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Trump Pulls Troops Out of Syria in Desperate Attempt to Save His Presidency, Causing Geopolitical Earthquake

Erdogan wants to eliminate the SDF, and until now, the only thing that stood in his way was the US military presence.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On December 19, Donald Trump announced in a Twitter message: “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won”. Shortly thereafter, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement: “We have started the process of returning US troops home from Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign”.

The reasons for Donald Trump’s move are many, but they are mainly driven by US domestic concerns. The temperature is heating up for Trump following the midterms, as the Democrats prepare to take command of the House of Representatives in January, something that Trump had always hoped to avert. He surrounded himself with generals, in the forlorn hope that this would somehow protect him. If the last two years of his presidency were constantly under the cloud of Mueller’s investigation, or insinuations of being an agent of Putin, from January 2019 the situation is going to get much more complicated. The Democratic electoral base is baying for the President’s impeachment, the party already in full pre-primary mode, with more than 20 candidates competing, with the incumbent of the White House offering the rallying cry.

The combination of these factors has forced Trump to change gears, considering that the military-industrial-intelligence-media-complex has always been ready to get rid of Trump, even in favor of a President Pence. The only option available for Trump in order to have a chance of reelection in 2020 is to undertake a self-promotion tour, a practice in which he has few peers, and which will involve him repeating his mantra of “Promises Made, Promises Kept”. He will list how he has fought against the fake-news media, suffered internal sabotage, as well as other efforts (from the Fed, the FBI, and Mueller himself) to hamper his efforts to “Make America Great Again”.

Trump has perhaps understood that in order to be re-elected, he must pursue a simple media strategy that will have a direct impact on his base. Withdrawing US troops from Syria, and partly from Afghanistan, serves this purpose. It is an easy way to win with his constituents, while it is a heavy blow to his fiercest critics in Washington who are against this decision. Given that 70% of Americans think that the war in Afghanistan was a mistake, the more that the mainstream media attacks Trump for his decision to withdraw, the more they direct votes to Trump. In this sense, Trump’s move seems to be directed at a domestic rather than an international audience.

The decision to get out of Syria is timed to coincide with another move that will also very much please Trump’s base. The government shutdown is a result of the Democrats refusing to fund Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall on the Mexican border. It is not difficult to understand that the average citizen is fed up with the useless wars in the Middle East, and Trump’s words on immigration resonate with his voters. The more the media, the Democrats and the deep state criticize Trump on the wall, on the Syria pull out and on shutting down the government, the more they are campaigning for him.

This is why in order to understand the withdrawal of the United States from Syria it is necessary to see things from Trump’s perspective, even as frustrating, confusing and incomprehensible that may seem at times.

The difference this time around was that the decision to withdraw US troops from Syria was Trump’s alone, not something imposed on him by the generals that surround him. The choice to announce to his base, via Twitter, a victory against ISIS and the immediate withdrawal of US troops was a smart election move with an eye on the 2020 election.

It is possible that Trump, as is his wont, also wanted to send a message to his alleged French and British allies present in the northeast of Syria alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and US soldiers. Trump may be now taunting: “Let’s see what you can do without the US!”

It is as if Trump is admonishing these countries in a more concrete way for not lifting their weight in terms of military spending. Trump is vindictive and is not averse, after taking advantage of his opponent, to kicking him once he is down. Trump could be correct in this regard, and maybe French and British forces will be forced to withdraw their small group of 400 to 500 illegal occupiers of Syrian territory. Macron has for now reacted angrily at Trump’s decision, intensifying the division between the two, and is adamant that the French military presence in Syria will continue.

There is also a more refined reason to justify the US withdrawal, even if Trump is probably unaware of it. The problem in these cases is always trying to peer through the fog of war and propaganda in order to discern the clear, unadulterated truth.

We should begin by listing the winners and losers of the Syrian conflict. Damascus, Moscow, Tehran and Hezbollah have won the war against aggression. Riyadh, Doha, Paris, London, Tel Aviv and Washington, with their al Qaeda, Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist proxies, failed to destroy Syria, and following seven years of effort, are forced to scurry away in defeat.

Those who are walking a tightrope between war and defeat are Ankara and the so-called SDF. The withdrawal of the United States has confirmed the balance on the ledger of winners and losers, with the clock counting down for Erdogan and the SDF to make their next determinative move.

The enemies of Syria survive thanks to repeated bluffs. The Americans of the military-industrial-intelligence apparatus maintain the pretence that they still have an influence in Syria, what with troops on the ground, attacking Trump for withdrawing. In fact, since the Russians have imposed a no-fly-zone across the country, with the S-300 systems and other sophisticated equipment that integrate the Syrian air-defenses into the Russian air defenses, US coalition planes are for all intents and purposes grounded, and the same goes for the Israelis.

Of course the French and British in Syria are infected with the same delusional disease, choosing to believe that they can count for something without the US presence. We will see in the near future whether they also withdraw their illegal presence from Syria.

The biggest bluff of all probably comes from Erdogan, who for months threatened to invade Syria to fight ISIS, the Kurds, or any other plausible excuse to invade a sovereign country for the purposes of advancing his dreams of expanding Turkish territory as far as Idlib (which Erdogan considers a province of Turkey). Such an invasion, however, is unlikely to happen, as it would unite the SDF, Damascus and her allies to reject the Turkish advance on Syrian territory.

The Kurds in turn seem to have only one option left, namely, a forced negotiation with Damascus to give back to the Syrian people, in exchange for protection, the control of their territory that is rich in oil and gas.

