July 18, 2017 at 5:00 am ET
In its efforts to punish Russia for meddling in our democracy, Congress is considering a sanctions bill that would expand sanctions against Russia. We should applaud these efforts. However, the bill also includes language that would damage the U.S. economy — not Russia’s — and our ability to lead globally as an energy producer and exporter.
The Senate passed the sanctions bill last month by a wide margin of 98-2, so now it’s up to the House of Representatives to change the language before passing this badly needed bill. The current language would prohibit any and all U.S. companies from doing business with any enterprise that is, or has connections to, a Russian energy firm.
As a former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, I’ve seen firsthand how we help our economy grow by exporting goods and services abroad and supporting U.S. companies develop energy resources in the global market while simultaneously pushing back against hostile actors like Iran and Russia, particularly in the surrounding Caspian Sea region.
Abundant oil and gas in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, in particular, attracted American investment to those countries, while our targeted sanctions against Russia and Iran have limited their ability to exert economic influence in these former Soviet states.
This legislation, however, has the unintended consequences of harming U.S. economic interests while perversely encouraging Russian and even Iranian energy interests. Without our European friends applying the same sanctions to their firms that we are applying to ours, unilateral sanctions such as these benefit European competitors as well.
There are four flaws in this legislation that must — and should — be corrected:
Congress must not allow Russia the opportunity to expand its economic influence at the expense of the U.S. economy. The current sanctions bill must be carefully rewritten to ensure that the U.S. can compete and win against Russian, Chinese, and other competition all around the world. Remove the untargeted global sanctions, grandfather existing production and pipeline projects, define a share of a Russian company’s stake in a new project that would trigger sanctions, do no harm to U.S. business operating outside Russia in normal commercial operations.
Ambassador (Ret.) Richard D. Kauzlarich is co-director of the Center for Energy Science and Policy and adjunct professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1997 to 1999 and to Azerbaijan from 1994 to 1997.
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