Let Freedom Ring Must Reads

Russian Sanctions: When The Punisher Becomes The Punished
By Colin A. Hanna

Americans rarely agree on anything these days, but it’s accurate to say that almost everyone would like to see Vladimir Putin and Russia pay a hefty price for trying to influence our recent elections and for other troubling deeds of late.

Slapping Russia with tough, punitive sanctions is not only needed and appropriate, it presents an unusual opportunity for a divided Congress to rein in a geopolitical leader who makes no effort to hide his contempt for the United States.

Unfortunately, the Senate’s Russian sanctions bill (S. 722) doesn’t do the job, not by a long shot. It appears a desire for political expediency and the opportunity to generate headlines took a higher priority than crafting meaningful legislation that would effectively punish Russia without dragging down American business interests and negatively impacting many of our European allies.

The measure was hurriedly drafted and fast tracked to the Senate floor for a vote. Congress is looking at a bill that allows Russia to circumvent many of the desired sanctions while unintentionally U.S. companies doing business overseas.

Under the bill’s hastily penned provisions. American businesses in energy, construction, technology, logistics and financial sectors would be punished for doing business with European consortiums that include small percentages of Russian involvement.

As a result, the United States — the intended punisher — would become the punished. by a bill that would give Russian firms a competitive advantage.

For example, Caterpillar could lose orders for heavy equipment needed to build pipelines and other construction projects around the world if S. 722 passes in its present form. Such losses in overseas business deals could easily produce a negative ripple effect back home for Caterpillar, resulting in fewer manufacturing jobs on American soil.

American logistics and supply chain companies would also be unfairly punished under the provisions of the present S. 722, leaving wide open opportunities for Russian firms or the allies of Russia to step in and grab billions in business.

The U.S. banking industry is also very concerned about the present status of the bill, as S. 722 could potentially prohibit transfers of credit or halt payments between global financial institutions.

American companies like Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, International Paper, Amsted Rail, and several in the pharmaceutical and shipping industries could all be negatively impacted by this bill — unless the legislative process is slowed down and the bill is substantially amended.

Apart from the economic implications, there are serious potential impacts on the global political stage. Passing unilateral sanctions without consulting with our European allies and Japan would needlessly strain political, military and business alliances. Our European allies and Japan are concerned — as they should be — about any bill void of knowledge or concern for its impact on EU member states and Japan.

As written, S. 722 pointlessly weakens international business partnerships and critical political alliances.

The White House is rightly opposed to the bill in its present form as it seriously undermines the powers of the Executive Branch of our government. This bill effectively removes the president’s ability to grant individual waivers — essentially the power of a line item veto — if the president determines there are national security concerns.

The authority to allow the president to move quickly if needed is well established within the Executive Branch and has the precedent of many years of sanctions imposed by the United States on other nations.

However, this bill layers the Congress over the president by requiring congressional review before individual waivers or exceptions to sanctions are allowed. A bill that creates more bureaucracy and red tape when dealing with a volatile leader like Vladimir Putin is not only risky, it’s destined to be ineffective. S. 722 must preserve the president’s proper authority in this matter.

If Vladimir Putin is allowed to benefit from legislation intended to punish his aggression, he can only be emboldened while our allies question their relationship with the United States. Congress should take the time and deliberative care it needs to get the sanctions legislation right so that any bill passed into law doesn’t harm the American economy.

Our representatives in Congress are viewed by a majority of Americans as hyper-partisan and rarely able to compromise. Our leaders in Washington are under enormous pressure to “get to work” on passing policy and legislation that will benefit the American people.

A Russian sanctions bill represents an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to collaborate on legislation that preserves the president’s authority, will properly punish Putin for his election engineering exploits and send a clear message of support to our trusted allies.

Image result for russian architecture

  • Hanna is president of Let Freedom Ring USA, Inc., a non-profit public policy organization committed to promoting constitutional government, free enterprise and traditional values.
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