Russia House

editorial

2014-08-25
Can Russia and America Work Together to Crush the Islamic State?
While Moscow and Washington face off over Ukraine, a much bigger and longer-term challenge presents a possible opportunity for collaboration.

By Jiri ValentaLeni Friedman Valenta
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2014-08-21
The U.S. needs Russia

By Jerome Israel
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2014-08-20
Ukraine's Nightmare Drags On
In recent weeks, the American media has seemed focused on reporting on nearly every newsworthy eventexcept the Ukraine crisis.

By James W. Carden
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2014-08-18
Ukraine factories equip Russian military despite support for rebels

By Michael Birnbaum
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2014-08-13
The New Cold War and the Necessity of Patriotic Heresy

By Stephen F. Cohen
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2014-08-12
The West on the wrong path
In view of the events in Ukraine, the government and many media have switched from level-headed to agitated. The spectrum of opinions has been narrowed to the width of a sniper scope. The politics of escalation does not have a realistic goal - and harms German interests.

By Gabor Steingart
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2014-08-11
How the US and Russian Media Are Covering the Ukrainian Crisis

By Gilbert Doctorow
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2014-08-06
Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts From magazine covers to pronouncements by top politicians, Official Washington jumped to the conclusion that Ukrainian rebels and Russia were guilty in the shoot-down of a Malaysian passenger plane. But some U.S. intelligence analysts may see the evidence differently, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry
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2014-08-05
​US to Georgia: Dont touch Saakashvili, hes our SOB

By Edward Lozansky
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2014-08-04
Pentagon wants extra $19M to equip, train Ukrainian troops

By Maggie Ybarra
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Russia House

2012-03-29

Jackson-Vanik Amendment and the Rights of Indians

Edward LOZANSKY, President, American University in Moscow

The more I watch the goings-on in Washington regarding graduating Russia from the Jackson-Vanik Amendment (JVA), the more it reminds me of the deal struck almost 400 years ago by a certain Peter Minuit. On May 24, 1626, the guy purchased the island of Manhattan from some Native Americans for goods to the value of 60 Dutch guilders, estimated to be the equivalent of $24.

Not that I am against this graduation, even if its become a bit of rigmarole by now. In fact, in April 2011 my good friend Anthony Salvia of the American Institute in Ukraine and I filed a lawsuit against Obama. We demanded that he should graduate Russia from JVA without seeking congressional approval.

According to a careful reading of the statute, the president has constitutional authority to do just that. Significantly, this view is shared by none other than Richard Perle, Senator Henry Jacksons former chief of staff, the man who actually wrote the text of the amendment and who, I should add, is not at all an admirer of Putins Russia.

Nevertheless, Obamas lawyers fought hard to dismiss this lawsuit. Their argument was based on technical rather than substantive grounds. As it happened, Tony and I could prove only our moral but not material injury from JVA. More importantly, though, the administration basically admitted that, in strict legal terms, we as plaintiffs were absolutely right.

While three administrations have successively claimed the need for congressional action to graduate Russia from JVA trade restrictions, it is highly indicative of the soundness of our case that the Department of Justice did not make that claim in its brief to the court! They know that under the law as it is written, permanent removal of trade restrictions does not require any congressional sanction.

As things stand now, the big irony is that with Russias accession to the WTO, the amendment, which was supposed to rightly punish the Soviet Union, will now be damaging to U.S. business interests.

Proof? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with 173 U.S. companies, including such giants as General Electric, Deere, Boeing, Ford, GM and Chrysler, sent letters to Congress demanding the normalization of trade with Russia by lifting JVA. One wonders why they did that. Have they suddenly switched from business to charity or human rights activities? Doubtfully, very doubtfully indeed.

The reason is obvious: plenty of U.S. companies are eager to see this JVA graduation because it directly serves their interests. For Russia this is just a moral issue, while for America, its more a matter of dollars and cents. If the republicans are stupid enough to kill this graduation Id like to see their faces when they meet U.S. business lobbyists the morning after.

Realistically speaking, the amendment is sure to be lifted, and sooner rather than later. But when Congress eventually does what it is supposed to have done 20 years ago, after the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, this will most likely be hyped as a great big gift to Russia, very much like Minuits offer of $24 to the Indians.

Thats not the end of the story, though. To show Congress that he was not too soft on Putin, Obama declared the establishment of a new $50 million fund to support Russian non-governmental organizations that are committed to a more pluralistic and open society.

In view of Russias concern over American meddling in its internal affairs, it is hard to imagine a more dubious move. In fact, even some potential Russian grant recipients have been soured by this idea. Surely, in these difficult economic times, U.S. taxpayers might certainly find better ways to spend these democracy promotion funds on the domestic front just ask any resident of the towns and counties across America that are now close to bankruptcy.