In countries struggling with unresponsive governance, such as the oppressive governments of Arab Spring Revolution countries and the dysfunctional government of the United States, populations start to suffer from a kind of social combat fatigue. In other words, people want their governments and their countries to change for the better, but too much struggle for too long leads individuals to seek the comfort of stability and the status quo.
The passage of the “Cromnibus” spending bill, which underhandedly included many policy riders that represented a winning compromise for politicians in Washington yet failed to serve the most important goal of giving the American People a total win, should have been thoroughly scandalous. Tiring of dysfunction, however, the fact Republicans and Democrats were able to fund the government and avoid a shutdown without one Continuing Resolution after another, mattered more. That is until the consequences of those policy riders hit the American People hard.
With that in mind, it seems both Democrats and Republicans want another round of sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine Crisis. President Obama, however, is hesitant to sign pending legislation into action. Given Russia is hurting from sinking oil prices, continues to engage in provocative military displays around the world, and keeps interfering in Ukrainian political affairs while this next round of sanctions would target Russian weapons companies that are feeding Russia’s military endeavors, it seems odd that President Obama would hesitate.
That said, politicians believe voters want to see a “tough leader” getting tough on problems. Their perception may well be realistic, but they often fail to recognize a short-term gain can easily become a long-term lose. Vladimir Putin is such a prolific manipulator that he makes the dirtiest American politician look like an honest Abe, thus it is important to recognize how the actions of the US against Russia are received by the Russian People, who appear to favor Putin and like it when he stands up to Western imperialism, and other non-pro-American populations.
In practical terms, US sanctions likely need to be coupled with European sanctions in order to have their desired effect while it also important to recognize other economic issues, i.e. oil prices, have a far greater impact on Russia’s collapsing economy. At the moment, the Ukraine Crisis appears to be in a waning phases with a lasting ceasefire, thus implementing new sanctions against Russia would fit very nicely into Vladimir Putin’s version of reality where Russia is a victim of the West looking for an excuse to economically subjugate it.
Where voting for new sanctions against Vladimir Putin offers political benefits for American lawmakers, the consequences of new sanctions will not likely outweigh their overall benefits. Looking at another example of US lawmakers “getting tough” on an antagonistic, socialist country when it is hurting, sanctions against Venezuela supposedly for something that happened earlier this year appears more political than anything else when in the context of protester rights being violated everywhere else, including in places like Egypt, Bahrain, and the US. This, of course, helps feed a perception that the US is simply bullying weaker nations, which hurts our ability to rally ally support and gain favor among the populations of anti-American nations.
As such, sanctions against governments in defense of their Peoples and other countries can be more harmful to US efforts than waiting for the right to time to use sanction as a means of punishing hostile governments. On the other hand, it can be very prudent for Congress to authorize the use of sanctions when a situation starts to unfold, so the President can respond immediately to an emerging crisis. For Venezuela, the timing needs to be during an uptick in civil unrest in order to send the right message. In the case of Russia, the President needs to allow the Putin regime to make itself the aggressor once again.
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