Trump Signs Sanctions Bill That Exacerbates Global Instability

Democrats put Iran deal at risk to score points on Russia.


Today President Donald Trump signed H.R. 3364, the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which tightens sanction on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. He also issued a signing statement expressing a number of reservations with the bill, mainly about its limits on the president's power to deescalate tensions by reducing sanctions unilaterally. Nevertheless, he promises to "give careful and respectful consideration to the preferences expressed by the Congress" while implementing them "in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations."

While it's important for Congress to assert its constitutional authority in the conduct of foreign relations, H.R. 3364 suggests its priorities are skewed. Additional sanctions will only hurt U.S. relations with the affected countries. Congress should instead be focused on asserting its authority where it has long abrogated it: issues of war-making and treaties. Yet it has shown little interest in this, even as various members of Congress have expressed their belief that the president presents a unique threat to global stability.

Now a new National Defense Authorization Act is working its way through Congress with little concern for reining in a decade-and-a-half-long war on terror that has mostly increased the threat of terrorism by creating new safe havens for terrorists across the Muslim world. Rather than reassert its role in a global war spinning out of control—one that by all indications President Trump is escalating further—Congress has chosen to install more obstacles to peace. Congressional Democrats, in particular, are sacrificing the progress made by Barack Obama in U.S.-Iranian relations, all to advance their narrative that Russia poses a grave threat to American democracy.

In a Wall Street Journal interview, the complete transcript of which Politico released yesterday, Trump said if it were up to him the U.S. would have already withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal. His administration has certified twice already that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged in comments yesterday that he and the president disagree on the nuclear deal's usefulness. In the Journal interview, Trump indicated he was deferring to the State Department.

In March, President Trump suggested he would be "honored" to meet with Kim Jong Un. In an additional statement accompanying his H.R. 3364 signing statement, the president complains that the bill "encroaches on the executive branch's authority to negotiate" with other countries. "Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking," Trump noted.

Trump should not hesitate to have one-on-one talks with Kim, or with the presidents of Iran or Russia. Such meetings have a lot of potential upside and not much of a downside, as relations with all three countries are pretty poor already.

Trump concludes his signing statement with some comments on Ukraine, which celebrated the new sanctions against Russia. His administration, Trump insists, "particularly expects the Congress to refrain from using this flawed bill to hinder our important work with European allies to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, and from using it to hinder our efforts to address any unintended consequences it may have for American businesses, our friends, or our allies."

Undermining U.S. foreign relations is easy, particularly when politicians have been whipped up in a xenophobic fervor. Improving peaceful foreign relations is difficult, and this bill only makes it more so. It doesn't just impose new sanctions without a strategy for how to improve relations with the affected countries, but it limits the options available to salvage these relations—a potentially deadly case of path dependence.

NEXT: Rutgers Orders Freshmen to Add Microaggression to Their Course Lists

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  1. Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act

    “The CAATS Act”? MEEEE-OW!!

  2. Oh gee who am I going to side with on this matter, all of Congress or the moronic Russian stooge in the White House.

    1. “Pro-war, unless a Republican is in office!”
      – Tony, an exceptional moron

      1. Name one war I’ve supported.

        1. The War on Poverty.

        2. And the Civil War. Don’t forget that one.

        3. Given your love of Obama and HRC, I would add Iraq War II, the Syrian War, the Yemen War, the Libyan War, the Sudanese War, and the Afghan War. Did I miss any?

        4. 1) Obama’s bombing of Libya
          2) Obama’s aid to Saudi Arabia in its war with Yemen
          3) HRC’s promises to get us involved in Syria
          4) One of your main complaints against Trump is that he’s not belligerent enough towards Russia.

          And that’s just recent stuff.

          But there never has been any connection between your self-righteous posturing and your actual lived behavior, so none of this is surprising.

          1. So first, I’m not sure where you get the premise that I’m not allowed to support any military action. Second, the very first and most important reason I became a Democrat was because of the Bush wars. My entire political adulthood started as an antiwar protest. (Since then, the fact that Republicans believe in actively destroying the global habitat of the human species has taken the no. 1 spot.)

            Which is to say, Democrats make better choices than Republicans. I’m not a military strategist, so I have no fucking idea how we were supposed to extricate ourselves from the Bush wars and their consequent catastrophes. I trusted Democrats to do their best, and they did, especially given shrill, hypocritical, duplicitous, partisan, nihilistic Republican opposition at every turn.

            1. When you ask “Name one war I have supported”, you do not get complain that you are “not allowed” to support military action. You set the parameters of the challenge.

              1. Perhaps since he’s antiwar protester he can comment on how many of Obama’s military endeavors he actually protested.

              2. I didn’t say I never supported one.

        5. The War for the Planet of the Apes

  3. I want to make sure I’m clear on this:

    If he signs the bill, it causes global instability.

