Based on the passage of House Resolution 758, it can be inferred that an overwhelming number of Americans don’t approve of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. But it doesn’t imply that the U.S. is ready to escalate the confrontation. 

Third from left in the first row is Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the sponsor of Congressional Resolution 758 condemning Russian’s actions in Ukraine. Photo: AP

Not surprisingly, Congressional Resolution 758 condemning Russian’s actions in Ukraine and moves against its neighbors is leading to some very negative conclusions in both Moscow and Washington. Some, like former presidential candidate Ron Paul, are expressing certainty that the new measure will inexorably lead the United States and the Russian Federation toward greater confrontation.

That may happen, especially if the crisis in Ukraine is allowed to fester or if Russia challenges the sovereignty of another former Soviet republic. But it won’t happen because of this resolution. 

To understand why, it is important to recognize what a resolution does and what it doesn’t do. 

On the one hand, a resolution reflects the sense of the Congress about an issue, a sense that, in turn, reflects the judgment of its members about the mood of the country. That mood, to the extent one can judge through the buzz of news and reporting, is not primarily focused on Russian-American relations but on other issues such as the Islamist challenges in the Middle East and acts of police violence in the United States. But with regard to Russia, many Americans are upset by what Russia has done and is doing, and in such a situation, Americans want to do something, even if it is no more than registering their objections.

Anyone who considers this issue in Moscow or Washington who understands that will also understand that the resolution does not point to any specific action but it does provide evidence that a consensus is emerging that Russia has acted in ways that the U.S. cannot accept or ignore, although there is not yet common ground on the steps that Washington should take.

And on the other hand – and that follows from the last point – this resolution, like any resolution, is not a law. Had it been a law, it would have contained specific requirements for specific actions, and it would not have passed by the overwhelming majority that it was. This resolution does not specify what the U.S. or anyone else must do. 

Rather, it expresses the sense of the U.S. Congress on one particular day as to how angry many are at what Moscow has done in Ukraine, how wrong the members and their constituents think it is, and how they would like to see the U.S. and Europe position themselves in the future.

If one takes those two considerations into account, three things follow – and they should derive the analysis of this resolution and the current trend in U.S.-Russian relations. First, if Moscow assumes that it has won the propaganda war over Ukraine in the United States, this resolution shows that that is not the case. Americans almost always root for the underdog, the David rather than the Goliath. It takes no imagination to know which is which in this conflict.

Second, if Moscow changes course at some point, either by pulling out of Crimea and ending  its intervention in the Donbas or by some other positive step there or elsewhere, American opinion will change radically, Americans will be looking for new ways to cooperate, and a future Congressional resolution will look very different. That is the American way. 

And third – and this is what the current resolution is ultimately about – if Moscow does not change its course on its own, then ever more Americans are going to be ready to take measures to force it to do so as much as they would like not to have to.

The opinion of the authors may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.