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Despite Warnings of Future War, Obama to Impose New Russian Sanctions

Instead of negotiations designed to end crisis over status of Ukraine, White House says president will sign quietly passed bill that critics says will solidify new Cold War

President Barack Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia at the Esperanza Resort in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, June 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The White House announced late Tuesday that President Obama will sign into a law a provocative, yet largely ignored, bill passed by both chambers of Congress last week that critics say increases the chances of a future military confrontation with Russia.

Despite some reservations voiced by the president, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Obama will sign the bill by the end of the week, making law a bill that calls for new economic sanctions against Russia while also authorizing the sale of military equipment to the Kiev government in Ukraine and hundreds of millions of dollars in other support.

As The Hill reports:

[Earnest] said the president would sign by week’s end new legislation that imposes new penalties on Russian weapons exports and oil production imports. The legislation also targets Moscow’s national energy company if it withholds supplies from European states, and makes rolling back sanctions more difficult.

The White House had not previously said whether the president would sign the bill, signaling some concern that the unilateral steps could cause tensions with European allies that could be exploited by Moscow.

Earnest said Obama opted to sign the legislation because it “does preserve the president’s flexibility” to decide when and how to impose the new penalties.

Still, the White House spokesman acknowledged “it does send a confusing message to our allies because it includes some sanctions language that does not reflect the consultations that are ongoing.”

Critics, including former congressman from Ohio Dennis Kucinich, have raised serious objections to both the contents of the bill and how it was rushed through Congress with little debate. In a scathing op-ed warning that his former colleauges may be recklessly laying the groundwork for a new and deeper Cold War between the U.S./NATO alliance and Russia, Kucinich called the sanctions bill "a hydra-headed incubator of poisonous conflict."

In his argument against the bill, Kucinich enumerated its contents as he pointed out, based on his own experience in the House, that few members of Congress likely read its content nor fully understand the implications of what they have approved. According to his summary the new law will include:

1. Sanctions of Russia’s energy industry, including Rosoboronexport and Gazprom.

2. Sanctions of Russia’s defense industry, with respect to arms sales to Syria.

3. Broad sanctions on Russians’ banking and investments.

4. Provisions for privatization of Ukrainian infrastructure, electricity, oil, gas and renewables, with the help of the World Bank and USAID.


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5. Fifty million dollars to assist in a corporate takeover of Ukraine’s oil and gas sectors.

6. Three hundred and fifty million dollars for military assistance to Ukraine, including anti-tank, anti-armor, optical, and guidance and control equipment, as well as drones.

7. Thirty million dollars for an intensive radio, television and Internet propaganda campaign throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union.

8. Twenty million dollars for “democratic organizing” in Ukraine.

9. Sixty million dollars, spent through groups like the National Endowment for Democracy, “to improve democratic governance, and transparency, accountability [and] rule of law” in Russia. What brilliant hyperbole to pass such a provision the same week the Senate’s CIA torture report was released.

10. An unverified declaration that Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, is a nuclear “threat to the United States” and should be held “accountable.”

11. A path for the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty, which went into force in 1988. The implications of this are immense. An entire series of arms agreements are at risk of unraveling. It may not be long before NATO pushes its newest client state, Ukraine, to abrogate the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Ukraine signed when it gave up its nuclear weapons, and establish a renewed nuclear missile capability, 300 miles from Moscow.

12. A demand that Russia verifiably dismantle “any ground launched cruise missiles or ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers ...”—i.e., 300 and 3,300 miles.

The law received wide bipartisan support, but as Kucinich indicates, the dangers of further isolating and provoking Russia could result in serious future backlash.

Though Russia has been consistently characterized in the western media as the aggressor throughout this year's crisis in Ukraine, many experts on the situation point out that the U.S. and NATO played an essential role in fomenting the uprising that resulted in a coup and that ongoing support for the new government in Kiev, alongside persistent demonization of Putin's role, has placed eastern Europe back on the verge of a conflated military conflict.

"Under the guise of democratizing," Kucinich argues, "the West stripped Ukraine of its sovereignty with a U.S.-backed coup, employed it as a foil to advance NATO to the Russian border and reignited the Cold War, complete with another nuclear showdown."

Now, he continued, the new sanctions and shipment of new weapons to Ukraine will have predictable results. "Each Western incitement creates a Russian response," he continued, "which is then given as further proof that the West must prepare for the very conflict it has created."

The result, he warns, is obvious. "War as a self-fulfilling prophecy."

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