Ron Paul Is Putin’s New Best Friend

The former congressman from Texas is making a better argument for shielding the Russian president from blame than Kremlin TV.

AMES, IA - AUGUST 13: Republican presidential candidate and Texas congressman Ron Paul speaks at the Iowa Straw Poll which is being held at Iowa State University August 13, 2011 in Ames, Iowa. Nine GOP presidential candidates are competing for votes in the straw poll, an important step for gaining momentum in the presidential race. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
July 21, 2014, 7:35 a.m.

It used to be that blam­ing Amer­ica for crisis abroad was largely the province of lib­er­als. That folk wis­dom ap­pears to be chan­ging — just ask Ron Paul. In the days after the down­ing of Malay­sia Air­lines Flight 17, the former House mem­ber has been quick to at­tack the West and Pres­id­ent Obama for point­ing any fin­gers in the dir­ec­tion of Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin.

“Just days after the tra­gic crash of a Malay­si­an Air­lines flight over east­ern Ukraine, West­ern politi­cians and me­dia joined to­geth­er to gain the max­im­um pro­pa­ganda value from the dis­aster. It had to be Rus­sia; it had to be Putin, they said,” Ron Paul wrote in an ed­it­or­i­al Sunday. “Pres­id­ent Obama held a press con­fer­ence to claim — even be­fore an in­vest­ig­a­tion — that it was pro-Rus­si­an rebels in the re­gion who were re­spons­ible. His am­bas­sad­or to the U.N., Sam­antha Power, did the same at the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil — just one day after the crash!”

Re­lated Story: In­side Rand Paul’s Jew­ish Charm Of­fens­ive

Paul’s ar­gu­ment, which he first made in a Fri­day tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ance, was quickly picked up by the Krem­lin-fun­ded Eng­lish lan­guage out­let Rus­sia Today. And on Monday, the Per­man­ent Mis­sion of Rus­sia to NATO, a group tasked with fa­cil­it­at­ing co­oper­a­tion between Rus­sia and NATO, tweeted out his column.

Ron Paul: West­ern politi­cians and me­dia joined to­geth­er to gain the max­im­um pro­pa­ganda value from the dis­aster ht­tp://t.co/DjGLkp­kbFE

— Rus­si­ans at NATO HQ (@na­to­mis­sion_ru) Ju­ly 21, 2014

It’s easy to see why they liked the piece. Polit­ic­ally, it’s a much sounder line of ar­gu­ment for pro­tect­ing Rus­sia from blame than what’s be­ing re­por­ted on Rus­si­an TV (much of which is fun­ded by the Krem­lin), where con­spir­acies the­or­ies abound. One re­port pro­motes the idea that the air­liner was already full of corpses when it took off from Am­s­ter­dam. An­oth­er claims the tragedy was some­how mys­ter­i­ously the res­ult of the Ukrain­i­an mil­it­ary con­fus­ing MH17 for Putin’s pres­id­en­tial plane.

“Watch­ing some of these Rus­si­an news­casts, one comes away with the im­pres­sion of a des­per­ate de­fense at­tor­ney scroun­ging for ex­perts and angles, or a bad kid caught red-handed by the prin­cip­al, try­ing to twist his way out of a situ­ation in which he has no chance,” Rus­sia ex­pert Ju­lia Ioffe wrote in The New Re­pub­lic.

Not that any of the out­land­ish cov­er­age is par­tic­u­larly use­ful to Putin. As Dav­id Rem­nick re­cently wrote, Putin has be­come something of a vic­tim of his own pro­pa­ganda ma­chine. The wild ex­ag­ger­a­tion on nightly broad­casts has “be­come a prob­lem for Putin, be­cause this sys­tem can­not be wholly man­aged,” Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Putin ad­viser, told Rem­nick of the Rus­si­an me­dia. “The news pro­grams have ‘over­heated’ pub­lic opin­ion and the col­lect­ive polit­ic­al ima­gin­a­tion.”

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Nev­er mind that Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry, in his blanket ap­pear­ances on the Sunday talk shows, was care­ful not to dir­ectly blame Putin for the dis­aster, not­ing that “culp­ab­il­ity is a ju­di­cial term.” Kerry did note an “enorm­ous amount of evid­ence” sug­gest­ing that Rus­sia provided the sep­ar­at­ists in east­ern Ukraine with the weapons used to shoot down the air­liner last week. He did, however, as­sign the Krem­lin some blame for fuel­ing con­flict in east­ern Ukraine and arm­ing sep­ar­at­ists with mil­it­ary equip­ment.

But that didn’t dis­suade Paul from at­tack­ing Amer­ic­an of­fi­cials for (sup­posedly) jump­ing to con­clu­sions. After out­lining everything that West­ern me­dia out­lets, in their “rush to re­peat gov­ern­ment pro­pa­ganda” have ig­nored, Paul pos­ited that “the real point is, it’s very dif­fi­cult to get ac­cur­ate in­form­a­tion.”

“Is it so hard to simply de­mand a real in­vest­ig­a­tion?” Paul asks. He also, in his Fri­day in­ter­view on News­Max, drew par­al­lels between the Rus­si­an-made mis­sile sys­tem’s al­leged con­nec­tion to Thursday’s at­tack and the cap­ture of US-made weapons by Is­lam­ist in­sur­gents in Ir­aq, ar­guing where the mis­siles were ori­gin­ally man­u­fac­tured is re­l­at­ively mean­ing­less.

“That may well be true, but guess what, IS­IS has a lot of Amer­ic­an weapons,” said Paul. “We sent weapons in­to Syr­ia to help the rebels and al-Qaida ends up get­ting it — it doesn’t mean that our Amer­ic­an gov­ern­ment and Obama de­lib­er­ately wanted IS­IS to get Amer­ic­an weapons.”

“So who gets the weapons is a big dif­fer­ence between how they got them and what happened and what the mo­tiv­a­tions were,” Paul ad­ded. “So even if it was a Rus­si­an weapon — that doesn’t mean a lot.”

Putin’s own talk­ing points have been more sub­dued. In an ad­dress pub­lished on­line overnight, the Rus­si­an pres­id­ent called for an in­ter­na­tion­al in­vest­ig­a­tion of the crash site, adding, “Rus­sia will do everything pos­sible to shift the cur­rent con­flict in the east of Ukraine from today’s cur­rent mil­it­ary stage to the state of dis­cus­sion at the ne­go­ti­ation table.”

With his cool, dis­pas­sion­ate rhet­or­ic, Paul seems to be just about the best voice for Putin’s in­terests any­where — and bet­ter, surely, than Krem­lin TV. (Paul is a more re­spec­ted source, in Amer­ica any­way, and his de­fense of Putin isn’t groun­ded in con­spir­acy the­or­ies.) Still, he may have to com­pete with Al­len West for the title of Putin’s new best friend.

This post has been up­dated.

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