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Washington’s Selective Sanctions

On April 3 US Vice President Pence told Germany and Turkey to stop cooperating with Russia. In a speech in Washington marking the 70thAnniversary of the US-NATO military alliance he declared “If Germany persists in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, as President Trump said, it could turn Germany’s economy into literally a captive of Russia,” and warned Turkey that it “must choose — does it want to remain a critical partner of the most successful military alliance in the history of the world, or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?”

One of Turkey’s “reckless decisions” was explained by Radio Free Europe, which noted that Pence “voiced US opposition to Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air-defense system . . . which he said ‘poses great danger to NATO’.”  He also threatened that “we will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries”.

(We’ll pass over the fact that “the most successful military alliance in the history of the world” bombed and rocketed Libya in a nine-month blitz in 2011 and claimed a “model intervention” in a country it reduced to anarchy. On April 8 Stratfor noted that “An offensive against Tripoli by the Libyan National Army has bogged down in the capital’s outskirts, increasing the risk that the conflict will become protracted.”  Thank you, NATO.)

The weapons system to which Washington so violently objects is the S-400 Triumfsurface-to-air missile which Army Technology describes as “capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defense [and] engaging all types of aerial targets including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 400 km, at an altitude of up to 30 km. The system can simultaneously engage 36 targets.”  In other words it’s a world-beater with a real punch, as is evidenced by the fact that so many other countries have either got it or want it.

The first sanctions Washington has imposed against Turkey concern supply of its 100 Lockheed Martin F-35 combat aircraft ordered at a cost of 16 billion dollars. According to CNN a US spokesman said “Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended.” This is harsh action against a longtime partner and military ally, but it doesn’t stop there, because Washington objects to Russia providing military equipment to other nations.

China is an example.  In September 2018 sanctions were imposed on China by Washington because it had engaged in “significant transactions” with Russia’s Rosoboronexport by purchasing Su-35 combat aircraft and S-400 systems.

A US official told reporters “The ultimate target of these sanctions is Russia . . . [sanctions are] aimed at imposing costs upon Russia in response to its malign activities.”  This is effected by US Public Law 115-44, the ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’ (CAATSA) which is intended to “provide congressional review and to counter aggression by the  Governments of Iran, the Russian Federation, and North Korea, and for other purposes.”

“Other purposes” is a large sphere of implied threat, but the ruling of US legislators is clear, in that any country that acquires S-400 air defense missile systems (for example) from Russia is going to be penalized because Washington is determined to continue “imposing costs upon Russia” for providing such equipment. And it is inevitable that the imposed penalties will impact on the people of the country that dare to engage with Russia. The Diplomat summed it up by observing that the policy “decrees the imposition of mandatory economic sanctions on countries importing Russian military hardware.”

Except when it doesn’t.

It is apparent that the anti-Russia “Countering Adversaries” legislation directed by Congress is being selectively ignored by Washington, because India is being provided with S-400s and no sanctions have been imposed on it.  A purchase agreement was signed on October 5, 2018 in Delhi during an India-Russia summit meeting attended by Prime Minister Modi and President Putin. The Economic Times reported that  India and Russia had “formally inked the $ 5.2 billion deal for S-400 system. The air defense system is expected to be delivered by the year 2020.”

Then Outlook India noted approvingly that “Other areas of collaboration, which figured prominently in the joint statement between the two sides, are nuclear reactors, investments by Indian diamond companies in Russian Far East, and ‘joint collaboration in precious metals, minerals, natural resources and forest produce, including timber, through joint investments, production processing and skilled labor’. The review of priority investment projects in the spheres of mining, metallurgy, power, oil, and gas, railways, pharmaceuticals, information technology, chemicals, infrastructure, automobiles, space, shipbuilding and manufacturing of different equipment reflects a focus on the desire for diversification. PM Modi has invited Russian companies to set up industrial parks in India for defense manufacturing.”

It might be thought that such bilateral collaboration in defense matters, especially in regard to provision of the S-400 system, would attract instant action by Washington, designed to penalize India for brazen contravention of US directives.

But no.

In some fashion, India is different from Turkey and China when it comes to acquiring S-400 missile systems, and an explanation of sorts was offered by the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary Randall Schriver to the House of Representatives Armed Forces Committee on March 27.  He declared that the US-India “Major Defence Partnership” was prospering by “moving toward deeper security cooperation by increasing operational cooperation and availing key maritime security capabilities.”  But then there was mention of the purchase for over five billon dollars by India from Russia of a world-beating air defense system, and Mr Schriver wasn’t comfortable with that.

He was asked by Congressman Seth Moulton how India’s purchase of S-400 systems and the lease of Russian nuclear submarines would impact India-US relations and avoided any reply concerning the submarine lease while stating that purchase of S-400s has “not gone to contract or completed”, which, like so many official statements in Washington, was partly true.  Certainly, delivery of the S-400s has not been completed; but for Mr Schriver to say that the matter “has not gone to contract” is a downright lie.

The effects of Washington’s sanctions on its adversaries have been wide as well as selective. In the case of Turkey, what Pence calls the “reckless decision” to acquire S-400s has shown Ankara that America is not a true ally and cannot be trusted, while encouraging it to further examine its commitment to the US-NATO military alliance. China reacted by saying “We strongly urge the US side to immediately correct the mistake and rescind the so-called sanctions, otherwise the US side will bear responsibility for the consequences,” while reinforcing China-Russia cooperation and strengthening resistance to US policy of global dominance.

In the case of India, US sanctions’ policy was highlighted on April 2 when the Pentagon announced the sale to India of 24 US Seahawk maritime attack helicopters for use against China and Pakistan, at a cost of 2.6 billion dollars. The irony was compounded by the report on April 10 by India Today that “the Narendra Modi government has cleared the procurement of 464 T-90 tanks from Russia in a deal worth over 1.9 billion dollars.”

India is content that it can do whatever it wants and will continue to benefit from Washington’s total lack of principles and ethical consistency. Selective sanctions are the name of the game.  What a bunch of hypocrites.

More articles by:

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

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