During my recent trip to Russia, I met with former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, who worked together with Ronald Reagan to lessen nuclear tensions and to restore ties with the west.
Gorbachev knows firsthand the critical necessity of engagement. Gorbachev emphasized that the United States and Russia still have unresolved issues in reducing nuclear arms that require dialogue.
I also met with Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Russian Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, and secured an agreement from him to send members of the Russian Federation to Washington, the first trip from the Russian Federation to the U.S. Capitol in almost three years.
These are certainly positive developments, building upon President Donald Trump’s foreign policy strategy of open dialogue, yet there are still loud partisan voices opposing any dialogue and seeking to diplomatically isolate America.
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Even before my trip, the hawks from both sides of the aisle were out in full force. The fact that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance, all because of their hatred for the president, is absolutely ridiculous.
Perhaps it’s coincidental that a left-wing group tried to depict me as reckless with campaign funds just days after my spirited defense of the president. Perhaps the false attack was intentionally timed to try to punish me.
I take great pride in being fiscally conservative with any funds entrusted to me. Since my election to the U.S. Senate, I have returned to the Treasury over $3 million dollars that I’ve saved from my Senate office budget. I am also the only U.S. senator who has never taken an overseas junket at taxpayer expense.
I watch every penny entrusted to me, whether it be taxpayer or campaign dollars. I promised the voters that I would work to cut deficit spending and I have. This year the total dollars that I have returned to the Treasury will exceed $4 million.
My Russia trip was sponsored by a non-profit group. No campaign or government funds were used. None of my overseas trips have spent campaign money. Trips that were fund-raising in nature, did exactly that —raised money. Any money spent overseas was spent to raise money. Last year’s trip netted over $70,000 for my committee.
The fake news media, however, reported that I went to Europe and spent $11,000 of my campaign donors’ contributions there. Instead of noting that my campaign came home with more money than we left with, the group dishonestly reported only the expenditures for the group while ignoring the contributions gained.
It’s like attacking a charity by accusing the charity of spending $11,000 on meals — only to find out later that the event raised $70,000 from the people at the meals. All fund-raising happens this way.
These types of stories are unsurprising, though. Because when it comes to Trump and Russia, playing politics and taking down his supporters is far easier than admitting that the open dialogue the president is pursuing is a good thing.
While everyone has been so hell-bent on making anything Russia-related about their hatred of the president, they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture, especially on protecting the integrity of our elections.
Nobody is excusing Russia's meddling in our elections. I made that loud and clear in my official meetings in Russia. But we cannot and should not allow our differences to prevent open dialogue.
We can work to protect the integrity of our elections while also engaging with our adversaries to find common ground and help prevent further, unnecessary escalation of tensions. The future of our country depends on it.
Related: Herald-Leader editorial, “Rand Paul talks like this Trump-Russia thing is normal. It’s not.”