The list of countries, businesses and individuals opposed to a new wave of sanctions against Russia continues to grow. Congress is set to present Donald Trump with a new bill for sanctions which would hit Russia, Iran and North Korea as well as businesses from elsewhere who conduct commercial activities with entities in the aforementioned states. Trump now faces the politically precarious decision of whether to veto the legislation.
The Duran’s Alexander Mercouris has previous written on why the sanctions may be unconstitutional in the first place as under US law it is the prerogative of the Executive to make or end sanctions rather than a Congressional power.
The European Union has also come out in opposition of the sanctions which would impede the ability of major European companies from continuing existing business deals with Russian corporations.
The Financial Times reports,
“Brussels is preparing to retaliate against the US if Washington pushes ahead with far-reaching new sanctions on Russia that hit European companies.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, has called for an urgent review of how Brussels should respond if Europe’s energy companies or other businesses are targeted by sanctions under discussion in the US Congress. According to a note prepared for a commission meeting on Wednesday, and seen by the Financial Times, Brussels ‘should stand ready to act within days’ if the US measures were ‘adopted without EU concerns being taken into account”.
This is the strongest statement to-date affirming that Europe not only opposes the new sanctions but will take active measures to retaliate against them. Not only would the sanctions stifle economic activity among major EU companies as well as small and medium sized businesses, but it could see Europe being forced to buy expensive American liquefied natural gas instead of comparatively inexpensive gas from Russia’s pipelines to Europe.
Calls from Europe to forego new sanctions were echoed from American companies including BP, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Boeing and Citigroup, MasterCard, Visa, Ford, Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, International Paper, Caterpillar, and Cummins which have all voiced their strong opposition to the sanctions on the grounds that it could effect their business operations.
Former Congressman and Presidential Candidate Dr. Ron Paul, an advocate of economic and individual liberty, wrote the following about his opposition to the sanctions,
“This week’s expected House vote to add more sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea is a prime example of how little thought goes into US foreign policy. Sanctions have become kind of an automatic action the US government takes when it simply doesn’t know what else to do.
No matter what the problem, no matter where on earth it occurs, the answer from Washington is always sanctions. Sanctions are supposed to force governments to change policies and do what Washington tells them or face the wrath of their people. So the goal of sanctions is to make life as miserable as possible for civilians so they will try to overthrow their governments. Foreign leaders and the elites do not suffer under sanctions. This policy would be immoral even if it did work, but it does not.
Why is Congress so eager for more sanctions on Russia? The neocons and the media have designated Russia as the official enemy and the military industrial complex and other special interests want to continue getting rich terrifying Americans into believing the propaganda.
Why, just weeks after the White House affirmed that Iran is abiding by its obligations under the nuclear treaty, does Congress pass additional sanctions anyway? Washington blames Iran for “destabilizing” Syria and Iraq by helping them fight ISIS and al-Qaeda. Does this make any sense at all?
When is the last time Iran committed a terrorist act on our soil? It hasn’t. Yet we learned from the declassified 28 pages of the Congressional 9/11 report that Saudi Arabia was deeply involved in the 2001 attacks against Washington and New York. Who has funded al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria for years? Saudi Arabia. Yet no one is talking about sanctions against that country. This is because sanctions are not about our security. They are about politics and special interests.
Why is Congress poised to add yet more sanctions on North Korea? Do they want the North Korean people to suffer more than they are already suffering? North Korea’s GDP is half that of Vermont – the US state with the lowest GDP! Does anyone believe they are about to invade us? There is much talk about North Korea’s ballistic missile program, but little talk about 30,000 US troops and weapons on North Korea’s border. For Washington, it’s never a threat if we do it to the other guy.
Here’s an alternative to doing the same thing over and over: Let’s take US troops out of North Korea after 70 years. The new South Korean president has proposed military talks with North Korea to try and reduce tensions. We should get out of the way and let them solve their own problems. If Iran and Russia want to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda at the invitation of their ally, Syria, why stand in the way? We can’t run the world. We are out of money.
President Trump was elected to pursue a new kind of foreign policy. If he means what he said on the campaign trail, he will veto this foolish sanctions bill and begin dismantling neocon control of his Administration”.
Donald Trump could veto the measures and do so on the grounds of Constitutionality rather than on the grounds of disagreeing with the content of the legislation. By attacking the sanctions on this technical ground he could ostensibly dodge some of the predictable criticism from the Russophobic western mainstream media, the neo-con wing of the Republican party and virtually all of the Democratic party, who will not hesitate to pounce whenever Donald Trump is seen as doing something which appears to favour Russia.
The fact that America’s biggest corporations and the EU, a key US ally is opposed to the sanctions will almost certainly not make the headlines of the media outlets Donald Trump refers to as the “fake news media”.
There is one other consideration. Donald Trump continues to speak about seeking cooperation with Russia, but he also said that American energy exports would start to complete with Russia in the open marketplace.
In his first interview after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit, Trump stated,
“We’re going to be an exporter of fuel this year. We’re going to be exporting.
What was the first thing I signed when I got in? The Keystone pipeline and and the Keystone pipeline goes from Canada all the way through our country right into the Gulf and the ships are there to take it all over and compete with Russia”.
By using sanctions to force European states to purchase expensive American liquefied natural gas, could this be Trump’s way of competing with Russia in respect of energy exports? If it is, it is ultimately a flawed plan. Not only does it create an un-level playing field by using the might of a government to influence the global marketplace, but furthermore, it is doubtful that in the winter months, America can deliver liquefied natural gas to Europe fast enough to keep up with high levels of usage. Russia which delivers gas to Europe via pipelines has no such difficulty.
With Trump seemingly about to fire Attorney Jeff Sessions and with rumours of Rex Tillerson planning to quit, Trump does not need to alienate Europe and major US companies at a time when his White House team seems to be on the verge of a big shakeup.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.