Ron Paul: Crimea has the right to join Russia, and U.S. sanctions would be "criminal"

I missed this on Friday but, having now read it, Rand’s surprisingly hawkish take on Russia in Time this morning makes more sense. If his Breitbart op-ed was aimed at Cruz, I think I can guess who the Time one was aimed at.

By the way, any bets on how a secession referendum held in a small province under military occupation by a superpower next door might go? Ron Paul’s been conspicuously sensitive to the perils of occupation in the past, but not so much here.

“I’d like to see the people [in Crimea] make the decision rather than outside parties,” [Ron] Paul tells U.S. News. “It’s pure hypocrisy on our part to think we have the moral high ground. The only question that remains is: Will there be an honest election? And I don’t see any reason there can’t be an honest election.”…

“We say, ‘We want you to be good democrats and have elections,’ but if they don’t elect the right people then we complain about it and throw them out, like we did in Egypt,” Paul says. “They’re doing exactly what they should do [in Crimea]. They should have an election.”…

Obama’s sanctions against Ukrainian and Russian officials, Paul alleges, are acts of theft.

“That’s just people looking to start a war,” Paul says. “This is criminal, it’s stealing and will just aggravate things and escalate things. Sanctions are acts of war … to freeze assets if you’re at war with Hitler and there’s a declared war, that’s a little different, but to do this so easily and casually as we do, that’s just looking for a fight.”

Paul does support having nongovernmental election monitors supervise the Crimea vote — as long as they’re not Americans, since “we would send CIA agents over there.”

I take it Team Rand wouldn’t agree that freezing the assets of billionaire Russian kleptocrats is an impermissible act of “theft.” And I know for a fact that they wouldn’t agree that sanctions in this case are “criminal.” From the Time op-ed:

Economic sanctions and visa bans should be imposed and enforced without delay. I would urge our European allies to leverage their considerable weight with Russia and take the lead on imposing these penalties. I would do everything in my power to aggressively market and export America’s vast natural gas resources to Europe…

It is important that Russia becomes economically isolated until all its forces are removed from Crimea and Putin pledges to act in accordance with the international standards of behavior that respect the rights of free people everywhere…

I would reinstitute the missile-defense shields President Obama abandoned in 2009 in Poland and the Czech Republic, only this time, I would make sure the Europeans pay for it.

All of which raises the question: Is it better or worse for Rand to have Ron on TV giving the Paul 1.0 take on foreign policy? Arguably, the more attention Ron’s comments get, the more opportunities Rand has to show people that he’s more mainstream on this subject than his old man is. He’s running against the GOP establishment on one hand and against his father on the other, so theoretically the more Ron sounds off, the more Rand gets to attack (however obliquely). If, though, you’re like DrewM in suspecting that someone born and raised in libertarian politics, who twice endorsed his father for president and whose lurch towards the mainstream coincides with making noise about running for president himself, might indeed be a Paul at heart on foreign policy then maybe Ron speaking up isn’t a good idea. This is one of the great X factors in the next election: How much can hawks make Ron’s words stick to Rand? Given that most voters follow politics only casually, maybe they’ll dismiss “Ron = Rand” messaging as a bizarre attempt to make one candidate answer for the positions of another. Or, maybe Ron made enough of an impression on mainstream Republican voters over the last two cycles that there’s no avoiding this problem for Team Rand now. I honestly don’t know. I don’t even feel confident guessing whether Rand might ask Ron to lie low in the media if he concludes that doing so would help his presidential odds. Would Ron even agree to do that?

Anyway. It’ll be fun watching libertarians struggle with a perennial problem for members of the two major parties, namely, how far their guy should stray from core beliefs in the name of electability. Usually that doesn’t come up until the general election; for Rand it’ll be an issue in the primary. Presumably half the movement is cursing Rand today for taking a position on Russia that conflicts sharply with dad’s and half the movement is applauding him for a canny move that improves his shot at the nomination. I wonder how many of that latter group agree with Drew’s take, that President Rand would be more like President Ron than anyone expects.