Sunday, 30 January 2022 21:56

Sanctions are a dead-end

Sanctions are increasingly being used by Western countries. This is so despite that most studies show that they fail to achieve their stated goals, cause enormous human suffering in the targeted countries and create problems for the Western Countries themselves. The wave of refugees from Syria is an example. The sanctions against Afghanistan will no doubt create a new wave. Welcome to Foreign Policy 2.0.

The new catch-word in international politics is “Rule Based International Order”. The narrative is that this order is being challenged from outside by rogue revisionist countries, principally China, Russia and Iran, and from inside by nationalist and populist politicians (Trump, Brexiters, Orban, Marie Le Pen and the like). There is a call to arms to defend/re-establish this threatened Rule-Based Order. However, if we take a closer look, it becomes obvious that the rules are bent or invented to fit the wanted narrative to the extent that you start doubting whether there are any rules at all.

The management of the Venezuelan economy has been surprisingly incompetent and disastrous, despite sitting on the world's biggest oil reserves. Sanctions and embargo against Venezuela have accelerated the decline, with inflation bordering on hyperinflation, a collapsing economy and mass migration. There is much to dislike in the Venezuelan Government and its policy, and by the way in the opposition, too. But sanctions and embargo is the wrong policy, causing further suffering for the Venezuelan people. Recognizing a self-proclaimed president and supporting a bogus uprising is converting it into a farce. It is old US policy to treat its foes like this. But what the EU is doing, supporting this, is very difficult to understand. Now the Europeans can no longer just blame the Venezuelan Government. They have decided to take on shared responsibility for the suffering of the Venezuelan people.

It has been common to say that the main strength of the US political system is its checks and balances. The three branches of Government are balancing each other out, and the free press and civil society in its many forms contribute with more checks on the system. Sometimes this is still true. But in many cases the result is dead-lock and a non-functional system. Most worrying is that in the fundamental case of war and peace, it simply does not work. This puts the whole world in danger.

Independently of the outcome of the Paris Climate Change summit, big oil and coal have started an irreversible decline, facing the competition from renewable energies and an increasing political pressure to de-carbonize our societies. This changes completely the game and eliminates the incentive to reduce supply to get higher prices. In stead, the rush is now to exploit the oil and gas before it is too late. Who comes too late, loses. So OPEC has lost its power for good, and there is no chance it will get it back again.

Everybody has probably heard about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez' weapon deals. Tanks and anti-air missiles from Russia, warships from Spain, training jets from China, air defence systems from Belarus. The US has expressed its concern that Venezuela is provoking an arms race in South America. Its actions could endanger regional stability the US says. Really? Venezuela is number 5 in Latin America in military spending, both in absolute terms and as percentage of GDP. The Latin American leaders in military spending are two close US allies: Colombia and Chile, which in relative terms spend almost three times what Venezuela does.