On Dec. 4, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a lengthy 8-page resolution, H.R. 758, that accuses the Russian Federation under President Putin of carrying out a policy of aggression against neighboring countries. The neighboring countries cited are Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova. Syria too is brought up.
H.R. 758 is close to a declaration of war with the Russian Federation through the instrumentality of Ukraine, if that state goes along with it. This resolution can easily be used by an American president to launch a new war commitment. It can be used as a basis for further Congressional actions that bring about American participation in a new war. H.R. 758 is very serious business, and it has been passed without public debate.
We can only hope that Ukraine does not go along with H.R. 758 or that it resists being extorted into its demands.
Against the State: An ... Best Price: $9.94 Buy New $9.95 (as of 11:00 EDT - Details) H.R. 758 confronts Russia. It makes Crimea into an important bone of contention.
To begin with, H.R. 758 aligns the U.S. with Ukraine. It “…strongly supports the efforts by President Poroshenko and the people of Ukraine to establish a lasting peace in their country that includes the full withdrawal of Russian forces from the territory of Ukraine, full control of Ukraine’s international borders, the disarming of separatist and paramilitary forces in eastern Ukraine…” What is the “territory of Ukraine”?
The U.S. considers that Crimea is part of the territory of Ukraine. Concerning Crimea, H.R. 758 speaks of “… the Russian Federation’s forcible occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea and its continuing support for separatist and paramilitary forces in eastern Ukraine…” It states that these violate pledges made in 1994 “…to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine, and to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine…” Elsewhere, it refers to “Russian invasion”, regarding it as a fact: “…given the Russian invasion of sovereign territory of the Republic of Ukraine in Crimea…” The resolution “…calls on the Russian Federation to reverse its illegal annexation of Crimea, to end its support of the separatist forces in Crimea…” Suicide Pact: The Radi... Best Price: $3.99 Buy New $3.50 (as of 07:15 EDT - Details)
In other words, the House calls for a peace in Ukraine in which Ukraine regains control over Crimea, Crimea leaves the Russian Federation, and Russian forces now in Crimea are reduced to levels consistent with “…its 1997 agreement on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet Stationing on the Territory of Ukraine…”
None of this is in any way likely. Ukraine could not accomplish it by force, and neither could the U.S. short of a major war with Russia. It is senseless for the House to be making demands that are so unrealistic. It is backing itself into a corner. It is bringing about an indefinitely long Cold War II marked by sanctions against Russia. This raises the odds of a hot war.
Progressivism: A Prime... Best Price: $9.50 Buy New $12.95 (as of 10:35 EDT - Details) On top of that, there is eastern Ukraine. The House also calls for Ukraine to regain control over that region. Ukraine has tried that once and failed. The House isn’t giving up.
To further these aims, H.R. 758 “…calls on the President to cooperate with United States allies
and partners in Europe and other countries around the world to impose visa bans, targeted asset freezes, sectoral sanctions, and other measures on the Russian Federation and its leadership…”
If a president were to do this vigorously, he might extort cooperation from unwilling countries by economic threats and/or pay them off with economic carrots extorted from the American taxpayers. Why should the entire world be drawn into such a mad battle? The American public has nothing to gain from it, and the world has nothing to gain from it.
H.R. 758 calls for another absolutely extraordinary measure that can trigger a war over Crimea: “…calls on the President to cooperate with United States allies and partners in Europe and other countries around the world to The Lone Gladio Best Price: $1.42 Buy New $8.49 (as of 07:00 EDT - Details) refuse to recognize any de jure or de facto sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea, its airspace, or its territorial waters…”
This says that the U.S. wants to fly over Crimea or enter its territorial waters without permission of Russia and/or Crimea, and it wants to lead an effort by other countries to do the same. It also says that no one should recognize Crimea’s ground borders. What will happen if such invasions occur and Russian aircraft or guns warn the vehicles, planes or ships away with the threat of firing upon them?
H.R. 758 strongly condemns Russia’s supposed aggressive actions and makes various calls for action on the part of the U.S. and other governments. It accuses. It condemns. It makes no argument. It presents no evidence. It does not enter a conversation with Russia. It demands. It has made up its mind already and calls for actions.
Such accusations, condemnations and calls are by no means diplomatic. At the end, the document has a fig leaf or two that sound somewhat diplomatic. They call for friendly relations, but only if Russia behaves as the U.S. wants it to behave.
