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Marco Rubio, Neo-Nazis, and the Possible Consequences of Arming Ukraine

by Carl Wicklander, published

Over the weekend, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz accused U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of holding a fundraiser in a home with Nazi paraphernalia. While such items are in the home of real estate developer Harlan Crow, so are historical documents connected to Winston Churchill, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. However, the reference to Rubio and Nazis is actually part of a troubling, but little reported foreign policy position for the Republican senator and several other presidential candidates.

Ever since the protests in Ukraine toppled president Viktor Yanukovych in early 2014, there have been suggestions that neo-Nazi elements have been key in the triumph of the protesters. While Russia has frequently claimed Ukraine has a coup government run by neo-Nazis and anti-Semites, Kiev has insisted that there are no far-right participants.

In parliamentary elections, far-right parties

failed to win any representation. However, a lack of electoral success does not preclude the possibility of a far-right or neo-Nazi presence in the Ukrainian government's battles with Russia.

Last year, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko presented a medal to Belarussian nationalist Serhiy Korotkykh for his service fighting in Donetsk. Korotkykh was a founder of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Society, located in Russia.

The U.K. Telegraph reported that one of the toughest forces fighting for the government against separatists in eastern Ukraine is the Azov battalion, a group whose founder said their mission was to "lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival." The Guardian reported that at least some fighters in the battalion want to fight the Kiev government after the war in the east ends.

Earlier this year, Rubio supported NATO expansion to counter Russian aspirations. He said this enlargement could include "Ukraine if it so chooses." On his campaign website, Rubio says his plan to defend Ukraine includes "lethal military assistance, training, and increased intelligence sharing."

Although often touted for his foreign policy acumen, Rubio has demonstrated flawed judgment in whom he wants to support in foreign conflicts. Before he turned against intervention in Syria, Rubio was one of the vocal backers of American involvement in that country's civil war. He said in early 2013:

"I think one of the things we begin to explore is providing ammunition to rebels. . . . I do think that over the last few months a more responsible group of actors have emerged in contrast to some of the more radical elements that are on the ground in Syria."

Nearly from the beginning of the Syrian civil war, radical and terroristic elements have been fighting within the officially recognized opposition to the Assad regime. Over the weekend, the Pentagon admitted that U.S.-trained troops in Syria handed over equipment and gear to al-Qaeda.

There is absolutely no evidence that Marco Rubio and his colleagues wish to arm the Ukrainian military with the purpose of seeing neo-Nazis prevail. However, the DNC chairwoman's accusation indirectly brought up how -- regardless of the precise role such actors play in Ukraine -- they are likely to be elevated by such a policy. It would also mark at least the second time Rubio, who is running at around 10% in presidential polls, wanted to arbitrate another country's civil war that ended up empowering odious characters.

Photo Source: AP

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