By Krishen Mehta, American Committee for US-Russia Accord, 5/4/21
…What do we see around us today? The US has sanctions against over 30 countries, close to one-third of the world’s population. When the pandemic started in early 2020, our Government tried to prevent Iran from buying respirator masks from overseas, and also thermal imaging equipment that could detect the virus in the lungs. We vetoed the $ 5 Billion emergency loan that Iran had requested from the IMF to buy equipment and vaccines from the foreign market. Venezuela has a program called CLAP, which is a local food distribution program to six million families every two weeks or so, providing essential supplies such as food, medicine, wheat, rice, and other staples. The US has has been trying repeatedly to disrupt this important program as a way to hurt the government of Nicolas Maduro. With each family receiving these packets under the CLAP having four members, this program supports about 24 million families, out of a total population of 28 million in Venezuela. But our sanctions may make this program impossible to continue. Is this the US at its best? The Caesar Sanctions against Syria are causing a tremendous humanitarian crisis in that country. 80% of the population has now fallen below the poverty line as a result of the Sanctions. From a foreign policy perspective sanctions appear to be an important part of our tool-kit, irrespective of the humanitarian crisis that it causes. James Jeffreys, our senior diplomat there for many years, has said that the purpose of the sanctions is to turn Syria into a quagmire for Russia and Iran. But there is no recognition of the humanitarian crisis that has been caused for ordinary Syrian people. We occupy Syrian oil fields to prevent the country from having financial resources for its recovery, and we occupy its fertile agricultural land to prevent them from accessing food. Is this America at its best?
Let us turn to Russia. On April 15 the US announced sanctions against Russian Government Debt for so-called interference in the 2020 elections and for cyber attacks. Partly as a result of these sanctions, on April 27th, the Russian Central Bank announced that interest rates would increase from 4.5% to 5%. This is playing with fire. While the Russian Sovereign debt is only about $ 260 Billion, imagine if the situation was reversed. The US has its national debt close to $ 26 Trillion, of which over 30% is held by foreign countries. What if China, Japan, India, Brazil, Russia, and other countries refused to renew their debt or decided to sell? There could be massive rise in interest rates, bankruptcies, unemployment, and a dramatic weakening of the US dollar. The US economy could mirror a depression level economy if all countries pulled out. If we do not want this for ourselves, why do we want it for other countries? The US has had sanctions against Russia for a number of reasons, and many of them emanate from the Ukrainian conflict in 2014. The Russian economy is only about 8% of the US economy, at $ 1.7 Trillion compared to our $ 21 Trillion economy, and yet we want to hurt them further. Russia has three main sources of revenue, and we have sanctions on all of them: their oil and gas sector, their arms export industry, and the financial sector that keeps the economy going. The opportunity that young people have to start businesses, to borrow money, to take risks, is tied in part to their financial sector and now even that is under massive strain due to sanctions. Is this truly what the American people want?
Read full remarks here.