Russia Hysteria Is Warping the US Policymaking Process


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Since Election Day, President Trump’s opponents have been promoting a wide array of theories regarding the president and his supposed collusion and sympathy with Russia.

As Americans, we all desire a proper and balanced eye towards the challenges that Russia poses, as well as a thorough understanding of the extent of its interference in our election last year.

However, in the rush to ensure that our policies towards Russia are properly aligned towards our goals and reflective of the geopolitical stage, we cannot fall into hysterical-overreaching and hyper-protectionism that would damage our economy as well as national security. Sadly, there are already some hints of precisely that.

Take the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, for example, which has already passed the House and is going to be voted on this week in the Senate. The NDAA is the massive defense appropriations bill that governs how our national security strategy is funded, and thereby run, and thus how well Americans are protected from the many threats facing us across the world.

This year, it seems that Russia-hysteria and protectionist sentiments have made their way into the bill and our national security strategy. There are a variety of provisions in the bill that explicitly bar certain Russia-manufactured products and services, such as rocket motors and transponder communications on foreign rockets, from being used in our country’s rocket systems, despite reports detailing that some these components remain essential to the systems’ operational ability and are irreplaceable until 2025.

Furthermore, a controversial provision was inserted into the NDAA that prevents the U.S. Air Force from developing new launch vehicles at all for rockets. While countries like North Korea are rapidly developing their missile capabilities, our own rocket development will be limited.

In crafting this year’s defense appropriations bill, the House Armed Services Committee sadly fell to putting a fear of all things Russian over a balanced analysis of our national security and economic priorities and concerns.

By completely barring Russian products without clear cause and restricting new weapon systems development in what is the primary modern technological arms race, not only is our national security threatened but billions more in taxpayer dollars will be spent on what may very well be inferior systems and parts.

The Department of Defense, the Air Force, and the White House have already made their objections to these provisions well known to the House committee. However with some Congressmen trying to climb over one another to see who can prove their militant total opposition to Russia the most, wild policies become part of bills and possibly law.  

The NDAA is only one example of how the firestorm around Russia is not only wreaking havoc on our political discourse, but also on our policy-development process itself. It is, in the end, the policy process that will make real differences in the lives of Americans, whether in how prosperous we are or how safe we are.

I have previously written extensively about both the worries that Russia poses to the world order as well as, on the other hand, the dangers of extreme and reckless hysteria regarding Russia. As the Trump presidency moves forward, we need to be careful in not allowing the back and forth of our political see-saw to damage our country’s fundamental economic and defense capabilities.

By merely restricting and opposing everything that has a remote Russia relation, we not only minimize our own potential economically but may in the process damage our own national security strategy as well.

In the policymaking process, Congress ought to remember that the American people, in the end, prioritize their national security and prosperity first, no matter the party.

Our policy making process should not embrace petty trade wars and protectionism, whether against Russia or otherwise, that costs American taxpayers more money for less worthy products. Furthermore, policy making regarding national security should be aimed first and foremost at protecting Americans rather than embracing anti-Russia sentiment for its own sake.

The House Armed Services Committee should have taken that rationale into account in crafting this year’s NDAA, the Senate should do so next week, as should the policymaking process in Congress in the future.

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