Congress may re­gret ty­ing Trump’s hands on Rus­sia

The Washington Times Daily - - FROM PAGE ONE - BY TODD WOOD L. Todd Wood is a for­mer spe­cial oper­a­tions heli­copter pi­lot and Wall Street debt trader, and has con­trib­uted to Fox Busi­ness, The Moscow Times, Na­tional Re­view, the New York Post and many other pub­li­ca­tions. He can be reached through his we

The Found­ing Fa­thers set up a sys­tem of checks and bal­ances. That’s some­thing we all learned about this in civics class (un­less you are a mil­len­nial who didn’t take civics). So, it is well within the au­thor­ity of the leg­isla­tive branch to at­tempt to tie the pres­i­dent’s hands when it comes to sanc­tions on Rus­sia.

That, how­ever, does not mean it is wise to do so.

Congress and the ju­di­ciary have been es­pe­cially ac­tive in at­tempt­ing to rein in Pres­i­dent Trump. The of­fi­cial nar­ra­tive is that this is due to Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in our elec­tions, even though this has not been proven, at least pub­licly. The other nar­ra­tive used to jus­tify ac­tion is the com­pletely un­proven charge that Mr. Trump’s cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia to de­feat Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016.

The con­ser­va­tive es­tab­lish­ment on the right, in al­liance with the ra­bidly anti-Trump left, des­per­ately wants to re­move this pres­i­dent from power. I think the de­clared rea­son — Rus­sia — is a com­plete red herring. The real rea­son is that those in the depths of the Wash­ing­ton Swamp want to keep their power and the money that goes along with it. They want to pre­vent Mr. Trump’s agenda from be­ing im­ple­mented.

So where does the sanc­tions law leave the ad­min­is­tra­tion when it comes to deal­ing the Krem­lin? For one, it need­lessly cod­i­fies into law sanc­tions that will be dif­fi­cult to re­move in the long term. The penal­ties may be there for a long time. This will be a con­tin­ual cloud hang­ing over the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.

But the big­ger prob­lem is that Mr. Trump now will have a much harder time find­ing so­lu­tions to global se­cu­rity prob­lems, as he will not be able to ne­go­ti­ate in good faith. What if Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Putin wants to make a deal in re­turn for sanc­tions re­lief? The Rus­sian econ­omy is hurt­ing and this is the main pres­sure point for the Krem­lin at the mo­ment.

What if Mr. Putin wants to set­tle the con­flict in eastern Ukraine? What if he of­fers a deal on Ukraine in re­turn for se­cur­ing Rus­sian ac­cess to Western in­vest­ment dollars? What if he of­fered real as­sis­tance in de­feat­ing the Is­lamic State?

It’s not just in Europe and the Mid­dle East where the U.S. could use some as­sis­tance from Moscow. The press fo­cused on China when we talk about the North Korean cri­sis. Yes, China has in­flu­ence on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but it seems to be less than Mr. Trump thought.

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s re­cent com­ments were right. North Korea did not come from China. It emerged from the Soviet Union. It came from Stalin. North Korea is a mi­cro­cosm of what Rus­sia looked like un­der Stalin. To this day, Rus­sia main­tains huge in­flu­ence with the North Kore­ans. Moscow is train­ing North Korean stu­dents across Siberia on topics such as trans­porta­tion and in­fra­struc­ture. Rus­sia is help­ing to mod­ern­ize rail lines into the North in order to in­crease trade. Rus­sia is pro­vid­ing fuel, coal and other raw ma­te­ri­als to Py­ongyang.

As China re­duced im­ports from the North due to Mr. Trump’s out­reach to Mr. Xi, Rus­sia picked up the slack. Trade has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally be­tween Rus­sia and North Korea in the first few months of this year.

Amer­ica needs help to pre­vent a war with North Korea, and Rus­sia can pro­vide that help.

But Rus­sia won’t do so af­ter this sanc­tions law, at least not for a long time.

Yes, the Rus­sians needs to be con­fronted when they are ag­gres­sive. Rus­sia needs to be made very aware of Amer­ica’s red lines in Europe, the Mid­dle East and else­where. Mr. Trump, not for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, was the one who launched 60 cruise mis­siles at a Syr­ian base where a few hun­dred Rus­sian tech­ni­cians were present. Congress had no prob­lem with Mr. Obama selling out Amer­i­can se­cu­rity to the Ira­ni­ans. The se­lec­tive out­rage here is pal­pa­ble.

Ty­ing the pres­i­dent’s hand is not smart. On the con­trary, it can be dan­ger­ous.

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