Resolution Condemning Russia Shows Absence of Real Foreign Policy Debate in Washington

Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed resolution HR 758, which largely condemns Russia. However, it may also provide impetus for further confrontation between the United States and the world’s largest country.

Passing the House 411-10, the resolution condemns many of Russia’s actions in recent years, including but not limited to the annexations of Crimea, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. It also denounces Russia’s material support of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and the dissemination of state-sponsored propaganda “with the intent of using news and information to distort public opinion.”

Introduced in November by U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, HR 758 has wide-ranging ambitions. On the House floor, Kinzinger announced, “Mankind everywhere has a responsibility to stand up for territorial integrity and sovereignty in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.”

Kinzinger also imputed guilt to Russia for the downed airliner this summer, an event still under investigation:

“Putin has enraged the world by denying Russia’s involvement in the death of 200 civilian passengers on a commercial airplane from Holland to Malaysia in the spring of 2014. Russia, sending arms and rockets to the Russian-aligned forces in Ukraine was the match that lit the fire on this heinous act.”

Accusing Putin of “reigniting” a cold war, Kinzinger reported it was important to enact his bill, saying:

“Mr. Putin will only respond to raw power. . . . We must be willing to change Mr. Putin’s calculation to make it far too costly for him to continue down this path.”

It is unclear whether Kinzinger’s resolution will be picked up by the Senate or the new Congress. What may produce angst in the future is that the resolution may lead to a further chilling of relations with Russia. It may also produce a confrontation, because among its many points, the bill:

“…calls on the President to provide the Government of Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal defense articles, service and training required to effectively defend its territory and sovereignty;

And:

“…calls on the President to provide the Government of Ukraine with appropriate intelligence and other relevant information in a timely manner;”

Although intimating that Russia started a second cold war and manipulates opinion, Kinzinger’s resolution also looks to engage the people in Eastern Europe and Russia. HR 758:

“…calls on the President and the United States Department of State to develop a strategy for multilateral coordination to produce or otherwise procure and distribute news and information in the Russian language to countries with significant Russian-speaking populations.”

One of the issues being considered with an incoming Republican majority in the Senate and an increased majority in the House was whether the caucus would be more belligerent in the conduct of foreign affairs. Earlier in 2014, the Senate passed the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014,” which aimed to provide weapons to Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova while also bringing the former Soviet republics a step closer to full NATO membership.

A Senate version of HR 758 would still have to pass and be signed by President Obama to take effect. However, passage of such a resolution would also appear to allow the president to conduct acts of war without direct congressional approval against a nuclear-armed power. Additionally, the large margin of passage may also be an indicator of where the next congress might move on this issue.

Photo Source: AFP