July 26 (Bloomberg) -- The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Russian President Vladimir Putin committed “an act of war” against Ukraine with cross-border artillery fire that could unite Europe and the U.S. on tougher and more extensive economic sanctions against Russia.
“We know we can do more to get sector sanctions from the U.S., but the question is, can we get Europe, can we get the international community to go along?” Representative Ed Royce, a California Republican, said in an interview on “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing on Bloomberg Television this weekend. “I think we might be at the point when we can.”
The U.S. has said Putin’s government has been shooting artillery into Ukraine. Following this month’s downing of Malaysian Air Flight MH17 over territory controlled by pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels, the assertion of cross-border aggression by Russia is creating a wedge between Putin and some European leaders wary of imposing economic sanctions geared toward entire sectors of the Russian economy, Royce said.
“This is something nobody anticipated,” Royce said. “This is an act of war directly by Russia against Ukraine. It’s a real shock.”
At the same time, Royce said, he favors lending a hand economically to Ukraine’s teetering government by exporting excess U.S. liquified natural gas that could reduce reliance on Russian energy sources. He rejected the idea that it would take too long to get the gas supplies to Ukraine, saying that a soon-to-be-completed facility in Poland could help speed the process.
Royce said shipping some of the “glut” in the U.S. LNG supply and also boosting exports from Eastern Europe “would give a lot of confidence for investment in Ukraine because it would mean they wouldn’t be solely dependent on Russia.”
On Iraq, Royce said he believes odds are improving that the U.S. will decide to send armed drones into Iraq to help the government there in its drive against the militant Sunni group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which controls Mosul.
Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on July 24 that the Obama administration plans to wait to see whether Iraq forms a more inclusive government before deciding to use force against the group.
Royce said ISIL is proving to be a “very, very doctrinaire al-Qaeda operation.” As an example, he cited reports, which haven’t been verified, of an edict that women under the age of 39 in Mosul and the surrounding region must undergo genital mutilation, sometimes referred to as circumcision.
“It requires action,” Royce said. “It doesn’t require U.S. boots on the ground, but it does require some kind of action to suppress it.”
Meanwhile, Royce said that if talks between Iran and six other nations designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program fail, he’s prepared to push through the House added economic sanctions against Tehran that already have broad support.
“We want the negotiations to work,” he said, but there must be a “credible” punishment at the end if there isn’t a result.
Iran and six other nations have extended nuclear talks until Nov. 24 after their latest round of negotiations didn’t result in a permanent deal. The U.S. and its allies say Iran is pursuing the capability to make a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian energy and medical research.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pushed back against a drive in Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran while the talks continue.
Royce was critical of Kerry’s efforts to keep Congress in check for the time being, arguing that he should have let the full Senate vote on a bill imposing a new round of sanctions on Iran as a show of force during the talks.
Instead, Kerry supported an agreement scaling back some sanctions while Iran stayed at the negotiating table. The countries signing the interim accord agreed that no new sanctions would be imposed during the talks.
“I personally was a critic of the idea of not having sufficient leverage against the ayatollah,” Royce said. “I felt we should have passed the sanctions bill through the Senate and then had that sitting there with that threat.”
At the same time, Royce praised Kerry for his continuing efforts to negotiate a cease-fire to help stop the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Kerry said yesterday in Cairo that there are still problems with the “framework” for such a deal, but talks are continuing between Israelis and Palestinians.
In another interview for the program airing this weekend, former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger said political games are at play in the conflicting appellate court interpretations of the president’s health-care law.
Dellinger said a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejecting subsidies for health coverage bought on federally run insurance exchanges ignores the intent of Congress and is “just crazy” and “ridiculous.” That court’s ruling was at odds with a second ruling from a three-judge panel in Virginia.
Dellinger said it’s clear Congress’s intent was to ensure every person eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act who needs subsidies would get them, whether or not they purchase insurance on a state- or federally run exchange.
“The thing that they’re missing is that it really raises the question whether the law was just a game, some kind of perverse sport, in which you could make a narrow logical argument that is contrary to what everybody understood,” he said. There’s a “glee with which people think they found this little niche that they can fasten to, contrary to the clear overall intent of Congress,” he said. It’s just crazy.’’
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