Judd Legum at Popular Information has another damning exclusive report demonstrating how deep into Russia the Koch conglomerate of intertwined corporate and political interests really is. He obtained an internal email from one the network’s influential nonprofits, Stand Together, that argues the U.S. needs to deliver a partial “victory” to Russia in Ukraine. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Koch network’s corporate and nonprofit opposition to sanctions on Russia happened at the same time congressional Republicans began obstructing them.
Koch Industries, the multinational conglomerate run by right-wing billionaire Charles Koch, is uncharacteristically making national news this week by remaining one of few Western companies to continue operations in Russia. The Koch operation generally flies under the radar of traditional media—which works just fine for all concerned, they prefer a low profile—but after Legum’s newsletter broke the story, pressure built on Koch Industries to respond.
The Koch group was forced to issue a statement on March 16 explaining—and doubling down on—the decision to keep their operations in Russia going. That same day, the email Legum has uncovered was sent by the supposedly independent think-tank internally. That raises some serious questions about how dependent upon Koch Industries profits the supposedly nonprofit side of the operation is.
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Dan Caldwell, Stand Together’s vice president of foreign policy, sent the email to the organization staff with a subject line, “An Update on Ukraine.” After a rhetorical denunciation of Russia for the invasion and of Putin, Caldwell launches into a condemnation of international sanctions on the Russian government and assistance to Ukraine. “[O]verly-broad sanctions rarely work as intended and often strengthen the authoritarian regimes,” Caldwell wrote. The organization, he said, only supports “aggressive and targeted sanctions against Russian leaders.” Meaning none of the money-making in Russia should be endangered, and its economy should be protected.
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Caldwell argues that the harsh economic sanctions imposed by the European Union, individual countries, and the U.S. should be abandoned at the risk of escalating the war “into a larger conflict between a nuclear-armed Russia and the United States.”
“This is not to say the United States should do nothing,” Caldwell continues. No, the U.S. should be allowing the Russians to declare some kind of victory. “The United States should support diplomatic efforts to help end the war,” he wrote. “An outright victory by either Russia or Ukraine is increasingly unlikely and a diplomatic resolution is the path that best limits the bloodshed and minimizes the risk that the current war could escalate into a larger conflict.” Since Russia can’t have an “outright victory,” the U.S. needs to create a glide path for it to declare some kind of moral victory. Those diplomatic efforts, by the way, would likely involve ceding huge chunks of Ukraine to Putin, at the least. Russia would likely also demand the ouster of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and installation of a pro-Russia regime.
That’s all problematic from the standpoint of Ukraine’s future. More prosaically, it should be a problem for the Koch dark money “nonprofit” network. Caldwell explicitly tells Stand Together staff to read the statement from Koch Industries doubling down on the decision to stay in Russia, and reinforces the justification used by the commercial arm of the organization that halting business operations there would “do more harm than good.” It’s the same argument he’s making about sanctions: Basically, it’s all for the good of Russia, Ukraine, and world peace to let Russia overrun a sovereign nation and slaughter its people.
“Stand Together is a non-profit and, as a result, receives tax benefits from the federal government,” Legum explains. “Specifically, any money donated to Stand Together by Charles Koch (or others) is tax-deductible, and Stand Together itself does not have to pay income taxes. But, as a result, Stand Together’s resources cannot legally be deployed for the specific benefit of Koch Industries.” The tax-exempt Koch network think tank definitely appears to be promoting policies that would benefit Koch Industries’ economic interests.
Eight House Republicans voted against the revocation of Russia’s permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status back on March 17, when the Koch groups were formulating their opposition to sanctions and economic punishment of Russia. That opposition has ballooned to the point that on Tuesday night, 63 House Republicans voted against a bipartisan resolution that expresses “unequivocal support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as an alliance founded on democratic principles.”
And now we have growing Republican refusal to punish Putin and to support liberal democracy. What started as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) having a similar fit over the human rights violations segment in the revocation of permanent normal trade relationship with Russia bill has grown into multiple problems with the legislation from unnamed senators—almost certainly Republicans—preventing the bill from having a quick vote in the Senate. At this point, it won’t be resolved before the Senate leaves for two weeks of recess.
The Koch money—a fortune built with the help of both Hitler and Stalin—has bankrolled Republicans for decades. Is it a coincidence that Republican opposition to further sanctions on Russia gelled following the Kochs doubling down on fighting them?