American big business votes for appeasement with Russia; Interview with Prime Minister Taavi Roivas of Estonia

Outrageous Lobbying for Appeasement of Russia by American Big Business

The National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce plan to run an ad in leading newspapers on Thursday, lobbying against the imposition of tougher sanctions against Russia by the U.S. Technically, they may argue that the sanctions should not be tougher than those which may be adopted by the European Union.  But as the EU can act only by consensus of its 28 members, and never swiftly, their argument in essence is one against immediate, strong, sectorial sanctions and in favor of the pacifism and appeasement which have so far characterized the response of the West to Russian aggression in the Ukraine.

In doing so, they are acting to undermine the foreign policy of the United States, and President Obama’s threat of a month ago to impose third-stage or sectorial sanctions on Russia if Vladimir Putin did not cease his subversion and support for so-called “separatists” in the eastern Ukraine (which Putin brought into being, incidentally, after invading and annexing the Crimea). This, despite his verbal declarations designed to forestall the imposition of stronger sanctions, Putin has utterly failed to do.

In effect, big business, not content with its enormous influence over domestic legislation and the domestic implementation of laws, now wants to dictate to the president what is or is not in the national interest in the foreign policy arena.  In a word, if a policy serves the national security interests of the United States but hurts the business interests of members of the two groups placing the ads, deference should be given to the interests of big business.

Today, Peter Baker of the New York Times reported on the options under consideration by the Obama administration for adoption in response to Putin’s failure to meet the conditions laid down by the EU and the U.S. nearly a month ago. Regarding the incredibly brazen lobbying by the NAM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, he wrote:

The drive for more sanctions comes as American businesses are growing more vocal in protesting the possibility that the United States may act on its own. While lobbying the White House and Congress quietly until now, leading business groups plan to start a wide advertising campaign voicing their concerns.

“With escalating global tensions, some U.S. policy makers are considering a course of sanctions that history shows hurts American interests,” reads an advertisement to be placed in major newspapers on Thursday. “We are concerned about actions that would harm American manufacturers and cost American jobs.”

The ad, signed by Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, and Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will be placed in The Financial Times, The Hill, The New York Times, Politico, Roll Call, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. A copy was provided on Tuesday by someone not directly affiliated with either sponsoring organization.

Linda Dempsey, the vice president for international economic affairs at the manufacturers association, would not discuss the ad campaign but said American businesses would be unduly harmed if Washington proceeded with sanctions that were not matched by Europe.

“Unilateral sanctions by the United States end up with other countries and their industries filling the void,” she said. “The harm and the real impact of those unilateral sanctions is on U.S. industries and U.S. workers. It’s not that we’re out of the market for a year or two. We could get out of the market for decades.”

See Peter Baker, “Doubting Putin, Obama Prepares to Add Pressure,” New York Times, June 24, 2014.

In Europe, big business is exercising similar pressures on the governments of François Hollande and Àngela Merkel, and others.

The pressure from two of the most important associations of large U.S. businesses is analogous to American big business placing ads in the major newspapers to leave or not leave Afghanistan, or to support or not support U.S. allies in Asia which are confronted with aggressive Chinese actions in disputed territorial waters in the East and South China Seas.

A more direct analogy would be that if China were to seize by force one or more islands currently administered by Japan, the lobbying organizations would place ads in the leading national papers urging the U.S. not to respond forcefully to the Chinese actions unless the EU were acting in lockstep with United States, because of the detrimental impact such unilateral action would have on U.S.-Chinese business interests, and the unfair advantage that would be given to European companies operating in China if the EU did not adopt the same or similar measures.

What this means, in practice, is that U.S. actions would be dictated by the weakest link in the 28-nation chain of EU member states.

How the United States could ever lead the Atlantic Alliance and other nations if it could never act on its own, independently of the actions of the EU, is a question that both defies explanation and points to the most urgent need of U.S. foreign policy at the present moment in relation to Russia and the Ukraine–to adopt strong, serious sanctions against Russia, unilaterally if necessary, and to lead the Atlantic Alliance in responding to Russian aggression.

These big business groups and their members should be forcefully reminded that they have a duty not to actively undermine the national security interests of the United States, so long as they benefit from the protection of its laws and diplomatic representations. They should not be permitted to do so without negative consequences.

Their current lobbying campaign is so disloyal and unpatriotic that every American should take careful note of the companies that are supporting actions in favor of appeasement, and modify their consumer and business decisions accordingly.

The fact of the matter is that, following the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea and in view of its continuing invasion and subversion of the eastern Ukraine, the U.S., Europe and the world face the most serious crisis of international law and institutions since 1945.

For U.S. big business to come in and presume to tell the president how the U.S. should act under these circumstances is simply unforgivable.  It should produce legislative consequences which require U.S. big business to shoulder a larger portion of the economic burden of defense and other expenses required to pay for the national security of the United States.

Interview with Prime Minister Taavi Roivas of Estonia

To get a clear-eyed view of the seriousness of the present situation with Russia as a result of its aggression against the Ukraine, read closely (using Google translator if necessary) today’s interview by Nicola Abé of Der Spiegel with Taavi Roivas, the Prime Minister of Estonia.

See Nicola Abé (Interview), “Estlands Premier Roivas: “Europa muss den Schlummermodus abschalten,” Der Spiegel, 25. Juni 2014 (19:10 Uhr)

Der estnische Ministerpräsident Taavi R  ivas fordert mehr Nato-Truppen im Baltikum. “Wir brauchen eine klare Abschreckungswirkung.”

Roivas stated forcefully that Europe must awake from its current state of slumber, and recognize the threat from Putin and Russia. Among other things, NATO should move its troops to the front-line states like the Baltic countries, where their presence might actually have a deterrent effect against any potential military action. It makes no sense to have them stationed in the middle of Europe in countries which were once front-line states, but are no more, he said.

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"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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