Sen. Rand Paul invites Russian lawmakers to Washington

MOSCOW (AP) — A United States senator who met with Russian lawmakers in Moscow said he invited them to visit Washington and they accepted Monday.

Sen. Rand Paul said during a trip to Russia that American and Russian legislators need closer contact, noting that "our biggest problem right now is no dialogue."

The Kentucky Republican said after meeting with members of the foreign affairs committee for Russia's upper house of parliament that he invited them to come to the U.S. capital. Paul added that lawmakers from the two countries could also meet in a neutral third nation.

"Those who believe in either country that we should not have diplomacy are greatly mistaken," he said.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the Federation Council, the upper house, strongly backed Paul's effort to promote contacts.

"Each of these meetings is important for a better understanding of each other and for talking about the perspectives of how to escape the 'dead end' of the relationship," Kosachev said.

In a statement released by his office, Paul emphasized that "engagement is vital to our national security and peace around the world."

"I invited the Russian Federation to send a delegation to the Capitol, and they have agreed to take this important next step," he said.

Paul has nurtured a close relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump and defended Trump after the president's Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.

After meeting with upper house members, Paul also met Monday with members of the Russian parliament's lower house, the State Duma.