Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Deep U.S.-Russia Malaise Calls For A Liaison Between Trump and Congress

| Sep. 06, 2017

As Congress returns from its August recess, U.S.-Russia relations are in a deep ditch. This is a serious challenge for our governments and a danger to the people of both nations and indeed the world. Getting to safer ground requires urgent action to establish close cooperation between the Trump administration and Congress — by creating a new bipartisan liaison group modeled on one established in the 1980s. 

Congress has legislated its outrage over Russia’s interference in our election and its actions in Ukraine. Congress has also made clear its distrust of the president’s handling of relations with Moscow. Legislation passed overwhelmingly in both houses (and reluctantly signed by President Trump) codifies existing sanctions, enacts new ones, and prevents the president from altering or removing the sanctions without congressional review and — for all intents and purposes — approval. This creates a joint responsibility between the executive and legislative branches. The challenge is to make it work to avoid a further downward spiral in U.S.-Russia relations.

Congress must assume responsibility for the authority it has asserted. This starts with the recognition that adjusting sanctions must not become such a difficult procedure that it hamstrings our foreign policy in dealing with Russia — which, as the other nuclear superpower, shares with us responsibility for reducing the risk of a nuclear weapon being used by nations or terrorists. If Russia concludes that economic sanctions are essentially permanent, its incentives for adjusting to a more positive course will be greatly diminished. Moreover, most Russian sanctions have been jointly adopted and implemented in close cooperation with our European allies — who may balk if faced with a congressional process that casts doubt on the prospects for sanctions to be lifted or modified. 

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For Academic Citation: Moniz, Ernest and Sam Nunn.“Deep U.S.-Russia Malaise Calls For A Liaison Between Trump and Congress.” The Washington Post, September 6, 2017.

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