MOSCOW—In May, Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a bill of stunning recklessness that seems specifically designed to destroy what remains of relations between the United States and Russia. The legislation’s very name—the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014”—is a misnomer, for its provisions, if enacted, would dramatically heighten tensions between Moscow and Washington. By foreclosing the option of doing what we really need to do—launch a serious dialogue with Russia about how to end the Ukraine crisis—it would deepen the conflict there, augment the human misery spreading as a result, and shove us to the brink of war. In fact, the bill is already doing damage to the prospect of peace by serving Kremlin propagandists as a manifesto of U.S. intent to force Russia to its knees and humiliate its leader. It presents an ultimatum to the Kremlin that no head of state, least of all the famously supercilious Vladimir Putin, would accept.
The Russian Aggression Prevention Act is just a proposed bill, for now. But if the Republicans take the Senate (and retain the House of Representatives) in November’s midterm elections, the legislation shows the direction in which Congress will push President Obama as the current standoff intensifies. Elections aside, the measure represents a hardline approach that the White House is warming to—at a pivotal moment in the months-long crisis when the Ukrainian military is advancing on the pro-Russian rebel stronghold of Donetsk, and Russian troops are massing on the border. Corker’s document reveals a grave, even inexplicable (in light of history) misapprehension of how to deal with an assertive Russia.