Monday, April 28, 2014

Latest U.S.-Imposed Sanctions on Russians Are Aggression

By Michael Rozeff
Sanctions vary in nature depending on the circumstances. Ordinary domestic sanctions of law need to be distinguished from those administered by individual states internationally, and those need to be distinguished from sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council.
Ordinary sanctions “in law and legal definition, are penalties or other means of enforcement used to provide incentives for obedience with the law, or with rules and regulations.” Objectivity of such judgments and penalties is supposed in theory to be part of the justice process. When the U.N. imposes sanctions, they are
analogous. They arise because the U.N. claims the breaking of some law that a state is bound to. Objectivity is supposed to be attained by the U.N. procedures.
When the U.S. unilaterally imposes sanctions, the objective connections to a law being broken and to a resulting penalty are nowhere near as clear and, in fact, may be entirely absent. There is no objective judicial procedure in this case. The U.S. actions may be entirely the result of interests. The connection between the sanctions and incentives for obeying some law may be remote, absent or cause the opposite effect of that intended or supposedly intended.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury administers a subset of sanctions. It tells us
“The Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC] administers and enforces economic sanctions programs primarily against countries and groups of individuals, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers. The sanctions can be either comprehensive or selective, using the blocking of assets and trade restrictions to accomplish foreign policy and national security goals.”
OFAC will be administering the sanctions against Russian individuals and companies and those related Russian and non-Russians with whom they deal. Whereas sanctions against terrorists may be construed as defensive measures, those against these Russians can only come under the heading of accomplishing foreign policy and national security goals.
The government admits that sanctions may have nothing to do with law-breaking and associated penalties, but instead be used to achieve foreign policy goals of the state. This is an admission by the state that it can at its discretion act above and beyond law, or without law, so as to achieve its goals. It may act without defense being a justification. That is, it may act aggressively. The term “national security”, if it were properly defined and delimited, might be construed as justifying defensive measures including sanctions. However, the U.S. government has thoroughly discredited and eliminated this possibility by stretching the term to mean almost anything that even remotely bears some connection to the U.S. or to Americans anywhere in the world. In other words, aggressive measures, including sanctions, can now be paraded around as ensuring national security. This of course is a meaningless rationale when the U.S. embarks on the overthrow of a Gaddafi or attacks an Iraq or overthrows a Taliban government in Afghanistan.
If we seek out instances of possible defensive sanctions enacted by the U.S., we find that the Department of Treasury mentions several instances associated with wars. “…prior to the War of 1812, Secretary of the Treasury Gallatin administered sanctions imposed against Great Britain for the harassment of American sailors. During the Civil War, Congress approved a law which prohibited transactions with the Confederacy, called for the forfeiture of goods involved in such transactions, and provided a licensing regime under rules and regulations administered by Treasury.” They go on to mention other instances including World War II and Korea. Let’s digress briefly on an important case, Japan.
U.S. sanctions against Japan, it has been argued, were one cause of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. I quote
“Such measures were also used against Japan just before and during World War II. Increasingly concerned with Japanese military aggression in Southeast Asia, the United States gradually tightened economic sanctions imposed against Japan from July 1940 to July 1941. Initial licensing requirements for the export of arms, ammunition, and aviation fuel were followed by a total ban on exports of iron and steel scrap a few months later, and finally, in July 1941, by a freezing of Japanese assets and a tightening of the licensing requirements that de facto ended all trade with Japan, including oil exports.”
Another review of sanctions writes
U.S. trade sanctions against Japan contribute to Tokyo’s decision to enter World War II. Japanese Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda denounces ‘this ever-strengthening chain of encirclement’ months before the Pearl Harbor attack.”
While one or more of these war cases may be subjected to our scrutiny, I have a more limited purpose, which is to point out first the obvious, which is that the U.S. is not at war with Russia. That is, the current case of sanctions against Russia falls into an entirely different category than any of the war cases that the Treasury recounts.
The defense of America is not at stake in Ukraine. Neither has Russia mounted an invasion of Ukraine or ever given any signs of wanting to.
What is the nature of the sanctions against Russia if they are not war-linked and not defensive in nature? What we have instead is Washington either insisting that Russia is not doing enough to quell pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine or else accusing Russia of leading them. I quote a New York Times article
“The United States on Monday imposed additional sanctions against Russian government officials and companies deemed close to President Vladimir V. Putin, accusing Moscow of failing to live up to its agreement to defuse the crisis in Ukraine.”
But this is not even a paper-thin excuse for imposing sanctions.
The entire situation in Ukraine arose with the participation and instigation of the U.S. and with its approval of a coup d’etat that could not have been brought about without the participation of extreme right-wing elements that are often termed neo-Nazi. After they had secured positions in the new “government” and with that body had immediately begun to take anti-Russian and pro-nationalist actions, such as canceling the Russian language law, unrest in eastern Ukraine developed.
It should be crystal clear that the U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia have no clear connection to Russia’s having broken any international laws. Indeed, the U.S. has broken international law by promoting a coup and then supporting the resulting regime. It is equally clear that Washington is imposing sanctions for its own foreign policy reasons. It is still attempting to shape the political outcome in Ukraine to its own interests. This was an aggressive policy and now, with the imposition of more sanctions, it is even more openly aggressive.

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