The ‘Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines’ (DETER) Act was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday by Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida). If passed it would allow the US to impose harsh sanctions on Russia’s banking and energy sectors, should the Director of National Intelligence find evidence of Russian meddling in future federal elections.
The bill is a facsimile of a similar bill introduced by Van Hollen and Rubio last January. That iteration never made it to a vote and quickly dropped out of the headlines. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report claimed that although some Russian entities attempted to interfere in the 2016 election, there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, a conclusion that former US diplomat Jim Jatras sees as unlikely to impede the current version of the bill’s path through Congress.
“If you look at the response to the Mueller Report among [US President Donald] Trump supporters, they were very quick to sing out in joy: ‘look, no collusion, no collusion, that was all a myth,’” Jatras told RT. “However, everybody – Trump opponents and Trump defenders – are doubling down on how bad the Russians are.”
“Despite the fact that all belief in Russian involvement with the Trump administration was essentially disproven, the anti-Russian rhetoric and moves by American legislators will not cease at this point,” political analyst Viktor Olevich added.
Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, is equally skeptical.
“The complete debunking of the ‘Russiagate’ hoax has Washington desperate to find some other way to blame Russia for something, because Washington is a city that depends on creating enemies to justify its lavish spending,” McAdams told RT.
European support fading?
The bill includes a recommendation that Congress help the European Union to enact similar legislation. However, many European leaders are already tired of Trump’s shakeup of the formerly predictable EU/US relationship.
“If the US keeps pushing its European allies too far, with moves that defy diplomatic protocol, then the European allies, Germany and others, are likely to drift further away,” Olevich said.
The rift between the US and the EU is exemplified by Europe’s handling of Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Despite pressure from Washington, the EU remained party to the deal, and European leaders worked to avoid US sanctions by developing an alternative payments mechanism to keep trade with the Islamic Republic flowing.
In Germany, neither rebukes from Trump nor the promise of US-supplied natural gas could stop the government from pressing ahead with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Once completed, Nord Stream 2 will pipe 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas into Western Europe per year. Opponents say it deepens Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, and by bypassing traditional transit countries like Ukraine and Poland, allows Moscow to threaten their gas supply without affecting Western customers.
“The Europeans are already getting wary of following blindly the misadventures of the US neocons,” McAdams stated. However, if the sanctions do not directly threaten European interests, Jatras sees EU leaders toeing Washington’s line.
“If it’s something they can do to the Russians that doesn’t directly impact Germany or another important European country, I think that they have shown in the past that they have absolutely no spine and will do whatever Washington wants of them,” he stated.
Addicted to sanctions
Nevertheless, there is a growing consensus that sanctions don’t really work. “Almost in every single case,they have not had the effect that the Washington foreign policy establishment hoped for,” Olevich said. “Whether that concerns Russia, North Korea, Iran, China, or others.”
UN sanctions rapporteur Idriss Jazairy recently told RT that, rather than undermining public support for a foreign government, economic penalties often cause the population to “rally around the flag” and double down on their support for the government.
Still, Jatras says that “the band plays on.”
“[US leaders] think they can treat Russia like Syria or Venezuela or Serbia,” Jatras said. “I don’t think they realize that they are not the masters of the universe, and they are pushing the world towards a very dangerous place.”
While, according to McAdams, the US foreign policy establishment is “completely out of ideas.”
“They are totally lost, without a coherent idea of the US place in the world. That is why every ‘crisis’ involving another country is met only with US sanctions and threats.”