sanctions

Should we get involved in Ukraine?

Ukraine is a complicated question worldwide. It is a relatively large Eastern European economy – certainly the biggest, after Russia, among the former Soviet Republics. It is also a major natural gas conduit for sales of Russian natural gas from Russia to the European Union.

As such, it’s important to Russia, not just as a transit point for natural gas to its biggest customers in Europe, but also as a large economy that exports a lot of its agricultural products, its workers and its steel to Russia. Having an economy such as this in the Russian-led customs union would lend legitimacy to an organization the Russians have been trying to transform into a European Union-type economic alliance.

In this post I’m going to attempt to lay out some issues, as well as some possible outcomes and solutions.

First, let’s get something straight. There have been rumblings that the U.S. government has somehow been funding the protesters in Ukraine, hoping to topple the corrupt, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. This is a silly idea. Why would the United States work to create a power vacuum? Why would the United States want to facilitate the rise to power of Julia Timoshenko, who by many accounts is just as corrupt as Yanukovych AND has ties to organized crime? It doesn’t make sense.

Rand Paul nixes new Iran sanctions during negotations

Just a few weeks ago, it looked like Congress was going to overwhelmingly pass new Iran sanctions while the Obama administration was still negotiating with the prospective nuclear nation over their enrichment program. That hit a brick wall this week as Senator Rand Paul became the first Republican to denounce the idea:

I’ve been for sanctions. I have voted for sanctions in the past, to try to get the Iranians to negotiate. I think while they’re negotiating, and if we can see that they’re negotiating in good faith, I don’t think it’s a good idea to pass sanctions while we’re in the midst of negotiations.

Now it looks like there may not even be a vote on new sanctions until this summer. Even under a Democrat-led Senate, it’s an entirely new thing for this kind of dithering and delay on Iran issues. However, coming less than a year after the failed Syria military intervention idea, it’s becoming clearer that the American people and even their representatives may be weary of perpetual global police action at our expense.

U.S. use of unilateral “weaponization of finance” makes top ten geopolitical risks of 2015

Economic Sanctions

As much as I really wanted to write today about how confusing it is to be angry about American Sniper, especially from someone like Seth Rogen, who just had his right to freely make bad films defended by the same country Chris Kyle loved enough to protect, I might be too emotionally invested to be objective and, as this guy points out, it’s kind of a waste of breath or thought. But after I actually see it, maybe I’ll write a review…

So, instead, even though it’s less sexy, here’s the topic du jour, because I just recently came across the terminology, had no idea what it meant, and now am fascinated by the concept. Ian Bremmer, Eurasia Group’s founder and president, has chosen as one of his top concerns for the coming year something he calls the “weaponization of finance”:

The U.S. is focusing largely on what Bremmer calls the weaponization of finance, one of his Top Risks for 2015. “The U.S. is becoming much more unilateral in the expression of its foreign policy and its national security. We see that with drones, we see that with surveillance. We also see it with the willingness to use the dollar and access to the American markets and the U.S. financial institutions as both a carrot and a stick.”…

House Leaders snuck Russian sanctions through Congress while most Members flew home for the weekend

Russian Sanctions

One of the great debates that will likely play some role in the coming Presidential election is the relationship between Congress and the White House, especially in matters of war. Conservatives have long lamented President Obama’s over use of the executive mandate (that almighty pen), and libertarians — and even some high-profile Democrats — have been vocal to the point of town crying the need for Congressional authorization as opposed to “unilateral presidential power” when it comes to foreign policy.

So it is interesting to note that the newest legislation imposing sanctions on Russia, while that country continues to sink into a tarpit of recession, passed the House last Thursday while almost no one was there. The Senate gave its thumbs up Saturday.

Pressure had been building around the White House this week to sign the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the panel’s ranking member, during Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s visit to the United States in September.

It was approved by a voice vote in the Senate on Thursday, but was amended by the House to spread out military aid for Ukraine over three years instead of delivering it in fiscal 2015. The Senate gave the measure its final approval late Saturday.

Obama must take a tougher stand against Russia, and he can do that by ending Ex-Im’s deals with Vladimir Putin’s cronies

With tensions boiling over in Ukraine as Vladimir Putin’s regime sends more weapons to separatists, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is calling on President Barack Obama to stop the Export-Import Bank from doing deals with Russian businesses.

Hensarling says that Russia “bears responsibility” for the conflict in Ukraine as well as the “atrocity of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17,” in which 298 people lost their lives. The Texas Republican noted that Putin’s regime “is supplying the separatists with advanced weapons and encouraging their attacks on aircraft and on the people of Ukraine.”

“Russia’s actions are in direct conflict with our national interests,” Hensarling wrote in a letter to President Obama. “Yet, still, the Export-Import Bank remains open for business in Russia. In fact, total authorizations for deals between Ex-Im and Russia have increased nine-fold since you took office.”

The House Financial Services Committee recently noted that Ex-Im increased funding for Russian projects by 177 percent in FY 2013, translating to a $580 million commitment, a record level. These loans and subsidies are backed by American taxpayers.