Real Dissent: A Libert... Best Price: $14.13 Buy New $18.66 (as of 02:10 EDT - Details) H.R. 758 creates a Russian enemy and an international witch hunt, along McCarthyite lines. If global peace, advance, and prosperity are the aim, this approach is a profoundly misguided way to conduct international relations. It does nothing but increase insecurity. It spurns a multipolar world. It isolates and alienates a major country. It divides Russia from Europe. It encourages an arms race. It raises the possibility of a long period of instability.
H.R. 758 comes across as imperialistic, as an attempt to extend U.S. and European dominance up to Russia’s borders and into Russia itself. It is an attempt to deny Russia any sphere of influence, even where Russian populations are concentrated in neighboring lands, in favor of U.S. and NATO influence. It is an attempt to control Russia’s energy exports and shape energy markets according to U.S. desires.
These attempts are wrong and hypocritical, but in the bargain they are also bound to prove futile. Russia will circumvent every one of them. It will out-maneuver these attempts as it has already done in Ukraine and by inking energy deals with China and Turkey.
The content of H.R. 758 needs to be strongly questioned, because if and when it is followed up by further legislation, such as a Ukraine Freedom Act, the U.S. could become engaged in a new war. As it now stands, H.R. 758 Amazon.com $50 Gift Ca... Buy New $50.00 (as of 03:55 EDT - Details) already calls for extensive U.S. military engagement with Ukraine. This is most unwise. If the U.S. stands aside, the military failure of Kiev in Donbass is likely to result in some sort of accommodation or stalemate. But if the U.S. arms Ukraine with the idea of conquering lost territory and advises it in prosecuting such a war, then the U.S. will be responsible for killing and displacing many more people; and the U.S. will cause Russia to increase its military activity in Donbass, Crimea and the Black Sea. It will cause Russia more directly to confront the U.S. in this and other regions.
Does the American public have a stake in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Syria? Not really, at least no direct public stake or interest that demands the attention and resolve of the U.S. government. The first three were all within the USSR not too long ago. North America had no strategic vulnerability from any of them and still doesn’t. Who rules them, who dominates them, who influences them, their political problems and whose flag flies over their capitols is of no direct concern to the Americans as a public. As a people, we have severe problems of our own that are challenging enough. Americans as individuals may have stakes, interests and connections to these and other regions, but these are private, personal, religious, charitable, cultural, business or other such interests. They do not demand U.S. government actions such as are promoted in H.R. 758. They don’t demand political confrontations and demands of the U.S. government.
But what of general ideological or aspirational stakes? H.R. 758 mentions two: “…respect for the independence and sovereignty of all countries and their right to freely determine their future, including their relationship with other nations and international organizations, without interference, intimidation, or coercion by other countries…” and “…calls for the reestablishment of a close and cooperative relationship between the people of the United States and the Russian people based on the shared pursuit of democracy, human rights, and peace among all nations.”
The House has decided that Russia is thwarting democracy, human rights and peace in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Syria. It has decided that Russia isn’t respecting the independence and sovereignty of all countries and is interfering in them. The House neither engages in argument in support of its ideological aims nor does it approach Russia diplomatically over them. It shoots out stern reprovals of Russia, calls for intensifying sanctions, calls for isolation of Russia, calls for economic warfare, and calls for military engagements.
Is this right? Is it right for the House to invoke ideology in order to make Russia into an enemy? Is it the proper role of America’s national government to go on foreign crusades in order to enforce ideology? Is it government’s proper role to take America into foreign wars and conflicts based upon ideology? The House asks Americans to revert to ideological wars as seen in the High and Late Middle Age Crusades (1095-1291), noting that they too like today’s American wars had a number of causes.
It is not right because political ideology varies among nations. Terms such as sovereignty are defined in different ways. Democracy has different meanings to different nations. Human rights are not well-defined or agreed upon, as the debates on positive and negative rights show. Ideology is general and vague, but situations are specific. They involve races, ethnicities, religions, cultures, systems and histories. Conditions are not black and white. Furthermore, it is not right to use ideology to encourage military action that’s unnecessary, or that advances no concrete and just stake of Americans as a public, or that destroys other populations in the pursuit of American ideals. It is not right to use ideology to pursue unjust wars.
