Saturday, June 03, 2023

Risch has eyes on the ‘real’ enemy

| February 28, 2022 9:48 AM

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch has found a common enemy — and it isn’t President Biden, or congressional Democrats who are trying to ram through their socialist agenda. That’s trivial stuff compared to the monster that Risch is talking about.

The worst person in the world, by far, has to be Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who is in the midst of a civilian killing spree in Ukraine. Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is in the center of discussions of how to deter Putin’s ballistic assault. Putin has spent months denying intentions to invade Ukraine, but something happened in the process.

He lied.

“Anyone who is surprised by Putin’s deadly attack on a sovereign nation has not been paying attention,” Risch said. “These are the actions of a madman.”

Risch is proposing a solution, calling his bill the NYET Act (with nyet being Russian for “no”). Officially, it’s the “Never Yielding Europe’s Territory Act.” (Have you ever wondered who comes up with these bill names?)

In this case, the clever name is the only humorous part of the conversation. Risch’s plan, basically, is to take sanctions that are being pushed by President Biden, add a list of secondary sanctions and hopefully turn Russia into an economic dust pile. It's the Republican’s plan for dealing with this crisis, which means it probably will end up in the Democratic Party’s “nyet” file.

But this is not your usual partisan debate on Capitol Hill. Democrats and Republicans can agree that Putin is some kind of a “madman,” and anything on the table is worth discussing in a calm fashion. Risch is not spending his time, or wasting energy, on blasting the president and Democrats. Thank goodness, Risch also isn’t talking about everything would be better with Donald Trump in the White House.

Trump has used terms such as “savvy” and “genius” to describe Putin’s actions and keeps going back to that “rigged election” of 2020 as the reason why everything else is going to hell.

So, Putin might not be the only “madman” on the world stage. “Savvy” and “genius” are not terms that Risch — or any other sane person -- uses to describe what Putin is doing.

“My bill spells out exactly what should happen today, tomorrow, and what should have happened well before now to stop Putin from doing exactly what he has done,” Risch said in a press statement. “Diplomacy has failed. Those of us who called for more definitive action from the Biden administration and our allies have unfortunately been proven right. We cannot afford to wait longer. We must take more decisive action.”

That’s about the extent of Risch’s criticism of Biden, at least for now. The senator’s purpose in the short term is to make the case for his legislation — which is a mix of initiatives that hardly seem off the wall when dealing with the likes of Putin. What’s absolutely off the table, from the president on down, is sending American troops to Ukraine to battle the Russians.

There’s no partisan bickering over what would result from a cage fight with Russia. Nobody, Republican or Democrat, wants to start a world war. So, economic sanctions will have to suffice — while lending support to Ukrainian troops trying to protect their country.

To most of us who are not exposed to high-level national security discussions, Risch’s proposals might as well be written in Greek. To understand them, you have to do a deep dive into foreign military financing, starting up resistance funds and the mechanics of authorizing lend-lease authority for Ukraine. These things make perfect sense in Risch’s world on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — not so much sitting around kitchen tables.

What everybody is concerned about, of course, is whether presidential sanctions or a senator’s bill will stop Putin from making Russia look like the Khrushchev-style USSR.

Time will tell if the U.S. is doing enough. In the meantime, experts say, brace yourself for higher gas prices at the pump. With a madman on the loose in Russia, there’s no telling when this crisis will end.

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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at

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