctions? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
With so little non-interventionist and anti-sanction advocates in Congress, it’s really good to see Rand Paul step up and be a leader on the issues.
To support 71 Republic, please donate to our Patreon, which you can find here.