western moronism as a substitute for statecraft

Western Sanctions a Failure of Diplomacy – What Lies Beneath
Editorial, Strategic Culture, Oct 30 2020

O’Brien, Ross, Mnuchin, Pompeo, Esper & Craft. State Dept, Sep 21 2020.
Photo: Patrick Semansky/Reuters

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) once remarked that “assassination is the extreme form of censorship”. The satirist might add that so too are “sanctions” as a form of censorship. Hardly a week goes by, it seems, when there is not some new round of sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and its allies in the EU. This debased ritual has been going on for six years since the Western powers backed a violent coup d’état in Ukraine in 2014, and yet they have continued to blame Russia for that conflict. In addition to ironical allegations about Russia interfering in Ukraine, other far-fetched pretexts have been invoked to justify imposing further rounds of sanctions on the Russian Federation. These include accusations of annexing Crimea despite a legally constituted referendum, the shooting down a Malaysian civilian airliner, interference in US presidential elections and, most recently, the poisoning of a minor Russian opposition figure, Alexei Navalny.

The thing is that in all these alleged grievances, the Western states do not provide any verifiable evidence to back up their provocative claims. The accusations are made on the basis of hearsay, innuendo insinuation, force of repetition and assertion, and anti-Russian prejudice with no legal due process afforded to Russia. This unilateral high-handedness is a travesty of diplomatic norms and is completely unacceptable. It speaks of an inveterate Russophobia harbored by Western governments and servile media. This, however, is the point of sanctions. The unilateral imposition of these measures precludes communication on the basis of equality. It sets up a framework of guilt before evidence. That is a repudiation of respect for international law, sovereignty and the core principles of the United Nations Charter. Europe’s slavish following of US policy in imposing sanctions on Russia over dubious claims betrays a failure of diplomacy and political maturity. There is no sign of willingness for dialogue as equals. Western exaltations of rule of law and independence are a self-parody. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remarked recently at the Valdai discussion forum in Sochi:

The EU is actively pursuing the path of the US relying more and more on threats and sanctions. People who are responsible for the Western foreign policy and do not understand the need for mutually respectful dialogue … we probably have to suspend dialogue with them for a while.

Russia’s exasperation is understandable. It takes two to tango and its takes two to have a dialogue. The American and European side has evidently shown an unwillingness to hold a dialogue with Russia. What is deplorable is that underlying this Western attitude is an evident lack of respect for Russia as an equal. In the absence of such respect, then the prospects for dialogue are diminished. Without dialogue there is limited prospects for security and partnership.

The arrogance of European so-called leaders is particularly palpable here. They want access to Russian natural gas and they want security, yet they arrogantly think that they can treat Russia like some kind of serf. Talk about delusions of grandeur. The delusion is abject because it is the Europeans who are behaving like the serfs lorded over by the US, which rations their “independence” like a condescending nobleman. This paradox in relations is particularly lamentable in the vital realm of arms controls. Currently, Russian appeals for upholding the New START treaty on strategic nuclear weapons are being snubbed by Washington in the same way that the US last year trashed the 1987 INF Treaty. Pres Putin’s reasonable proposals for a moratorium on installing missiles in Europe are being treated with a contemptible complacency, both by the Americans and their European vassals who obviously have no independent say on the matter.

Sanctions are a failure of diplomacy and betray lack of political intelligence and maturity. That inevitably manifests in cutting off dialogue and cooperation on vital matters of security and stability. There is more than a suspicion that the Russophobia seeping into Western polities is a reflection of the reprehensible revisionism that has crept up in recent years concerning the history of WW2. Certain anti-Russian European states and Western ideologues have managed to make almost mainstream their odious view of “moral equivalency” between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, whereby the latter is depicted not as the victor over fascism in Europe but somehow as guilty of comparable aggression. Shamefully, the European Union’s parliament voted in a resolution last year which seeks to blame the Soviet Union for partly starting the 1939-1945 war along with Nazi Germany. The reflexive imposition of sanctions by Western states against Russia speaks of abhorrent Russophobia and a prejudice of reactionary revisionism. These sanctions are but an extreme form of censorship, which can be viewed as a form of aggression towards Russia. This failure in diplomacy is a dangerous development at a time of heightened international tensions. Shame on the US and EU for ratcheting up tensions instead of working for peace. The history of aggression lies beneath.

US Sec State Pompeo insists Sri Lanka lines up against China
Saman Gunadasa, WSWS, Oct 31 2020

US Sec State Pompeo’s visit to Sri Lanka on Oct 27 -28 was a warning to Colombo to directly line up with Washington’s belligerence against China. During his visit, Pompeo met with President Gotabhaya Rajapakse and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena. Pompeo had visited India on Oct 26, accompanied by Esper, for the 2+2 dialogue with their Indian counterparts, to bolster the military strategic partnership focused on aggression against China. Sri Lanka was followed by the Maldives and Indonesia. The chief objective of the tour was to further strengthen US military and strategic ties in the Indo-Pacific region. After holding talks with President Rajapakse and Gunawardena, Pompeo addressed a joint press conference with his counterpart, indicating what Washington requires from the Colombo regime. he said:

A strong, sovereign Sri Lanka is a powerful and strategic partner for the US on the world stage. It can be a beacon for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

In an outpouring of thuggish remarks, Pompeo condemned China’s relations with Sri Lanka, saying:

We see from bad deals, violations of sovereignty and lawlessness on land and sea, that the Chinese Communist Party is a predator.

