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Obama To Sign New Russia Sanctions Bill

The most striking thing about the administration's decision is how completely spineless it is.
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President Barack Obama's signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Obama will foolishly sign the legislation on Russian sanctions that Congress passed last week:

President Obama has decided to sign legislation imposing further sanctions on Russia and authorizing additional aid to Ukraine, despite concerns that it will complicate his efforts to maintain a unified front with European allies, the White House said on Tuesday.

The legislation calls for a raft of new measures penalizing Russia’s military and energy sectors and authorizes $350 million in military assistance to Ukraine, including antitank weapons, tactical surveillance drones and counter-artillery radar.

Obama is making a mistake by signing this bill. In addition to creating a pretext for more aggressive moves by Russia, signing this legislation will exacerbate Russia’s growing economic problems, and that will adversely affect the economies of Europe even more to the detriment of the U.S. and our allies. This could hardly come at a worse time when it appears that there is a good chance of having a genuine cease-fire in the Ukraine conflict. Piling on additional punitive and hostile measures now risks jeopardizing that fragile truce. It certainly isn’t going to make Moscow more accommodating or inclined to compromise. On the contrary, this is sure to make Russia more combative.

The most striking thing about the administration’s decision is how completely spineless it is. Despite its past warnings that sending arms to Ukraine could make the conflict worse, the administration is yielding to the worst instincts of hawkish members of Congress. Even though it has previously warned against undermining a united front with European allies, it is quite content to do that rather than veto legislation that the administration doesn’t believe to be necessary. The White House says it is concerned that the legislation sends a “confusing message,” but it is willing to sign off on that message. Hawks in Congress know that they can send almost any piece of bad legislation to this White House with the confidence that the president will never exercise his veto power to stop them.