Obama's Love of Neo-Soviet Russia Shines Through in SOTU Address

There he goes again.  President Obama is once again placing Russian interests before American ones in order to placate his Russian friends, in the hopes of scoring cheap election-year PR in the form of "cooperation" from a Russia with which he has supposedly improved relations compared to the Bush years.  In so doing, Obama is selling out American values and encouraging Russian aggression.

In his State of the Union speech this year, Obama urged:

This Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia. Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you -- America will always win.

If you find that hard to follow, here's what he was talking about: because of Obama's relentless pressure, Russia has just been admitted to the World Trade Organization.  The WTO won't allow the U.S. to maintain the so-called "Jackson-Vanik" amendment to the 1974 Trade Act, which imposes restrictions on trade with Russia until it accepts basic human rights standards, unless the U.S. invokes the "non-application" principle and makes Russia a special case.  But doing so means that Russia must reciprocate in kind.  In theory, that would restrict access to Russian markets by American companies.

But according to Obama's own State Department data, the U.S. exports only a measly $6 billion worth of products to Russia each year, while Russia sends more than four times that value into the United States.  By contrast, Japan, a country with half Russia's population, buys almost ten times more from the U.S. than Russia does, and just double the figure that the U.S. takes from Japan.  France, with just one-third Russia's population, buys four times more from us than the Russians do.

What's more, Russia has been given a presidential waiver from J-V every year since Bill Clinton took office, so J-V's barriers have nothing to do with America's vastly inferior position in regard to Russia.  They are purely symbolic.

Russia chooses, in other words, to reject American products while trying to deluge American markets with Russian goods (or, more accurately, Russian raw materials).

Oh, and just by the way, America's trade position vis-à-vis Russia has dramatically worsened under Obama's "leadership."  In 2008 our trade deficit with Russia was well under $18 billion.  By 2011 it had soared to $24 billion, an increase of one-third in just four years.  Obama is figuratively  helping the Russians to bleed America white.  He's doing it in the hope that Russia will side with the USA in the Middle East, but the reality is that Russia has consistently sided with American enemies there against the U.S.  (Obama did succeed, though, in getting the Russians to "accept" a nuclear arms treaty that calls for American cuts but none from Russia.  Party on, Barry!)

So if Obama was calling (in somewhat cryptic prose) for exempting Russia from J-V, and our ambassador to Russia says he was, he was doing it to help Russia much more than he was doing it to help Americans.  Note well that our ambassador was tweeting not to Americans, but to Russians, buttering them up with promises of WTO riches due to American largesse.

Of course, as a member of the WTO, Russia will be required to lower certain existing trade barriers, which could result in Russia importing more American goods.  But there was nothing stopping Russia from adopting those policies in the past, because it has always received a J-V waiver from the USA.  And Russia never did so, despite four years of "reset."  It did the opposite, and our trade deficit grew. 

The president's Export Counsel has made the vague, equivocal statement that "by some estimates," U.S. exports to Russia "could double or triple from current levels."  Those who speak diplomat know that this language makes it clear that there is no hard data to substantiate any increase at all.  What's more, the PEC itself has warned that Russia will likely backslide on its WTO commitments, because to do otherwise could wreak havoc on Russia's non-competitive domestic manufacturers.

So we could easily see a situation where Russia reaps the benefits of WTO membership but ignores the rules that would impose a countervailing cost, and where the craven Obama regime does nothing to speak up for American interests -- just as it has done nothing while our balance of trade with Russia has dramatically worsened over the past four years.  Obama has never said a single word about what he will do if Russia ignores WTO strictures it doesn't like.

If Obama's stance on J-V is an economic dud, it's far worse as a matter of morality.  Jackson-Vanik was imposed not for economic reasons, but for moral ones.  Its goal was to stand up for human rights and democracy by demanding that dictatorial regimes reform or suffer economic consequences.  Those same concerns exist about today's Russia.  But exempting Russia from J-V will negate them, and tell the world that the despotic Putin regime is just fine in America's eyes.  That will help Vladimir Putin crack down even more brutally on his fellow citizens.

So, even if we were going to sell a bit more to Russia, is America really prepared to force Russians to pay in blood for our extra cash, and to watch a neo-Soviet state arise in Russia?

Just days ago, for instance, the Kremlin summarily invalidated a quarter of the two million signatures collected by Grigori Yavlinsky, a former parliament member and leader of Russia's only fully organized opposition political party, Yabloko -- signatures that were needed to get his name on the March presidential ballot.  Throughout Obama's term in office, Russia has systematically excluded opposition candidates from every ballot and has shamelessly rigged each election so that the Kremlin's favorites secure victory, often by landslide.  This behavior is no different from what we saw in Soviet times.

And, of course, Russia is ruled by Putin, a proud KGBer who has sought to rehabilitate Stalin; restore the national anthem of the USSR; control the content of school history texts; abolish local elections; and liquidate, often by murder or incarceration, his toughest critics.  He has also radically increased Russian military spending and has launched an invasion of Georgia, a cyber-attack on Estonia, an energy war on Ukraine, and a verbal conflagration against the United States, which he most recently referred to as a nation of parasites.

In his State of the Union address, Obama did not say a single word about any of this.  He just demanded, as if he were speaking for the Kremlin, that Congress do nothing to upset Russia's sweet import-export setup with the USA, covering his actions with lies about benefits to Americans.  In other words, just as he did with missile defense in Eastern Europe and WTO membership, Obama is offering Russia unilateral concessions in the hopes of voluntary reciprocation at some future time.  That's called appeasement, and if America hasn't yet learned that that isn't a viable strategy, it should be ashamed.

Obama's theory -- that exempting Russia from J-V will lead Russia to becoming a democracy with a level playing field on which American will, in his words, "always win" -- is completely bogus, and Obama knows it.  Only pressure of the kind measures like J-V apply, combined with support for domestic opposition to Putin, can produce results.  The USSR collapsed not because of unilateral concessions and trust; it collapsed because it lost the Cold War.  It would be one thing if Obama had a plan to impose pressure through a different vehicle from J-V, but he most certainly doesn't.

Obama has decided to sacrifice American values for what he hopes is short-term public relations fodder.  He wants to be able to claim he has recruited a new American ally, or at least that he has blunted Russian opposition, so he can cast himself as a foreign policy success.  He appears desperate to have some basis to argue to Americans that he is making friends abroad, even if it is based entirely upon fabrications.  If he's allowed to continue this policy for the next four years, future generations, both American and Russian, will pay a heavy price.