Sunday, January 8, 2017

Why Sanctions Against Russia?

Why Sanctions Against Russia?
By jamesbaxley
Why is there always so much antagonism between the U.S. and Russia? This wasn’t always so. Russia and the U.S. had a good working relationship during the 18th and 19th centuries. The two countries weren’t natural enemies, after all Russia was on the other side of the world and even supported the Union during the American Civil War. So what happened?


There were two circumstances which fueled America’s love for power. The first, which entails several common matters was Spain’s defeat to the U.S. during the Spanish-American War. Spain’s defeat gave the U.S. a taste of imperialism and the 1898 Treaty of Paris allowed it [U.S.] temporary control of Cuba and ceded ownership of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine islands.

The U.S. emerged from the Spanish-American War as a world power. Being victorious in World War I and World War II only enlarged the U.S.’s ego. It was the victories in WWI and WWII elevated America into a superpower and the world can only have one superpower.

There is only room for one superpower at any time in geopolitics. If “country A” claims to be a superpower and “country B” claims to also be a superpower then there will be a conflict.

Think about it. Were there ever two competing superpowers throughout the history of the world (besides the 20th century which I will discuss further in this essay)? Did the Roman Empire or Napoleon I’s France have a competing superpower to deal with? 

It was the emergence of a second superpower, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) in 1916 which challenged the U.S.’s dominance and fueled the ongoing lust for power. It was the Soviets challenge to the U.S. and the Soviets conflicting ideologies, America was pro-capitalism and the U.S.S.R. was anti-capitalists, which fueled the Cold War between the two world powers. 

When communism in the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S.’s hunger for dominance needed to be fed, so the Cold War 2.0 continued with the Russian Federation and former Soviet satellite states being America’s primary antagonists.

This brings us to the sanctions against Russia. The sanctions already in place originated from the Ukrainian crisis. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which historically has been a part of Russia throughout most of its history (and 70% of its population are ethnic Russians) had voted on March 16, 2014 on a referendum to leave the Ukraine and join Russia as a federal subject.

The Ukrainian crisis brought with it a slew of sanctions such as travel bans; the freezing of U.S. assets against not-yet-specified individuals; ban on business transactions within its territory on seven Russian officials, including Igor Sechin, executive chairman of the Russian state oil company Rosneft, and seventeen Russian companies; extended its transactions ban to two major Russian energy firms, Rosneft and Novatek; and transaction bans to two banks, Gazprombank and Vnesheconombank.

The U.S. has dragged other countries to participate in the sanctions such as European countries, The U.K., Japan, Norway, Australia, and Canada as well as other assorted countries. Italy, Hungary, Greece, France, some German states, Cyprus, and Slovakia are among the E.U. states most skeptical about the sanctions.

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated in an Aug 15, 2014 article in Reuters that Europe “shot itself in the foot” by introducing economic sanctions. In the words of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov: “I don’t know how Russia is affected by the sanctions, but Bulgaria is affected severely” (Mail Online, 2014). Czech President Miloš Zeman (November, 2014, Prague Post) and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico also argued that the sanctions should be lifted (Reuters. August, 2014).

It has been estimated that the sanctions against Russia has cost the E.U. as much as €100 billion, with Italy in particular losing over €1.25 billion. The sanctions has affected the German business sector also, with around 30,000 workplaces depending on trade with Russia.

Finland’s Natural Resources Institute LUKE has estimated that last year farmers saw their incomes shrink by 40 percent compared to the previous year because of the Russian sanctions.

The American company Exxon Mobil reported losing about $1 billion due to sanctions in 2015.
It is natural that Russia would retaliate with its own sanctions imposed on the U.S., Great Britain, and the E.U. There were travel bans on such American luminaries as Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, Senator John McCain, and two advisers to Barack Obama.

There were travel bans on other politicians from countries which supported or participated in the Russian sanctions: Russia banned thirteen Canadian officials, including members of the Parliament of Canada; a Member of the European Parliament; Lithuanian MEP Gabrielius Landsbergis; Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete; Speaker of the Polish Senate Bogdan Borusewicz; and a member of the German Bundestag.

Russia released a blacklist to European Union governments of 89 politicians and officials from the EU who are not allowed entry into Russia under the present sanctions regime.

The sanction which had the biggest impact on the followers of the U.S. sanctions was on 6 August 2014. Putin signed a decree "On the use of specific economic measures", which mandated an effective embargo for a one-year period on imports of most of the agricultural products whose country of origin had either "adopted the decision on introduction of economic sanctions in respect of Russian legal and (or) physical entities, or joined same". The ban included the U.S., the EU, Norway, Canada and Australia, and included a ban on fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, milk and dairy imports.

The Obama administration on Thursday announced its latest rounds of sanctions (the fourth round of sanctions) on Russia based on unsubstantiated charges. Obama has sanctioned the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations; the closure of two Russian compounds in the U.S.; and the expulsion of 35 Russians.

In the report issued by The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Joint Analysis Report (JAR): GRIZZLY STEPPE – Russian Malicious Cyber Activity” which is in its most basic form a description of “tools and infrastructure used by Russian intelligence services” available to the Russians if they were to “compromise and exploit networks and infrastructure associated with the recent U.S. election.”

Although the report lists “tools and infrastructure,” it gives no proof that these “tools” were actually used. The JAR just lists tools available to the Russians. Furthermore, it doesn’t give any proof that the Russians compromised or exploited U.S. networks.

The DHS report makes every effort throughout the report short of admitting that the Obama administration has zero proof the Russians compromised the 2016 Presidential election. The report even begins with a disclaimer:

 “DISCLAIMER: This report is provided ‘as is’ for informational purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.”

So why the new sanctions without any evidence this close to Obama leaving office? It has nothing to do with Obama leaving office, but everything to do with Trump’s presidency.
The newest sanctions are under the guise of “a cost and a consequence for what Russia has done,” according to a senior Obama administration official.

What I believe the role of the sanctions play, is to undermine President-elect Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump’s alarming affinity for Mr. Putin and refusal to accept the conclusion of American intelligence agencies is seen as a threat to national security by the Democrats. This certainly wouldn’t be the case had Hillary Clinton won the Presidency.

The sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services, the GRU and the FSB according to Eric Lorber, a senior adviser at the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies are meant to “box in” President-elect Donald Trump. Obama’s new sanctions were put in place to make it “hard for the administration to come in and say on day one all the reports were untrue, the FBI was wrong, the CIA was wrong. It will be difficult for the incoming administration to make that argument to the American people and say the sanctions should be completely done away with."

The current White House administration expects that Trump will reverse the sanctions. The White House in an email is trying to influence Trump's decision by planting the notion in his head and playing on his ego that by doing so, that is reversing the sanctions could expose his inexperience and undermine the legitimacy of his presidency.

In an email from White House spokesman Eric Schultz he says, “If a future president wants to welcome a large tranche of Russian intelligence officials into the United States, he could do so, but we don’t think that makes much sense,” Schultz continues with, “If a future administration wants to lift sanctions against senior Russian intelligence units to make it easier for them to engage in malicious cyber activity, they could do so, but we don’t think that would make much sense.”