The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to move forward with new sanctions on Russia for allegedly interfering in the 2016 election.
The vote was 97-2. The two “no” senators were Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.
Paul explained his opposition to these sanctions during an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday. “I’m really not in favor of new sanctions against Russia now or new sanctions on Iran,” Paul said.
“Everything we say Russia’s done wrong? So China does,” Paul added citing different examples of the latter country engaging in espionage in addition to China’s human rights abuses.
Paul said he didn’t see the point of “tweaking their nose,” referring to Russia and said improving U.S. security should be a priority.
“Everybody in the world who can spy, spies,” Paul added.
Besides financial penalties, the new sanctions would also target those involved in “malicious cyber activity,” those who give weapons to Assad’s government and operatives who work with Russian intelligence.
Sen. Lee has not made a statement on his opposition but is known as one of the few Republicans along with Paul willing to buck the majority and even his own party on foreign policy issues.
Lee and Paul were also two of only four Republicans to oppose the Saudi Arms deal on Tuesday.
Disclosure: I co-authored the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington with Sen. Rand Paul.