McCain had called for unanimous consent on a bill to help pave the way for NATO membership for Montenegro, which withstood a coup attempt last year that was blamed on Russia.
McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, warned his colleagues that anyone who objected would be “carrying out the desires and ambitions of Vladimir Putin, and I do not say that lightly.”
However, Paul objected and then quickly left the chamber.
“I note the senator from Kentucky leaving the floor without justification or any rationale for the action that he has just taken. That is really remarkable, that a senator blocking a treaty that is supported by an overwhelming number, perhaps 98 at least, of his colleagues would come to the floor and object and walk away. And walk away!
The only conclusion you can draw when he walks away is he has no argument to be made. He has no justification for his objection to having a small nation be part of NATO that is under assault from the Russians. So, I repeat again: The senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.”
Paul, who has called for a more non-interventionist foreign policy, later released a statement defending his objection.
“The United States is pledged to defend 28 countries in NATO. It is unwise to expand the monetary and military obligations of the United States given the burden of our $20 trillion debt,” he said, according to The Daily Beast.
McCain and Paul have not exactly had a friendly relationship, especially on foreign policy.
“John McCain is the guy that has advocated for war everywhere,” Paul said in an interview last month. “We’re very lucky John McCain is not in charge because I think we would be in perpetual war.”
In 2015, McCain called Paul ― then running for the GOP presidential nomination ― “the worst possible candidate” on national security issues, and in 2013 he called him and several other Republican senators “wacko birds” for what he considered extremist views.