    If he doesn’t, then he CLEARLY is blowing Putin.


    1. He’s blowing Putin either way.

      1. That’s really homophobic of you to say

        1. Why? Is one of them gay?

    2. Yes, that is indeed the JournoList narrative, despite the multi-layered, multi-directional levels of endless bullshit we get from the Reason “libertarians”.

  4. It’s OK, his signing statement indicates he has no intention on actually enforcing it.

  5. “In March, President Trump suggested he would be “honored” to meet with Kim Jong Un. In an additional statement accompanying his H.R. 3364 signing statement, the president complains that the bill “encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate” with other countries.”

    Along with the fact that he ended the CIA funding for Syrian rebel groups and rejected a plan to increase troop levels in Afghanistan is surprising.

    The Mises Institute was right. He was the anti-war candidate. Gillespie owes Walter Block an apology (for several reasons)

    1. “”He also issued a signing statement expressing a number of reservations with the bill, mainly about its limits on the president’s power to deescalate tensions by reducing sanctions unilaterally.””

      Did Obama reduce sanctions unilaterally when he gave Iran a pallet full of money?

    2. You’ll never see a reconciliation of the Mises crowd with the Cato/Reason crowd, even though it would do both of them a lot of good

      Besides, let’s make this clear: he was the less pro-war candidate, not the anti-war candidate, much like Obama turned out versus McCain. He’s still brutalizing civilians abroad with bombs, arguably worse than we ever have before in terms of just not caring about the collateral damage

      1. Oh jeez I just heard about the reaction to Jeff Deist’s speech at Mises. He closed with some poor wording, to say the very very very least, but it’s also almost definitely a reference to a recent Jeff Tucker article at FEE

        Here’s to another decade of animosity between Mises and Cato!

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  7. It’s a Republican controlled Congress. How exactly is this a Democrat problems again? When one side has all the balls, you make the ugly deals you have to.

    As to sending Trump to North Korea for one-on-one talks… Yeah! I can get behind that! If he makes it back, we can send him into the deserts of Afghanistan and the Middle East to have one-on-ones with the Taliban and ISIS! That’s an excellent idea!

    1. The GOP did it for Iran and North Korea, the Dems did it for Russia

      They were all stupid and deserve ridicule. I think (hope?) Rand rejected it on principle. Bernie found just the Iran part to be unacceptable. Assuming this is the same thing from a few weeks ago

  8. Wait a minute. I’ve been told repeatedly that Reason thinks that we must impose harsh sanctions against Russia. Could I have been misled? Is it possible that Cathy Young doesn’t dictate Reason’s editorial policy and the viewpoints of every Reason writer?

  9. Sanctions aren’t far removed from a blockade, which I think we’d pretty universally consider an act of war

    But no, they’re apparently just a stern finger point rather than something that has real world consequences for the innocent people in these countries and causes dictatorial regimes to hold on to their power tighter than ever

  10. Ah but the president has already commissioned some in the Bannon- isolationist wing of WH advisors to investigate Iran'[s compliance with the Nucelar agreement and report back to him in 6 months. He is still looking for an out despite the resistance of our allie, Russia and China. Interesting that he desplys no such eagerness to discover the truth of Russian interference in our elections and the means to protect our electoral process from further attack.

  11. Further confirmation that Reason’s foreign policy consists of “be nice and polite to the home invader, and maybe he won’t attack you”.

  12. If we’re lucky, a long hot summer should see national instability trumping global instability. Burn baby burn!

  13. Both sides are insane.

  14. It is insane to impose sanctions on Russia, but Trump had to sign it to avoid a veto override. Globalist politicians need to look at themselves in the mirror because it was only the embarrassment at their own stupidity that led to their hatred of Russia. Before Russia defaulted on its debt in 1998, the IMF–prodded by the lobbying of Bill Clinton–gave Russia billions of dollars; and Russia kept the money and started its own monetary fund to rival the IMF (the BRICS). Now the IMF (with the backing of most in Congress) has bungled monetary crises everyone, thus encouraging more Russian influence. For example, the IMF forced Cyprus to use private bank deposits to bail out the Cyprus banks (a bail in), even though the private citizens had nothing to do with the crises and they now hate the West. And in Greece, austerity measures imposed by the IMF has created a massive homelessness problem in Greece, with starving citizens now hating the West, with an eye toward the help of Russia (which bailed out Cyprus banks earlier). Congressmen are not against Putin because he is a bad man (they will support bad men if they serve their political interests). They are against Putin because he refuses to join the IMF club and advocate their global currency (the SDR). I am sick and tired of all the lies, and there is no reason not to have strong diplomatic relations with Russia. If FDR was able to cooperate with Stalin, we can cooperate with Putin.

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