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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: How Can U.S. Ask for Barter Deal?




"It's just one of the proposals on the table." - a U.S. Embassy official confirming that Washington has offered to write off hundreds of millions of dollars in World War II "lend-lease" debts in return for ownership of the embassy.


Well, it ought to be taken right back off the table. A barter deal? Washington is urging Russia to do a barter deal?


After all the complaining the IMF and World Bank and other Western advisers have done over the years about barter - how it is non-transparent, how it is an invitation to corruption, how exchanging money is always better - the U.S. government is trying to finagle a barter deal for itself?


Here's an idea: Pay a fair rent.


Only the United States, which still owes gazillions to the UN, could argue with a straight face that it should be allowed to continue paying a rent of $13 or so a month for an enormous real estate empire in the heart of Moscow.


What is that anyway - engagement? Is that supposed to be an advertisement for the way the free market works - the U.S. government gets to pay $13 a month, when anyone else would long ago have been told to pay at least ten thousand times as much or move out?


For that matter, why should the U.S. government be allowed to shoulder its way to the head of the line of all of Russia's various creditors?


Let the U.S. government pay the rent, and then Russia can decide who to pay off first - lend-lease debts from four decades ago that no one really cares about now, or Russian workers and soldiers saddled here and now with wage arrears.


In fact, it is truly shocking that during all of these years of wage arrears and poor tax collection,when Washington was tsk-tsking about the Russians getting their financial house in order, that Washington was also insisting on continuing to pay such a low rent.


There is a reason why Russian media continue to worry away at the rent story: Because it is patently unfair.


Like the U.S. visa policy - guilty until proven innocent, but with a possibility of bail in the form of a child or loved one left behind - it is a frank insult.


And how is it that the same embassy that gets a roughly $100,000 rent windfall every month can moan that it has no cash to, say, put up an awning out front so visa applicants are shielded from the rain? Or hire enough staff to deal politely and fairly with visa applicants?


Whatever else is going on here, it is certainly not diplomacy.