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Cotton to stress ‘Putin must pay’ in major GOP address at Reagan Library

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas will argue in high profile speech on Monday night that the Republican Party must make Russian leader Vladimir Putin pay for his deadly invasion of neighboring Ukraine if President Biden doesn’t forcefully penalize Putin.

And Cotton, a potential 2024 GOP White House hopeful, will also argue that former GOP Presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump are share key common roots and that those who charge that the Republican Party must choose between one or the other are mistaken.


The senator and former Army infantry officer who served in combat in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will make his comments as he speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, according to excerpts reported first by the Wall Street Journal and also shared with Fox News in advance of Cotton’s speech.

“Vladimir Putin must pay for this unprovoked, naked war of aggression,” Cotton will emphasize. “If Joe Biden won’t make him pay, the Republican Party must.”

And the senator, who’s a hawk on foreign policy and national security, predicted that “when Republicans reclaim power, we will send the world—and particularly our enemies—a message. The word will go out that America truly is back.”


Cotton, like many Republicans, blames the president’s actions, including the controversial American exit from Afghanistan last summer, for emboldening Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to female flight attendants in comments broadcast on state television on Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Image: Reuters Video)

“Joe Biden had signaled weakness, conciliation, and appeasement to Putin from the very beginning,” Cotton charges. “The wages of Joe Biden’s weakness are Russian tanks rolling through Eastern Europe.”

And the senator adds his voice to the GOP chorus critical of the president’s domestic energy policy amid soaring inflation, claiming “Biden has done nothing to unleash American energy to offset Russian oil and reduce pain at the pump.”


Cotton becomes the latest of a handful of possible 2024 Republican presidential contenders to address the Reagan Library’s “Time for Choosing” speaking series, which focuses on the critical questions concerning the future direction of the GOP. Former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State, CIA director, and former Rep. Mike Pompeo, former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley are among those who’ve given addresses, with Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina speaking next month.

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas sits down for an interview with Fox News at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, in Goffstown, N.H. on Dec. 3, 2021

When it comes to Reagan and Trump, Cotton will argue that even though the governing styles of the two GOP leaders were dramatically different, they shared common traits.

“For all their differences in temperament and style, there’s a deeper continuity in the beliefs of our 40th and 45th presidents,” Cotton will say. 

And pointing to the populism of nineteenth century President Andrew Jackson, Cotton will emphasize that “both presidents belong to a political tradition that might properly be called Jacksonian. This tradition is concerned first and foremost with protecting normal Americans and advancing their interests.”

And Cotton will take aim at those who suggest the GOP must choose a path forward that embraces either Reagan or Trump, saying “some can’t imagine how the same party sent both Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump to the White House. They contend that our party must somehow “choose” between the legacies of these two men. 

I disagree.”

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