World
Valentin Katasonov
September 23, 2013
© Photo: Public domain

Some time ago Washington was eager to start a war against Syria under the excuse of Damascus being behind a chemical weapons attack against civilians. Now irrefutable facts have appeared to prove the allegations were false. So the White House slowed down the pace. Right after that a group of US senators wrote a letter calling for punitive actions against some Russian leading banks allegedly involved in cooperation with the Assad’s regime. The authors are clearly frustrated over the Washington’s diplomatic loss to Moscow which prevented a Western intervention against Syria. 

A bipartisan group of four senators asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in a letter to put sanctions on Russian banks that have helped Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), John Cornyn (R., Texas), and Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) asked Lew to prevent those Russian banks from doing business in the United States. According to senators, «Russian bank support violates international sanctions by enabling Syria to pay for imports and receive funds for exports», the senators wrote. «This assistance eases much of the financial burden on the Assad regime, allowing it to continue military purchases and pay the soldiers that sustain the war in Syria… It is now more critical than ever that you swiftly designate those financial institutions that have profited from violating sanctions to prop up the Syrian regime». 

The authors want the banks to be cut off from US funding. As Senator Richard Blumenthal told Politico, «We can freeze their assets. We can stop them from doing business in the United States, prevent their employees from traveling here and, in effect, impose very heavy financial pain on the Russian». A U.S. Treasury Department spokesman said he could not comment on the senators’ letter but defended the actions the Obama administration has taken to squeeze Assad’s government. All the Russian lenders mentioned in the letter operate under direct government control: VEB is a one hundred percent state structure; the control packages of VTB and Gazprombank belong to the state. It means the letter of senators is a direct call for economic war against Russia… As the experience accumulated in the past tells, the escalation of war launched by the West may gradually expand to encompass the entire financial system of a country fallen out of favor, including its central bank. 

It’s not economic war we’re talking about; informally this type of war has already been waged against Russia for a long time. The matter is that the senators shamelessly tell a lie in the letter, the very same way Barack Obama lied about the use of chemical weapons by Damascus. They lie about the fact that the Russian banks have violated the sanctions regime allegedly imposed by the United Nations… 

It’s a rare occasion actually the United Nations Organization ever takes a decision to impose economic sanctions. It has taken place 14 times during the last 60 years. The sanctions imposed against South Africa is the most well-known and comprehensive case. True, having the support of its allies and vassals, Washington tried to push through the United Nations Security Council a resolution that envisioned the imposition of sanctions against Syria, but in the summer of 2012 the initiative was blocked by Russia and China. The United Nations did adopt resolutions on Syria, but the ones devoted to peaceful management of the crisis, not related to economic sanctions. So it’s rather wishful thinking or, to put it in a more simple way, an outright lie. 

The imposition of economic sanctions against Syria by the United States of America and the European Union is an accomplished fact. The sanctions against Syria were imposed as far back as May 11, 2004 by former President George Bush Jr. He accused Damascus of being involved in terrorist activities and programs aimed at boosting weapons of mass destruction capabilities and missile potential, as well as undermining the US efforts to stabilize and restore Iraq. In particular, the presidential executive order envisioned ban on United States export and re-export to Syria including all types of commodities (except medicals and foodstuffs) to be traded internationally under state oversight. From time to time the White House prolonged and reshaped the sanctions but never fully cancelled the punitive measures. The sanctions regime against Syria was greatly tightened in the fall of 2011, a few months after the terrorist activities aimed at undermining the Bashar Assad’s hold on power were intensified. This time the sanctions encompassed financial-banking system of the country. 

Talking about the European Union, it imposed the sanctions against Syria in May 2013 to last till June 1, 2014. It includes a long list of export-import ban, oil in particular, as well as limitations on investments, financial activities and transport. The reaction of Russian banks to the senators’ letter is puzzling. VEB said in its written statement that apart from its servicing of the Syrian debt to Russia, it «doesn't conduct any commercial dealings with the Central Bank of Syria, its government or companies controlled by it». The bank added that it complies fully with the European Union's and United Nation's sanctions against Syria. The wording of banks responses is evoking surprise, why should they be trying to prove their innocence? 

First, the Organization of United Nations has never imposed any sanctions against Syria. Second, Russia is not a United States colony and not a European Union member-state, so the decisions taken by Washington or Brussels on Syria cannot affect Russia in anyway… 

Since a long time the gentlemen from Washington and Brussels offer to consider their resolutions, directives, laws and other acts as the ones of extraterritorial extension, meaning they are mandatory for all states of the planet without any exclusions. 