Erdogan wants to eliminate the SDF, and until now, the only thing that stood in his way was the US military presence. He even threatened to attack several times, even in spite of the presence of US troops. Ankara has long been on a collision course with NATO countries on account of this. By removing US troops, Trump imagines, relations between Turkey and the US may also improve. This of course is of little interest to the US deep state, since Erdogan, like Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), is considered unsuitable, and is accordingly branded a “dictator”.

Trump probably believes that with this move, as with his defense of MBS concerning Khashoggi, that he can try and establish a strong personal friendship with Erdogan. There are even talks about the sale of Patriot systems to the Turks and the extradition of Gulen.

When Will They Leave, and Cui Prodest?

It remains to be confirmed when and to what extent US troops will leave Syria. If the US had no voice in the future in Syria, with 2,000 men on the ground, now it has even less. Leaving behind 200 to 300 special forces and CIA operatives, together with another 400 to 500 French and British personnel, will, once they are captured with their Daesh and al Qaeda friends, be an excellent bargaining chip for Damascus, as they were in Aleppo.

The military-industrial-intelligence-media complex considers Trump’s decision the worst of of all possible moves. Mattis even resigned on account of this. The presence of US troops in Syria allowed the foreign-policy establishment to continue to formulate plans (and spend money to pay a lot of people in Washington) based on the delusion that they are doing something in Syria to change the course of events. For Israel, it is a double disaster, with Netanyahu desperate to survive, seeking to factor in expected elections in a now-or-never political move. Trump probably understands that Bibi is done for, and that at this point, the withdrawal of troops, fulfilling a fundamental electoral promise, counts more than Israeli money and his friendship to Bibi.

Erdogan has two options before him. On the one hand, he can act against the Kurds. On the other hand, he can sit down at the negotiating table with Damascus and the SDF, in an Astana format, guided by Iran and Russia. Putin and Rouhani are certainly pushing for this solution. Trump, on the other hand, would like to see Turkey enter Syria in the place of US forces, to demonstrate he concluded a win-win deal for everyone, beating the deep-state at their own game.

Erdogan does not really have the military force necessary to enter Syria, which is the big secret. He would be against both the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the SDF, though the two not necessarily in an alliance.

There is a triple bluff going on, and this is what is complicating the situation so much. On the one hand, the SDF is bluffing in not wanting help from Damascus in case Erdogan sends in his forces; on the other hand, Erdogan is bluffing in suggesting he is able to conquer the territory held by the SDF; and finally, the French and British are bluffing by telling the SDF they will be able to help them against both Erdogan and/or Assad.

Iran, Russia, Syria are the only ones who do not need to bluff, because they occupy the best position – the commanding heights. They view Trump’s decisions and his allies with distrust. They know very well that these are mostly moves for internal consumption by the enemies of Syria.

If the US withdraws, there is so much to be gained. The priority then becomes the west of Syria, sealing the borders with Jordan, removing the pockets of terrorists from the east, and securing the al-Tanf crossing. If the SDF will request protection from Damascus and will be willing to participate in the liberation of the country and its reconstruction, Erdogan will be done for, and this could lead to the total liberation of Idlib. It would be the best possible outcome, an important national reconciliation between two important parts of the population. It would give Damascus new economic impetus and prepare the Syrian people to expel the remaining invaders (ISIS and the FSA/ Turkish Armed Forces) from the country, both in Idlib and in the northeast in Afrin.

Russia is aware of the risk that Erdogan is running with the choices he will take in the coming days. Perhaps the reason why Putin chose diplomacy over war with Turkey after the downing of a Russian Su-24 in 2015 was in order to arrive at this precise moment, with as many elements as possible present to convince Erdogan to stick with Russia and Iran instead of embracing Trump’s strategy and putting himself on an open collision course with Damascus, Moscow and Tehran.

Putin has always been five moves ahead. He is aware that the US could not stay long in Syria. He knows that France and the UK cannot support the SDF, and that the SDF cannot hold territory it holds in Syria without an agreement with Damascus. He is also conscious that Turkey does not have the strength to enter Syria and hold the territory if it did. It would only be able justify an advance on Idlib with the support of the Russian Air Force.

Putin has certainly made it clear to Erdogan that if he made such a move to attack the SDF and enter Syria, Russia in turn would militarily support the SAA with its air force to free Idlib; and in case of incidents with Turkey, the Russian armed forces would respond with all the interest earned from the unrequited downing of the Su-24 in 2015.

Erdogan has no choice. He must find an agreement with Damascus, and this is why he found himself commenting on Trump’s words the following day, criticizing US sanctions on Iran in the presence of Iranian president Rouhani. The SDF know that they are between a rock and a hard place, and have already sent a delegation to start negotiations with Damascus.

Trump’s move was driven by US domestic politics and aimed at the 2020 elections. But in doing so, Trump inevitably called out once and for all the bluffs built by Syria’s enemies, infuriating in the process the neoliberal imperialist establishment, revealing how each of these factions has no more cards to play and is in actual fact destined for defeat.

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“The reasons for Donald Trump’s move are many, but they are mainly driven by US domestic concerns.”

And the “Strategic Culture Foundation” (very descriptive name) do not care of domestic concerns, because the world is its jardin.

Olivia Kroth
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President Trump should pull US troops out of Iraq as well, not just Syria, to end US fruitless obsession with the Middle East.

Olivia Kroth
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Aljazeera reports:

Iraqi political and militia leaders have condemned US President Donald Trump’s unannounced trip to Iraq as a violation of their country’s sovereignty.

Sabah al-Saadi, the leader of the Islah parliamentary bloc, called for an emergency session of the Iraqi parliament “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The US occupation of Iraq is over”.

Shaun Ramewe
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Shaun Ramewe

Sly ZioYank liar-loser war criminals are pulling out (retreating like the perverted cowards they are) because they and their sicko terrorists got beaten badly by pro-democracy Syria, Russia and Iran.

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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