• FRIDAY
  • JULY 01, 2022
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Sanctions on Russia, Belarus

The world starves


But western sanctions on Moscow mean no maritime insurance and that ports won’t accept Russian ships; thus sanctions mean many ships that carry wheat and fertiliser to places that desperately need them, like North Africa, can’t sail. So does the fact that Ukraine mined all its Black Sea harbours. COURTESY

  • OPINION
  • Eve Ottenberg
  • Published: 15 Jun 2022, 11:53 AM

At any point in the Ukraine war, Biden could have urged negotiation instead of sanctions. He could have attempted to end this slaughter


Russia is a breadbasket of the world. It is the globe’s third biggest wheat exporter, way ahead of Ukraine, the eighth, and the world’s biggest fertiliser exporter — a product the US, unlike those poor chumps in Europe, made sure to exempt from sanctions and to continue to import from Russia to the tune of over one billion dollars. But western sanctions on Moscow mean no maritime insurance and that ports won’t accept Russian ships; thus sanctions mean many ships that carry wheat and fertiliser to places that desperately need them, like North Africa, can’t sail. So does the fact that Ukraine mined all its Black Sea harbours. Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed this: ‘The withdrawal of grain ships from Ukrainian ports is hindered by Ukrainian mines. There is no Russian blockade.’

And then there’s the Scylla and Charybdis facing Global South leaders: violate western sanctions, somehow import Russian wheat and get clobbered financially and politically by the US and EU or don’t import and let the people starve. In fact, this exact, awful choice smacked 14 countries in the face in mid-May. That’s when the US claimed that Russian ships with ‘stolen Ukrainian grain’ had sailed.  Washington announced this to mostly African nations. What were those African leaders supposed to do? Vainly try to refute the claim or refuse the wheat and let people die slow, agonising deaths from hunger? Meanwhile, western propaganda, aka the mainstream media, shrieks with hysterical pugnacity about Russia using food as a weapon of war. Quite a racket Washington has going, based on lies, coercion and extortion; a horrible counterpoint to the needless slaughter of Ukrainian troops — needless, because Kiev’s patron, the US, could speed the end of this promiscuous death by promoting peace negotiations. Biden refuses to do this. Despite his recent murmurings about a negotiated settlement, one doesn’t get the feeling Biden has yet put any oomph into it.

Russia, like the US before it in Iraq in 2003, started a ghastly war. But Moscow was most surely, most deliberately provoked by NATO and the US — unlike the US’s many wars of choice in this century. Any equivalence to Moscow’s invasion, despite western hocus pocus about Russia expanding its quondam empire, is astonishing hogwash. However dreadful Russia’s war in Ukraine, what the US did in Iraq was worse. How did Baghdad provoke Washington in 2003? Did it array troops on the border of North Dakota and dispatch battleships to the Gulf of Mexico? Did it threaten to ally with Mexico and reconquer Texas? Did it support over eight years a Mexican slaughter of 14,000 residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, as Ukraine did to the citizens of the Donbas? No. Iraq was thousands of miles away from the US and posed zero threat to this country, as Washington’s mendacious rulers knew all too well.

Provoking Moscow, however, has been Washington’s poorly concealed specialty since the fall of the Berlin wall. NATO needed an enemy, you see, to justify its existence, and so did US defence contractors, to boost profits. So that now, NATO very dangerously surrounds and menaces a vast country that is armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. NATO’s insane, potentially world-sacrificing aggression continued despite many loud protests from Moscow. As scholar Norman Finkelstein asked in a recent interview with Briahna Joy Gray — after exhausting all diplomatic avenues, what was Russia to do? This is not, in my perspective, to excuse the invasion in any way. It is an honest question. It needs to be raised — and answered — to cool the heated hysteria of the mephitic US disinformation war. Anyone with a scintilla of intelligence knows how the US would respond if the tables were turned. Washington would shoot its way out of such encirclement, and it would do so with nuclear missiles.

At any point in the Ukraine war, Biden could have urged negotiation instead of sanctions. He could have attempted — and efforts by the ruler of the US empire carry great heft, even with a client as understandably determined to defend itself as Kiev — to end this slaughter, this mashing of Ukraine into an abattoir. He chose not to. He chose prolonging the war over encouraging peace, thus condemning lots of Ukrainians, Russians and, if this war goes nuclear, billions of other people to death. He still chooses not to, even when it’s quite clear the long-planned economic sanctions have backfired and now crush western economies. (Those sanctions were ready, right out of the gate, and so had evidently been drawn up, quite malignantly, years before Moscow invaded.) Even when it’s clear that this economic, inflationary debacle ends Biden’s chances of re-election. If you sanction an economy as gigantic and globally vital as Russia’s, one that exports so many essential commodities, you are basically jumping off a cliff with your own country’s economy in your arms. Biden doesn’t seem to care, just like he doesn’t seem to care about the millions of people in the global south that his precious sanctions will starve.

They sure won’t starve fortress Russia. Moscow is doing fine. It has all the food it could want, a strong ruble, all the fertiliser it needs, Beijing has its back, and it can wait this siege out for years, while the Euro plunges in value and chumps like EU bigwigs Ursula Von Der Leyen and Charles Michel preside over Europe’s deindustrialisation. Does the US have second thoughts? Evidently not. Rather, as astute observers noted early on, the US, guided by meathead neocons, goaded Russia into invading in order to kill the Euro, deindustrialise Europe and sever trade between Moscow and the EU. Also, so it could balkanise Russia — well, that’s not happening; it’s the only piece of this dodgy scheme doomed to fail, due to Russia’s nuclear arsenal. And that’s only part of the story. Everything, everything, for the declining US empire is about saving face.


The article first appeared on CounterPunch.org

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