Today in Liberty: Tea Party picks up a Senate seat, Obama’s war on coal to hit consumers

“President Obama won the youth vote 3 to 1, but I don’t think he’s got a permanent hold on the youth vote. I think if we bring to them that message, that ‘You know what? What you do on your cell phone is none of the government’s damn business.’” — Rand Paul

— Ben Sasse, Tea Party win in Nebraska: Ben Sasse took 49.4 percent of the vote in the Nebraska Republican Senate primary, easily defeating Sid Dinsdale and Shane Obsorn. Sasse was backed by big-name conservative and Tea Party groups, while Osborn had the quiet backing of the Republican establishment. “Congratulations to Ben Sasse on his victory tonight in Nebraska. Ben is a problem solver who will be a conservative voice in our effort to repeal ObamaCare and bring much needed fiscal sanity to the Senate,” said NRSC Chairman Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). “Ben Sasse is a results-oriented leader whom I know will fight for Nebraska and be a great advocate for the Cornhusker State in the Senate. I look forward to working alongside of Ben in the Senate next year in a Republican majority.” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola hailed Sasse as a champion of economic liberty, noting that he “won a hard-fought primary by building his campaign on the simple idea that ObamaCare is a disaster that needs to be repealed,” adding that “Ben clearly articulated a conservative vision to Nebraska voters who rewarded him with their votes.”

Crimea crisis not worth taking foreign policy risks

The increasingly rocky, tense relations between the United States and Russia have provided an opening for Republicans to criticize President Barack Obama’s foreign policy strategy, or lack thereof.

There are many entirely valid criticisms of President Obama on foreign policy. Yes, he looked weak in the eyes of the international community when threatened military intervention — the so-called “red line” — against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if his regime used chemical weapons against his own citizens in a bloody civil war.

After it was revealed that chemical weapons were used, the source of which remains unclear, President Obama was pressured to seek a vote in Congress to authorize the use of military force rather than unilaterally launch military strikes, much like his administration did in Libya. Despite support from congressional leaders of both parties, the administration found a skeptical Congress and a war-weary public, and backed down.

Hawkish Republicans say that this is an example of President Obama projecting weakness to the international community, which only emboldens the United States’ foes in the world. They’re right, but only to a point.

Today in Liberty: Sanctions won’t hurt Russia, Senate Dems to push climate change

“There is a great and tumultuous battle underway for the future, not of the Republican Party, but the future of the entire country. The question is, will we be bold and proclaim our message with passion, or will we be sunshine patriots retreating under adverse fire?”Rand Paul

— Sanctions against Russia won’t work: Steve Chapman says that the push for sanctions against Russia is an exercise in futility, given that sanctions often don’t work. Rather, he explains, Russia could be its own worst enemy. “[O]ur best hope is that he bites off more than he can chew. The invasion of Afghanistan looked like a success at the outset, but it spawned a fierce insurgency that cost thousands of Soviet lives, forced a humiliating retreat and helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. The farther Putin pushes and the longer he stays the more likely this occupation will end in tears,” writes Steve Chapman at Reason. “There is a very slim possibility that Western economic sanctions will undo his ambitions in Ukraine. There is a better chance that those ambitions will undo themselves.”

Senate may weigh more sanctions against Iran, despite nuclear deal

The deal brokered between six major countries, including the United States, and Iran to slow the country’s nuclear program in exchange for loosened sanctions has been met with a cool reception in Washington from members of both parties.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) acknowledged on Monday that stronger sanctions against Iran may be considered when the chamber reconvenes early next month, though, they could be vetoed by President Obama:

Reid called the pact negotiated between six world powers and Iran an “important first step,” but expressed uncertainty whether it would be good enough.

“When we come back, we’ll take a look at this to see if we need stronger sanctions,” he said in an interview on “The Diane Rehm Show.”
[…]
“If we need to do stronger sanctions, I’m sure we will do that,” he said. “We’ll move forward appropriately.”

Reid acknowledged President Obama could veto stronger sanctions passed by Congress if he believed they ran counter to his foreign policy agenda.

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking Senate Democratic leader, criticized the deal at a press conference in New York Sunday.

“It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table. And any reduction relieves the pressure of sanction and gives them the hope that they will be able to obtain a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Schumer said the “disproportionality” of the agreement would increase the likelihood of Congress passing additional sanctions in December.

Jennifer Rubin’s incoherent, contradictory attack against Rand Paul

It’s no secret that Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post blogger who writes from a “conservative perspective,” is not a fan of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). She had frequently written screeds attacking his foreign policy views, which she erroneously labels as “isolationism,” and his approach to politics.

Rubin is, strangely, obsessed with Paul. She’s also written missives against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), classlessly calling him a “jerk” because he got under the skin of some of his Republican colleagues for challenging them on gun control legislation.

But Rubin’s latest post on Paul is breathtakingly incoherent and downright silly. She assails Paul for comments he made earlier this week on Fox News about proposed sanctions against Iran.

“The Kentucky right-winger apparently didn’t learn anything from the reception to his speech at the Heritage Foundation earlier this year, which suggested containment as an option for Iran.” wrote Rubin on Tuesday. “In a Fox appearance, he came out with this muddled mess: Containment ‘shouldn’t be our policy. But I don’t think we should also say the extension of that, that we will never have containment as a policy. Containment actually, for 70 years, was a great policy.’”


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