Recently, the House passed, by an overwhelming margin, a resolution to condemn the Russian Federation for actions considered hostile and aggressive within its sphere of influence, specifically with regard to the politically torn country of Ukraine.
Ten Members voted “nay,” myself among them. I wish to explain why I took this unpopular position. Above all, while Vladimir Putin’s government may well have engaged in questionable behavior toward neighboring countries, Resolution 758 was nothing more than gratuitous, needlessly provocative and shortsighted. Moreover, reasonable observers the world over can see it as tantamount to a declaration that Russia is America’s enemy.
The wording spilled over with uncommon vitriol and inaccuracy at a time when our language must be focused, measured and responsible. Since the end of the Cold War, the world has grown increasingly dangerous. This is not the time for motions designed to make Congress look tough and on top of global events.
The moment, rather, calls for a clear-sighted and surefooted ability to identify friends, foes and those who—following their own interests—fall somewhere in between, always ready to find convenient allies.
More than ever, Congress must assess emerging threats astutely, with the highest degree of accuracy and balance. By passing this resolution, it failed these requirements.
The threats to America looming largest are, in order, radical Islamic terrorism and a still-Communist China, whose new economic power has emboldened its leadership to imagine that the ancient Middle Kingdom should control the world. The perils posed by Putin, if any, are not close.
As Americans who enjoy that most mature of democracies—and I say that with a straight face—we may not like the way Putin resolves conflicts in his region. We may not appreciate how he treats dissenters in his fledgling democracy—a reminder of how we’ve turned, for example, the IRS into a political weapon and the NSA into a mega-snoop.
Throughout history, America has allied with far worse actors. In my judgment—and I say this as one of the collapsed Soviet Union’s most ardent enemies—we face a likely prospect of working with whoever leads Russia against the more pressing threats of Islamic terrorism and China’s prickly claims to hegemony.
House Resolution 758 did little more to insure against these real threats than to enable my colleagues to flex their muscles—on paper. We can and must do better.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher represents California’s 48th District. He chairs the House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats and is vice chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.