- A review of how the election results will influence Russia and Ukraine policy
- Congress likely to enact "Russian Aggression Prevention Act" - a lucrative bonanza for defense contractors, NGOs, and anti-Putin activists
- More taxpayer funding for click-bait 'hip' websites trolling Russia Today, junkets and anti-Moscow propaganda
- Likely direct supply of lethal arms to Ukraine at US taxpayer expense
- State Department approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada and for liquefied natural gas exports to Lithuania and other European countries, irrespective of weak demand for such expensive gas shipped across the Atlantic compared to cheaper Norwegian, Russian and North African piped gas
The Republican Party has picked up seven -- after a pending runoff election in Lousiana likely eight -- seats in the United States Senate, a huge gain.
While there's no question President Barack Obama and the Democrats' popularity has been declining since he won reelection in 2012, Republicans themselves are hazy over what the new GOP majority was elected to do.
Stopping Obama from declaring millions of undocumented aliens in the U.S lawful or quasi-legal residents by executive fiat is one thing most Republicans seem to agree on. They also agree to hold Congressional hearings digging into the numerous scandals of the Obama Administration from the use of the Internal Revenue Service tax authorities against political opponents to the gunrunning operation known as 'Fast and Furious'.
However, the veneer of GOP unity may prove short lived, as not only do the Republicans return soon to Washington with a mandate little more coherent than 'stop Obama' , they also bring with them the foreign policy ghosts of the wildly unpopular Iraq war dating back a decade.
As Moscow's longest serving Western correspondent John Helmer observed last week, based on the pre-election polls conducted by the respected Gallup organization, Republican voters highest priorities are stopping illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border and wiping out the ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
Whether the latter involves broad or deep GOP support for sending more troops to Iraq in order to bolster the shaky Iraqi security forces as President Obama announced after last Tuesday's election remains questionable; even many hawkish Republicans have declared 'never again' following the costly nation building wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the subsequent epidemic of military suicides.
Conspicuous by its absence from the pre-election Gallup polling cited by Helmer was the conflict in Ukraine. According to Helmer's piece Ukraine and 'containing' a resurgent Russia are very low on American voters list of priorities, more so among Democrats than Republicans. But even Republicans aren't eager to send US troops to Ukraine and believe the best way to deal with the conflict is to pursue economic and oil and gas drilling-fueled strategies to undermine Russia's economy.
Many Republicans for example, believe that not only is widespread fracking sustainable at oil prices driven lower to hurt Russia, Iran, and Venezuela, but also that natural gas compressed and super-cooled into LNG tankers can compete with cheaper Russian or Norwegian piped gas in European markets. 'Drill baby drill' populism aside, foreign policy, except for rare cases like the wars in Korea and Vietnam, has overwhelmingly been an elite rather than popular preoccupation in America since World War II, as Hillary Clinton attested during a 2013 speech to Washington's Council on Foreign Relations.
There's no doubt the new committee leaders in the GOP-majority 114th Congress are bringing to their positions their own agendas involving waging a Cold War 2.0 against Russia. Doing so allows both GOP leaders to look 'tough' or Reagan-esque to the Republican base while ignoring Reagan's second term diplomacy to end the Cold War.
The Cold War 2.0 agenda also bolsters what have been for the past thirty years natural Republican constituencies in what President Dwight Eisenhower referred to as the 'military industrial complex' -- defense manufacturers like Raytheon that make the Javelin missile Congressmen are agitating to arm Ukraine with, Republican-friendly private military contractors such as Greystone that allegedly were operating in Eastern Ukraine earlier this year, and construction firms such as KBR or Dyncorp that would have bid most infamously on this contract at FedBizOps to repair a school at a Ukrainian naval base at Sevastapol that now belongs to Russia.
Faced with sequester cuts as the US military had planned to wind down its wars in Afghanistan and the Greater Middle East, the MIC must view any new Iron Curtain in Ukraine and rearmament push by NATO members as a godsend.
The principal Senators likely to drive hard-line anti-Russian policies are mostly familiar faces to Moscow -- Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a figure widely disliked among libertarian Republicans for his manic interventionism and unrepentant defense of Syrian rebels with jihadist ties, will co-chair the Senate Armed Services Committee with oversight over the US military budget.
Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican with a long standing business relationship with Ukrainian steel pipe oligarch Viktor Pinchuk, is the main sponsor of the so-called 'Russian Aggression Prevention Act' or Senate bill 2277. As Washington-based investigative journalist Wayne Madsen reported earlier this year, Corker's bill would not only mandate travel bans against Russian executives from state-linked corporations, it would extend the sanctions to board members on Russian companies from US allies such as Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.
SB2277 in its current form is bound to lead to lawsuits and the Obama State Dept. trying to defang or mitigate some of its more obnoxious provisions to avoid offending powerful Fortune 500 European corporations with ties to Russia, such as Total, BASF, or Pirelli.
Other GOP Senators hailing from oil and gas producing states such as Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe and Texas Senator Ted Cruz will push us liquefied natural gas exports as the best way to hurt Gazprom's profits and thus undermine Russia's economy. But with the U.S. only having a single LNG export terminal ready for 2015 at Sabine Pass on the Louisiana Gulf Coast, it isn't clear whether American LNG exports can live up to the hype.
The cost of compressing and cooling natural gas down to the temperature of liquid nitrogen, and shipping it thousands of miles to Europe's few LNG import facilities is far from negligible, compared to Russian, Norwegian, or North African piped gas already sold in the EU market. Furthermore, the alleged strategy of economic warfare the Reagan Administration pursued against the Soviet Union in the 1980s to deliberately drive down oil prices to empty Moscow's coffers also led to a major bust in West Texas and other US oil producing regions, with a consequent rise in US unemployment.
With Saudi Arabia's ties to jihadist groups across the Middle East increasingly hard to hide, even by neocons firmly planted in the Sunni Gulf Arab camp who insist the rise of ISIS had nothing to do with the Kingdom and Qatar's covert war against the Bashir Assad regime, the more Islamophobic and libertarian parts of the GOP base aren’t willing to forget or forgive that 15 of 19 hijackers on 9/11 hailed from "America's ally" Saudi Arabia.
Neocons such as Sen. McCain have been dogged by allegations of meeting with members of ISIS and other terrorists (which appear not to be true, though McCain's slips of the tongue haven't helped his reputation) or more accurately, of being soft on jihadists so long as they claimed to be fighting the late Muammar Gaddafi or the Russian-allied Assad regime.
Realist and libertarian GOP infighting with the widely despised neocons aside, the more fundamental problem the 1980s-nostalgic GOP faces in trying to repeat Reagan's strategy for undermining the USSR against modern Russia is simply this: the US and its allies are much more indebted and weaker than they were a generation ago, while Russia's economy is considerably stronger.
It isn't clear how Washington can bankrupt a Russian Federation that has over $400 billion in foreign currency and gold reserves to fall back on and almost no sovereign debt whatsoever, as well as the support of the world's largest industrial economy through trade and currency swaps with China.
Washington's European allies face severe costs from Russia's counter-sanctions and increasingly sanction-weary electorates in countries such as Germany or Hungary. At the end of the day, Republicans who decried what they called Obama's weakness in the face of 'Russian aggression' will also soon find out that the world no longer revolves around Washington.