The former Republican congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul has launched a scathing attack on what he calls a US-backed coup in Ukraine, insisting the Crimean people have the right to align their territory with Moscow and characterizing sanctions against Russia as “an act of war”.
He also said providing economic aid to Ukraine was comparable to giving support to rebels in Syria knowing it would end up in the hands of al-Qaida.
The libertarian guru’s remarks in an interview with the Guardian are almost diametrically opposed to those of his son, the Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul, who has called for stiff penalties against Russia and declared: “If I were president, I wouldn’t let [Russian president] Vladimir Putin get away with it.”
Ron Paul, who retired from his Texas congressional seat in 2012, has always adopted a skeptical view of US foreign interventions. He said that although the US had not been involved in any military overthrow of the government in Kiev, it had facilitated a coup in the sense of “agitating” elements who wanted to usurp Ukraine’s former president, Victor Yanukovych.
“The evidence is pretty clear that the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] financed by our government have been agitating with billions of dollars, trying to get that government changed,” he said. “Our hands are not clean.”
There is broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for the movement that brought about the departure of Yanukovych, as well as criticism of Putin for Russia’s military intervention in Crimea, which many view as a prelude to annexing the territory.
A Russian-backed referendum, in which Crimeans will be asked if they want to align their government with Moscow, will take place on Sunday, although western leaders argue the poll has no legitimacy or legal basis.
Paul said Crimeans should be allowed to break away from Kiev.
“I think everyone should have right to express themselves,” he said. “It is messy, that is for sure, because two big governments are very much involved in trying to tell the Ukranians what to do.”