WASHINGTON, March 10 (UPI) -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., says if he were president he'd take a harder stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin for events in Ukraine.
"Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is a gross violation of that nation's sovereignty and an affront to the international community," Paul, mentioned as a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said in a commentary published by Time magazine Sunday. "His continuing occupation of Ukraine is completely unacceptable and Russia's president should be isolated for his actions."
The United States has the duty to condemn these actions "in no uncertain terms," Paul said, speaking of the presence of thousands of troops in Ukraine's autonomous, pro-Russia Crimea, which has scheduled a secession vote for Sunday.
"This does not and should not require military action. No one in the U.S. is calling for this. But it will require other actions and leadership, both of which President Obama unfortunately lacks," Paul said.
He recommended several "specific and decisive measures" to punish Putin, including economic sanctions and visa bans imposed and enforced without delay, which Obama has ordered.
Paul said he would urge European allies to leverage "their considerable weight with Russia and take the lead on imposing these penalties. I would do everything in my power to aggressively market and export America's vast natural gas resources to Europe."
"I would immediately remove every obstacle or current ban blocking the export of American oil and gas to Europe, and I would lift restrictions on new oil and gas development in order to ensure a steady energy supply at home and so we can supply Europe with oil if it is interrupted from Ukraine," Paul said.
Current U.S. energy laws and regulations "left Europe completely vulnerable because of its dependence on Russian oil and gas," he said, adding that he'd order the immediate construction of the Keystone Pipeline.
"It is important that Russia becomes economically isolated until all its forces are removed from Crimea and Putin pledges to act in accordance with the international standards of behavior that respect the rights of free people everywhere," he said.
U.S. loans and aid to Ukraine should be halted because they could be seen as having the counterproductive effect of rewarding Russia, he said.
"I would reinstitute the missile-defense shields President Obama abandoned in 2009 in Poland and the Czech Republic, only this time, I would make sure the Europeans pay for it," Paul wrote.
"I stand with the people of Ukraine against subjugation and support their efforts to restore freedom," he said. "The Ukrainian people must be free to determine the fate and future of their own nation without unwarranted military or political intimidation from Russia."
"The real problem is that Russia's president is not currently fearful or threatened in any way by America's President, despite his country's blatant aggression," Paul said. "But let me be clear: If I were President, I wouldn't let Vladimir Putin get away with it."