Looking to retaliate against the Russian Federation for alleged meddling in the 2016 election, the House of Representatives drew closer to passing legislation to impose new economic sanctions. Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time at the G20 summit in Hamburg, German July 7, 71-year-old President Donald Trump questioned Putin on Russian interference but moved on to pressing global topics, including the war in Syria, and, most importantly, how to manage North Korea’s Kim Jong-un’s growing nuclear and ballistic missile arsenal. Putin’s Foreign Minister, the globetrotting Sergei Lavrov, warned the U.S. that Russia was growing impatient with U.S. sanctions, especially seizing Russian properties Dec. 30, 2016, when former President Barack Obama evicted 35 Russian diplomats. Passing new sanctions pours gasoline on the fire.
U.S.-Russian relations hit rock bottom when Obama seized Russian properties and expelled 35 Russian diplomats last December. Putin held off on reciprocal punishment when Trump came to office Jan. 20, 2017. With Congress fashioning new sanctions, there’s the growing possibility that Russia’s patience will give out. “I think as soon as tomorrow, the House [of Representatives] could pass it out,” said Sen. Bob Corkers (R-Tn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. House members hell-bent on retaliation don’t understand the concept of linkage, where it’s good to keep your friends close and enemies closer. More sanctions would undermine any attempt by Trump to reset the worst U.S.-Russian relations since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Members of Congress talk tough about Russia but don’t see how poor U.S.-Russian relations harms U.S. national security.
Trump needs all the help he can get dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea. With China offering little help to rein in North Korean President Kim Jong-un’s nuclear and long-range ballistic missile programs, Putin becomes even more important than before. Slapping Moscow with more sanctions makes improving U.S.-Russian diplomacy next to impossible. House Republicans want to block oil companies form doing business with Moscow, something bound to antagonize Putin. House and Senate Democrats and Republicans want Trump to apply more punitive sanctions on Russia, something bound to cause retaliation. If the bill passes tomorrow, don’t be surprised to see Russia evict a comparable number of U.S. diplomats currently living in Moscow. Instead of thinking of more ways to punish Moscow, Congress should beef up U.S. cyber-security, something leaving the country vulnerable.
Since Trump’s 39-year-old son was exposed by the New York Times July 10 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya June 9, 2016 to discuss dirt on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, anti-Russian hysteria has swept through Capitol Hill. Punishing Putin for alleged meddling in the 2016 election has become top priority for the Congress. Before his Don Jr. embarrassed the White House, Trump looked poised to improve U.S.-Russian relations. More than ever, the U.S. needs Putin’s clout with Kim Jong-un to avoid a war in the Korean Peninsula. With Kim threatening the U.S. with nuclear war, Trump no longer has the luxury of “strategic patience,” something enjoyed by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Trump faces the growing possibility that he must order an attack on North Korea to stop Kim’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
With the latest brouhaha about Russian collusion, Trump finds it difficult to conduct foreign policy without interference from Congress. War hawks on Capitol Hill, like Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), want no part of Trump’s attempt to reset U.S.-Russian relations. What they don’t realize is how badly the U.S. needs Putin to rein in Kim Jong-un or face the unthinkable: War on the Korean Peninsula. Slapping Putin with more sanctions almost certainly invites reciprocal retaliation. Trump finds his hands tied from the media feeding frenzy consumed with Russia’s role in the 2016 election. When you consider the negative data dump by WikiLeaks last July about Hillary, it’s no wonder that Democrats feel Russia sabotaged Hillary’s campaign. But when you look at the facts, it’s obvious that Hillary torpedoed her own campaign raising constant questions about her honesty arising out of her ongoing email scandal.
Seeking more oversight over U.S. foreign policy, Corker wants the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to supervise the State Department. With Congress meddling in Trump’s foreign policy, it violates Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, establishing the president as commander-in-chief. “It’s been my goal as chairman just to bring back our equivalent status to the executive branch, and this in one way of doing so,” said Corker, seeking ways to “review” executive legislation. Imposing new sanctions on Russia puts pressure on Trump to sign the legislation, essentially hitting U.S.-Russian relations with a wrecking ball. Before signing onto new sanctions, Trump should consider the damage to U.S. national security. If Russia’s needed to help avoid war on the Korean Peninsula, then Trump must veto any attempt by Congress to damage U.S.-Russian relations.