Writing in USA Today, former Rep. Ron Paul (TX) shows that he will continue to be a problem for his son. Paul expresses a view of the Crimean “referendum” that is childish and foolish.
Residents of Crimea voted over the weekend on whether they would remain an autonomous region of Ukraine or join the Russian Federation. In so doing, they joined a number of countries and regions — including recently Scotland, Catalonia and Venice — that are seeking to secede from what they view as unresponsive or oppressive governments.
These latter three are proceeding without much notice, while the overwhelming Crimea vote to secede from Ukraine has incensed U.S. and European Union officials, and has led NATO closer to conflict with Russia than since the height of the Cold War.
That’s his lead, and if readers knew nothing about Crimea but Paul’s presentation, they would likely come away thinking that NATO started the problems. Reality, of course, is that Russia unilaterally invaded Crimea with about 16,000 troops wearing unmarked uniforms. Paul’s lead aligns well with Putin’s anti-NATO point of view.
What’s the big deal? Opponents of the Crimea vote like to point to the illegality of the referendum. But self-determination is a centerpiece of international law. Article I of the United Nations Charter points out clearly that the purpose of the U.N. is to “develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”
What has happened in Crimea cannot be understood strictly as the peninsula expressing its self-determination. The “big deal” is that Russia, having lost its puppet president in Kiev, moved to take Crimea not to protect any ethnic Russians living there, but to ensure that it kept hold of its navy base at Sevastopol. Russia appears to be pursuing two aims in Ukraine, neither having anything to do with self-determination. The first objective was to keep the aforementioned port, Russia’s only warm-water navy base. The second is energy, and achieving that objective will require Russia to move into eastern Ukraine, probably sooner rather than later.
Paul should be asked directly, why doesn’t he see Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its massing troops on Ukraine’s border as a “big deal.” He should also be asked to explain why, in his view, ethnic Ukrainians might have a problem or two with Russian troops occupying Crimea and threatening the rest of their country. There’s quite a bit of history between Ukraine and Russia. Does Paul understand any of it?
Critics point to the Russian “occupation” of Crimea as evidence that no fair vote could have taken place. Where were these people when an election held in an Iraq occupied by U.S. troops was called a “triumph of democracy”?
Here Paul runs to his usual “But America is even worse!” trope. The Crimea and Iraq situations are vastly different. Russia seized Crimea to own it. The US really did liberate Iraq from a madman; the elections there were truly Iraqis’ first taste of real democracy. Russia wanted to annex Crimea and is in the process of doing that. The US wanted a free Iraq to become an ally. Unfortunately, the power of Islam may overwhelm Iraq’s nascent secular democracy. Time will tell. If Iraqis choose poorly, that will not be America’s fault.
The fact that Ron Paul cannot tell the difference between the situations in Crimea and Iraq shows that he just does not understand the world and lacks the ability to discern anything that doesn’t fall neatly into his blinkered worldview. Ron Paul is dangerously naive. If Rand Paul wants to become a viable presidential candidate, he’ll have to figure out how to keep Dad’s views from becoming a massive problem for him.