US Congress Bends over Backwards to Prevent Improvement of Relationship with Russia, by Peter Korzun

It makes it more difficult to thaw relations with another country when the official policy is to not allow relations to be thawed. From Peter Korzun at

Congress on May 4 authorized a new effort to counter «Russian influence and aggression» and to support civil society organizations in Europe and Eurasia. The lawmakers also backed a measure imposing new restrictions and oversight on Russian diplomats in the United States. The provisions are part of the $1.1 trillion budget to fund the federal government for 2017 backed by Senate. The bill is expected to head to the president’s desk soon.

Lawmakers earmarked $100 million for a new «Countering Russian Influence Fund», which specifically targets the money toward civil society groups that «strengthen democratic institutions and processes, and counter Russian influence and «aggression». The legislation also provides funds for the so-called Eastern Partnership countries – a European Union program with the ex-Soviet states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The funds will reduce their EU’s «vulnerability to external economic and political pressure from the Russian Federation».

The bill requires the president to set up an interagency committee to counter Russian activities. The new committee is to meet on a regular basis. Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the Act, the committee is to submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report describing steps being taken to counter «active measures by Russia to exert covert influence».

It all brings to memory the days of McCarthyism – a shameful period of recent American history. This new body is to be modeled after its Cold War predecessor – the Active Measures Working Group, which operated at the height of the Cold War, when some mid-level officials in the US State Department sought a more robust effort to counter «aggressive Soviet propaganda».

An intelligence authorization measure also tucked into the bill tightens oversight of Russian diplomats in the United States. It requires the State Department, the FBI, and the Director of National Intelligence to set up a procedure that would essentially obligate Russian diplomats to give the FBI advance warning about travels beyond the embassy and consulates’ immediate geographic territory.

To continue reading: US Congress Bends over Backwards to Prevent Improvement of Relationship with Russia



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