Sen. Corker’s bill is a loyalty test for Europe

In May 2014 U.S. Sen. Bob Corker introduced a bill known as the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014.” As drafted, bill no. 2277 stands little to no chance of passage. “A barking dog seldom bites,” noted Dimitri K. Simes ironically about the role of the White House in this legislative initiative.

At first glance, the Corker bill appears to be either a nostalgic PR stunt from a Cold War-era hawk (Sen. John McCain) or a foreign-policy statement from a presidential wannabe (Sen. Marco Rubio). In many aspects the bill’s target audience is not in the U.S. but in Europe (Sec. 101). The authors of the bill are sending a message to EU officials that Russia should be officially cast as the aggressor in the Ukrainian crisis.

In Sec. 102 (b) the senators advocate for “a strong and revitalized NATO” (but who needs to “revitalize” something that actually works?). In their opinion Europe should forget any illusion of self-reliance, instead investing more in the U.S./NATO defense umbrella (Sec. 102 (3)). According to Sec. 105 (b), the sponsors of the bill want to establish a “German Global and European Security Working Group” to “deepen the military cooperation between the two states.” In the context of the recent surveillance scandal in Germany and Berlin’s failure to repatriate its gold reserve from Fort Knox, the Group’s mechanism looks like a new version of the Kanzlerakte.

Sec. 202 (2) and Sec. 203 (3) of the Corker bill are designed to limit Russia’s economic options in the U.S. market. However, the U.S. is a much smaller trading partner for Russia than the EU. In 2012, Russian trade with the United States amounted to $38 billion, which is only a tenth of its level of commerce with the EU. In 2013, it imported goods worth $27 billion – more than double the value of its exports. This is why European businessmen had reasons to urge a halt to the economic sanctions against Russia and demand peace in Ukraine.

When Bob Corker was Chattanooga’s mayor a decade ago, his encounters with “foreign powers” were limited to dealings with neighboring towns in Hamilton County.
When Bob Corker was Chattanooga’s mayor a decade ago, his encounters with “foreign powers” were limited to dealings with neighboring towns in Hamilton County.

For his part, Sen. Corker may have his own personal interests in Ukraine. Businessmen associated with the oligarch Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel and pipeline billionaire, had business dealings in Chattanooga while Corker served as mayor of that Tennessee city. Sen. McCain’s sermons on Euromaidan and his contacts in Ukraine prior to the coup also leave no doubt about his involvement in the crisis.

The silent protest in Europe is gaining momentum. Even if Obama decides to buff up his “tough guy” image and sign the document, this does not mean that other NATO members will automatically grant Ukraine major non-NATO ally status (Sec. 303). There are many realistic people in Europe who understand that NATO security guarantees for the territory formerly known as Ukraine would amount to a geopolitical time bomb. Interestingly, Foreign Policy points out that until the 20th century, the United States also avoided “entangling alliances.”

The Corker bill has another implied and long-term goal. It fits in with America’s global strategy to substitute national legislation for international law (informal warrants, the abductions of foreign citizens, torture in extraterritorial U.S. prisons, etc.). The exceptionalism of the ideology of the “new American century” promotes the belief that the U.S. legal system is a universal one, and thus the members of the Committee on Foreign Relations feel they should regularly test the loyalty of their EU allies. In their opinion, European dissenters who dare challenge Washington’s irrational scorched-earth policy in Ukraine should be bound to the U.S. through various “security working groups.” Military cooperation goes hand in hand with mechanisms of financial control such as TIPP and FATCA.

Is the “old Europe” truly devoted to its financially wounded but zealous hegemon? The Financial Times quoted a senior European official on this topic: “Are the EU member states united on this [imposing sanctions]? No. Are they willing to die for Ukraine? I don’t think so.” France, Germany, and Italy are among the nine EU members who don’t want to follow the U.S. lead and impose new trade sanctions on Russia. Realizing that Kyiv is a burden and not a strategic asset, the case of Ukraine could become a good benchmark for Europe’s sovereignty.

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