WATCH: Sec. Antony Blinken and Sen. Rand Paul clash over support for Ukraine to join NATO

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine’s admission to NATO, after Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said that support, at least in part, led to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Watch the hearing in the player above.

In a heated exchange during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday, Paul accused the Biden administration of “beating the drums to admit Ukraine to NATO” even though it was a position Russia “absolutely hated and said was a red line.”

Blinken responded that the issue “goes to the heart of the international system and the international order.”

“And part of that is a basic principle that one country can’t dictate to another the choices it makes about with whom it allies, its foreign policies,” he said.

Blinken said the White House would be open to an eventual deal between Russia and Ukraine that results in Ukraine becoming “an unaligned, neutral nation.”

“We, Senator, are not going to be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians. These are decisions for them to make,” Blinken said to Paul.

“Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and indeed to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table,” he added.

Blinken said to date, the U.S. has seen “no sign” that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is serious about meaningful negotiations.”

“If he is and if the Ukrainians engage, we’ll support that,” Blinken added.

Blinken was appearing before the committee to urge lawmakers to fully fund the Biden administration’s proposed budget for the State Department, telling the panel the spending is critical to ensuring that the war in Ukraine is a “strategic failure” for Russia and a message to other countries that might invade their neighbors.

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