Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday put the quick kibosh on a resolution urging him to suspend Chicago’s Sister Cities agreement with Moscow until Russia withdraws from Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
Samuel C. Scott III, board chairman of Chicago Sister Cities International, had already registered his opposition to the resolution, only to be overruled by the City Council’s Committee on Human Relations.
But that was before Emanuel stepped in and called a halt to the idea of punishing Moscow. Instead, the City Council approved a vanilla resolution standing “shoulder to shoulder” with the people of Ukraine, but held the Sister Cities resolution.
“I don’t believe that the city of Chicago should conduct its own foreign policy separate from the United State government,” the mayor said.
“There’s been an increase in communication between the United States government and the Russian government. I don’t think we should have a foreign policy separate from what the United States government is conducting. If anything, rather than cutting off dialogue, they’ve increased the conversation on how to find a responsible way to proceed. That’s an appropriate place to have any conversation or dialogue or actions taken.”
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) was clearly not happy about having the Sister Cities resolution he championed de-railed by the mayor.
“He’s entitled to his opinion. [But], it’s still in committee….It’s held,” Burke said.
At a hearing last month, Scott said Chicago has 28 Sister Cities in 27 countries and has never suspended relations with any of them — no matter what has happened in world politics.
To start now would only undermine a 58-year-old program that “builds bridges” and set a dangerous precedent, he said.
“Will Sister Cities continue on? Yes. But, it will send a very bad message to the other Sister Cities and I don’t know where we stop….I don’t know what the next trigger would be in eliminating a Sister Cities relationship,” Scott said then.
Although Chicago is the only U.S. city with a Sister City relationship with Moscow, there are 73 other Sister City relationships between the U.S. and Russia, he said.
“This is the only one that I’m aware of that is being put on the docket to be talked through….I feel very, very concerned about the fact that, when you stop dialogue and you stop sharing ideas and thoughts and things between peoples, you have the opportunity of making things worse — not better,” Scott said.
“My conversation here is one of saying, don’t stop the dialogue and, in addition to that, the people who will probably be hurt most by this will be the 28,000 Chicagoans of Russian descent. Those are the ones that benefit by what the Sister Cities relationship does.”
Scott’s argument struck a chord with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), whose ward includes parts of Ukrainian Village.
“As a Council, we’re cutting off that last tie that might exist between different cultures and different countries,” he said.
“You cut off people who are moderates in Russia, who are opposed to Putin and what he’s doing, who are opposed to the invasion of the Crimea, who are opposed to a Russian future that challenges the Western European powers, challenges the Ukraine and puts everybody on a war footing.”