He then claimed that the US came in a different way, as a “friend and a partner.” Pompeo’s message to Colombo was: “no deals” with Beijing, and to “serve the strategic interests of the US.” His reference to a strong and sovereign Sri Lanka, however, is completely hypocritical, given Washington’s past political interference in Colombo. Moreover, under the banner of “a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the US is cajoling and bullying countries throughout the region to line up with its war drive against China. Sri Lanka is situated immediately adjacent to the main shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, used by China to import energy and raw materials from Africa and the Middle East, and to export to the world. Pompeo’s remarks in Colombo follow his outburst early this month at the meeting in Tokyo of the Quad (the US, India, Australia and Japan). At that meeting, he denounced China for deploying 60k soldiers along its border with India, and declared that the US military build-up in the region would send a signal to China, announcing:

We’re going to confront them and impose costs upon them.

At the Colombo press conference, Pompeo declared that his discussions with Sri Lanka’s leaders focused on “security cooperation which helps keep some of the world’s most vital sea lanes open.” He pointed out that the US was involved in training Sri Lankan security forces and had donated two coast guard cutters to the Sri Lanka navy. Gunawardena responded by saying that Sri Lanka’s foreign policy would remain neutral, non-aligned, and friendly.” But, he attempted to placate the US, saying:

We are conscious of the opportunities and responsibilities that come with our strategic location, we see the importance of maintaining the freedom of navigation in our seas and airspace…

Few details emerged of Pompeo’s discussions with Rajapakse. The president’s media division stated that Rajapakse had reasserted his foreign policy of “independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity” and defended economic collaboration with China, denying that Sri Lanka was caught in a “debt trap” as a result, a reference to Washington’s repeated criticisms of China’s relations with countries like Sri Lanka. The statement noted in particular that the “two sides agreed to further strengthen the defence cooperation already established between Sri Lanka and the US.” Rajapakse also urged more US investment. In a thinly veiled threat, Pompeo told the Colombo media:

America fully expects that Sri Lanka will fulfill its pledges to take meaningful, concrete steps to promote accountability, justice, and reconciliation.

This is a reference to US calls for Sri Lanka to investigate war crimes and seek a power-sharing agreement with the Tamil elites, following the end of Colombo’s communal war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Pompeo’s remarks have nothing to do with addressing “human rights” in Sri Lanka. Washington backed the brutal war waged by President Mahinda Rajapakse, the current president’s brother, which involved the indiscriminate killing of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians in its final months in 2009. The Obama administration only began to raise the issue of human rights to pressure him to distance himself from Beijing, and when that failed, orchestrated a regime change operation to oust him in 2015. Reporting on Pompeo’s visit, the WSJ referred to US concerns that Sri Lanka was seeking more financial assistance from Beijing, saying:

The Rajapakse government is ratcheting up its relationship with China with new loans, multibillion-dollar building initiatives and even new legal guidelines to cement that partnership.

The article characterized Pompeo’s remarks in Colombo as “a warning to Sri Lanka in regards to the potential penalties” for pursuing relations with China. The Sri Lankan government has not yet finalised the signing of the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement, involving grants of $480m. Washington is using the MCC as a means of pressuring countries like Sri Lanka to toe the line. While not rejecting the agreement, the Rajapakse government is seeking to “modify” its terms. Since mid-last year the US has also been pushing to renew its Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which allows the movement of US military personnel in Sri Lankan territory without hindrance. For its part, Beijing is concerned about US military encirclement and seeking to counter it in the countries in the region.

The Chinese Embassy in Colombo lashed out at Pompeo’s remarks characterizing the Chinese Communist Party as a “predator” with a twitter message featuring an image of the “Aliens vs Predator” video game. The caption read:

Sorry Mr Secretary Pompeo, we’re busy promoting China-Sri Lanka friendship and cooperation, not interested in your Alien vs Predator game invitation.

Faced with huge debts worsened by the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Colombo is seeking further financial aid from Beijing. Chinese assistance to Sri Lanka already amounts to $5b, with the grant of another $500 million loan in March. Beijing is now considering a $700m loan, along with a $1.5b swap facility. Rajapakse is scheduled to visit Beijing in December, at the invitation of top Chinese foreign policy official Yang Jiechi, who toured Sri Lanka early this month. Pompeo left Sri Lanka on Oct 28 for the Maldives, a small island state strategically situated near the sea lanes of the Indian ocean. In 2018, Washington, with the backing of New Delhi, sponsored the ousting of pro-Chinese President Abdulla Yameen by pro-US Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who won the presidential election. The US signed a far-reaching defence agreement with the Maldives last month. During his visit, Pompeo announced the establishment of a US embassy there.

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