These objections to the House’s invocation of ideological aims take it as its word, but who can seriously believe that the U.S. believes in this ideology when its actions constantly belie it? Contradictions between U.S. ideology and its actions abound. Was it consistent with the independence and sovereignty of Iraq to have imposed killing sanctions for years and finally to have brutally attacked and dismembered that country? Where was U.S. ideology when it attacked Afghanistan, Serbia, and Libya? Where is it as it kills civilians in drone attacks in Pakistan and elsewhere? Where is the U.S. concern for sovereignty as it actively undermines Syria’s government? Where was U.S. ideology of democracy when it supported a coup d’etat in Ukraine? Where is it as it supports the current Egyptian government? Where was it when the U.S. invaded Mexico, fought against Southern independence, fought Philippine independence, absorbed Hawaii, supported dictators throughout the world, and interfered in the Caribbean and Central America? Where is the U.S. adherence to its ideology when it arms and supports Israel, which attacks Palestinians and neighboring countries with impunity? Where is the adherence to rights to be found in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, black sites, torture, indefinite detentions, domestic police impunity, and the drug war? No one who looks at America objectively can believe that the ideological stakes mentioned in H.R. 758 actually represent the reasons for this resolution’s recommendations. If these aspirations mattered to the U.S., it would not have supported Ukraine in its war against Donbass, it would not be concerned about Crimea’s political realignment, and it would not be concerned over any number of other breakaway movements in the world. Why would the U.S. be the champion of rights in countries far distant from its shores when its domestic record leaves so much to be desired? Is it any wonder that one naturally looks for imperial interests and/or the capture of U.S. government by special interest groups?
In order to create an enemy, H.R. 758 makes a list of issues that divide the U.S. and Russia. It then condemns or demonizes Russia for its positions. One example is Syria and another is missile testing.
H.R. 758 complains that Russia supplies arms to Syria. This is true. The U.S. condemns Russia for this because Syria is on the U.S. state sponsor of terrorism list. This criticism gains no traction because the U.S. has supplied training and arms to anti-Assad contingents, in the process bolstering jihadist forces such as ISIS that use terror tactics extensively. Furthermore, the anti-Russian stance of H.R. 758 relating to Syria is explained by the strong support of the U.S. for Israel and by the anti-Iran bias of the U.S., since Syria is allied with Iran and allows it to supply Hezbollah.
H.R. 758 says that “…the Russian Federation has protected the Assad regime and backed its brutal assault against the Syrian people…” and it “…calls on the Russian Federation to cease its support for the Assad regime in Syria…” These statements demonize Russia.
Russia has long-standing links to Syria, but it doesn’t have a policy of backing a brutal assault by Assad against Syrians. Actually, Russia has twice called for peace talks to be held in Moscow (January 2012 and November 2013). Russia got Assad to give up his chemical arsenal. The U.S. and Russia sponsored a joint peace initiative in May 2013. In Feb. 2014, the U.S. expressed willingness to join Russia in another Russian peace initiative.
Another item on the House’s laundry list accuses Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed by the USSR in 1987, by testing a new ground-launched intermediate-range missile. The U.S. State Department reported this in mid-2014, and although Russia has not conceded that this is true, it probably is. It is pertinent that the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002, citing the possible possession of missiles by terrorists. The ABM Treaty lasted 30 years. The INF Treaty has lasted 27 years. The Russian Federation faces changed conditions too. It is surrounded by a number of countries that possess intermediate-range missiles who did not sign the INF Treaty: China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Israel. Furthermore, NATO’s disposition of forces has changed and the U.S. decided in 2013 to deploy ABM systems in Europe.
So, what does this INF violation have to do with isolating Russia, applying sanctions and making Russia into an enemy? Really nothing. At some point, Russia may withdraw from the INF Treaty. This will not prove that Russia is on the march or intending to resurrect an empire.
To close this article, consider two “calls” that H.R. 758 makes regarding Ukraine: “…calls on the President to provide the Government of Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal defense articles, services, and training required to effectively defend its territory and sovereignty…” and “…calls on the President to provide the Government of Ukraine with appropriate intelligence and other relevant information in a timely manner to assist the Government of Ukraine to defend its territory and sovereignty…”
We’ve already seen that the U.S. regards Ukraine’s territory as encompassing Donbass and Crimea. Therefore, H.R. 758 directly instructs the President of the United States to supply Ukraine with any and all weapons and supporting services and training to regain these currently-lost regions. It also instructs the President to supply the services of its intelligence operatives and operations. This is a blank check for the U.S. to participate fully in a new war, this one in Ukraine.
We do not know if this president or his successor will take up this call. We do not know if Ukraine’s government will press the U.S. to make good on this call.
What we do know is that the House of Representatives has wound up the U.S. war machine like a mechanical toy ready to be released. The House has created a new enemy in Russia.