•   
  •   
  •   

Politics Has Congress captured Russia policy?

22:15  14 august  2020
22:15  14 august  2020 Source:   thehill.com

Controversial Russian extremism case ends with conviction

  Controversial Russian extremism case ends with conviction MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian court on Thursday convicted several members of a youth group on extremism charges widely seen by critics as fabricated. Moscow's Lyublino District Court found members of the New Greatness group guilty of creating an extremist organization. A sentence is expected later. Prosecutors have asked the court to sentence three members to terms of six to seven and a half years in prison, and to give four other members suspended sentences between four and six and a half years.

A Washington axiom is that the president writes foreign policy and Congress only edits it. But in recent years Congress has shown more initiative, as in expanding sanctions, shifting U.S. forces closer to Russia and promoting human rights. Under the next president, is Congress likely to retain this lead?

Donald Trump, Liz Cheney wearing a suit and tie: Has Congress captured Russia policy? © Greg Nash Has Congress captured Russia policy?

The 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment is a legendary example of Congress driving policy toward Moscow. Supporters lauded it for leveraging U.S. trade benefits to induce the USSR to allow more Jewish emigration. But President Nixon warned that Jackson-Vanik could backfire by angering Soviet leaders. U.S. presidents since then have tended to see the law as a blunt tool or unwelcome intrusion.

Trump downplays the warning from the US intel community that Russia is working to 'denigrate' Biden in the 2020 election

  Trump downplays the warning from the US intel community that Russia is working to 'denigrate' Biden in the 2020 election Evidence suggests that Russia wants Trump to win in November, while Iran and China want him to lose, the Director of National Intelligence said.In a statement on Friday, William Evanina, the Director of National Intelligence, said that "foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway US voters' preferences and perspectives.

Modern presidents - George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump - began their terms hoping to strengthen U.S. ties with Russia. Obama pursued a "reset," and Trump sought to befriend President Vladimir Putin.

These exertions brought some benefits. Putin let Obama ship nonlethal materiel via Russia to NATO forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. and Russia agreed in 2002 to the SORT Treaty to reduce deployed strategic nuclear forces, and further cuts in 2010 in the New START Treaty. Both countries cooperated on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

In each administration, however, relations eventually hit rocky shoals.

The Return of Pen-and-Phone Constitutionalism

  The Return of Pen-and-Phone Constitutionalism President Trump’s executive actions for COVID relief offer little relief but are constitutionally dangerous. That is not to say that a judge would necessarily throw them out; they are substantively weak because they are written to avoid expressly violating any law. And if the Constitution is just a law as well, then there are surely justifications that the administration’s lawyers could offer for both memos that might satisfy the federal courts.

The U.S. objected to Russia's missile cooperation with Iran in the 1990s, the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, intervention in Syria in 2015 and interference in U.S. elections in 2016.

These and other malign activities have had resonance on the Hill and led to initiatives in three major areas.

Congress has backed sanctions. In 2012 over Obama's objections, Congress passed the Magnitsky Act. Named after a corruption-fighting lawyer who died in what proponents of the law say were "inhuman" prison conditions, it authorizes sanctions on human rights violators.

Frustrated by Trump's reluctance to punish Russia over election interference, Congress in 2017 approved the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act by a huge bipartisan margin. Trump signed the bill but dragged his feet in implementing it.

Congress has urged and funded military measures. Congressional leadership implored Obama and Trump to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, including Javelin anti-tank missiles; Trump did.

Vladimir Putin says Russia has registered coronavirus vaccine and his daughter has been given it

  Vladimir Putin says Russia has registered coronavirus vaccine and his daughter has been given it Speaking at a government meeting Tuesday, Putin said the vaccine has proven efficient during tests, offering a lasting immunity from the coronavirus.Coronavirus Chronicles: Food service and workers struggle with working through COVID-19

Congress has robustly funded a program launched by Obama and sustained by Trump now called the European Defense Initiative. It enabled the first increase in U.S. military power in Europe since the Cold War and has moved some of it closer to Russia. Congressional opposition to Trump's recent decision to bring home thousands of U.S. troops now in Europe is "fierce on both sides of the aisle."

Congress has criticized presidential missteps. A bipartisan Senate report said the Obama administration was "not well-postured" to deal with Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential race.

Last month Republican lawmakers demanded answers from Trump on why he had done nothing in response to alleged Russian offers of bounties to Taliban fighters for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

At a 2018 summit with Putin in Helsinki, Trump said he "saw no reason" why Russia would have interfered in the 2016 election. Republicans criticized his remark. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) called it a "defense of Putin," and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Trump had "missed an opportunity" to hold Russia accountable.

Russia's Sputnik Vaccine Gamble Is All About Vladimir Putin

  Russia's Sputnik Vaccine Gamble Is All About Vladimir Putin Russia’s speedy regulatory approval takes its efforts to win the Covid-19 vaccine race to a whole new level.Announcing the world’s first regulatory approval this week, President Vladimir Putin sought to repeat the propaganda masterstroke. Yet the rushed endorsement, after just two months of small-scale human testing, is less an affirmation of Russian scientific prowess than it is an expression of Putin’s hankering for Soviet-era international clout. It’s a premature victory lap that suggests a worrying need for affirmation at home too.

On some issues - such as last year's pull-out from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty - bipartisan consensus did not form. Although this reflected a partisan split on the continued value of the treaty, Republicans and Democrats were equally troubled by credible reports of Russian violations.

Congressional mandates and criticisms often reflect mistrust of presidents who appear reluctant to be firm with Moscow. With Obama, Congress saw the "reset" as oversold. Rising disputes with Russia helped spur passage of the Magnitsky Act. With Trump, Congress was angered by his praise for Putin and challenge to the U.S. intelligence community's assessment on election interference.

Congress has been instrumental in stabilizing U.S. policy toward Russia through recent presidencies. But facing a plethora of urgent issues, Congress lacks time and resources to delve too deeply into foreign affairs. Some leaders in international relations who have bipartisan credentials are leaving - such as Rep. Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, whose departure would follow former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker's (R-Tenn.) retirement at the end of the 115th Congress. But significant bipartisan traditions in the two committees may continue.

Too often Congress and the executive struggle in opposite directions on Russia policy, as now. A more cooperative and comprehensive approach could help stabilize policy, bolster deterrence and regain the confidence of America's allies.

Whoever wins the presidency in November may seek to restore the executive branch's traditional lead on foreign policy, including toward Russia. This could require building more trust with foreign policy leaders in both parties in Congress, and working with them to forge consistent, enduring and credible policies. If the president falters with regard to Russia, Congress is more likely to sustain the initiative.

Scott Cullinane was the professional staff member for the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. William Courtney is an adjunct senior fellow at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation, and was U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan, Georgia, and a U.S.-Soviet commission to implement the Threshold Test Ban Treaty.

Did Putin have his top critic poisoned? .
Here’s why we may never know.

usr: 1
This is interesting!