The attempts of United States and Brussels to make Russian banks comply with the Washington-imposed sanctions against Syria is a gross violation of international law and brazen interference into the internal affairs of Russia, which is a sovereign state. 

There are common rules of international law to abide by; one of them is the principle of non-interference into internal affairs of other states. All banks with licenses that operate on Russian soil conduct their activities in accordance with the Constitution of Russian Federation. 

As I have already mentioned, the Washington’s aggression against Syria is ultimately aimed at Russia, Damascus is just another target on the way. The senators’ letter can be considered as a proposal to start a war directly against Russia. Until now it’s only economic warfare that is in question. 

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.
US Senators Versus Russian Banks

Some time ago Washington was eager to start a war against Syria under the excuse of Damascus being behind a chemical weapons attack against civilians. Now irrefutable facts have appeared to prove the allegations were false. So the White House slowed down the pace. Right after that a group of US senators wrote a letter calling for punitive actions against some Russian leading banks allegedly involved in cooperation with the Assad’s regime. The authors are clearly frustrated over the Washington’s diplomatic loss to Moscow which prevented a Western intervention against Syria. 

A bipartisan group of four senators asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in a letter to put sanctions on Russian banks that have helped Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), John Cornyn (R., Texas), and Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) asked Lew to prevent those Russian banks from doing business in the United States. According to senators, «Russian bank support violates international sanctions by enabling Syria to pay for imports and receive funds for exports», the senators wrote. «This assistance eases much of the financial burden on the Assad regime, allowing it to continue military purchases and pay the soldiers that sustain the war in Syria… It is now more critical than ever that you swiftly designate those financial institutions that have profited from violating sanctions to prop up the Syrian regime». 

The authors want the banks to be cut off from US funding. As Senator Richard Blumenthal told Politico, «We can freeze their assets. We can stop them from doing business in the United States, prevent their employees from traveling here and, in effect, impose very heavy financial pain on the Russian». A U.S. Treasury Department spokesman said he could not comment on the senators’ letter but defended the actions the Obama administration has taken to squeeze Assad’s government. All the Russian lenders mentioned in the letter operate under direct government control: VEB is a one hundred percent state structure; the control packages of VTB and Gazprombank belong to the state. It means the letter of senators is a direct call for economic war against Russia… As the experience accumulated in the past tells, the escalation of war launched by the West may gradually expand to encompass the entire financial system of a country fallen out of favor, including its central bank. 

It’s not economic war we’re talking about; informally this type of war has already been waged against Russia for a long time. The matter is that the senators shamelessly tell a lie in the letter, the very same way Barack Obama lied about the use of chemical weapons by Damascus. They lie about the fact that the Russian banks have violated the sanctions regime allegedly imposed by the United Nations… 

It’s a rare occasion actually the United Nations Organization ever takes a decision to impose economic sanctions. It has taken place 14 times during the last 60 years. The sanctions imposed against South Africa is the most well-known and comprehensive case. True, having the support of its allies and vassals, Washington tried to push through the United Nations Security Council a resolution that envisioned the imposition of sanctions against Syria, but in the summer of 2012 the initiative was blocked by Russia and China. The United Nations did adopt resolutions on Syria, but the ones devoted to peaceful management of the crisis, not related to economic sanctions. So it’s rather wishful thinking or, to put it in a more simple way, an outright lie. 

The imposition of economic sanctions against Syria by the United States of America and the European Union is an accomplished fact. The sanctions against Syria were imposed as far back as May 11, 2004 by former President George Bush Jr. He accused Damascus of being involved in terrorist activities and programs aimed at boosting weapons of mass destruction capabilities and missile potential, as well as undermining the US efforts to stabilize and restore Iraq. In particular, the presidential executive order envisioned ban on United States export and re-export to Syria including all types of commodities (except medicals and foodstuffs) to be traded internationally under state oversight. From time to time the White House prolonged and reshaped the sanctions but never fully cancelled the punitive measures. The sanctions regime against Syria was greatly tightened in the fall of 2011, a few months after the terrorist activities aimed at undermining the Bashar Assad’s hold on power were intensified. This time the sanctions encompassed financial-banking system of the country. 

Talking about the European Union, it imposed the sanctions against Syria in May 2013 to last till June 1, 2014. It includes a long list of export-import ban, oil in particular, as well as limitations on investments, financial activities and transport. The reaction of Russian banks to the senators’ letter is puzzling. VEB said in its written statement that apart from its servicing of the Syrian debt to Russia, it «doesn't conduct any commercial dealings with the Central Bank of Syria, its government or companies controlled by it». The bank added that it complies fully with the European Union's and United Nation's sanctions against Syria. The wording of banks responses is evoking surprise, why should they be trying to prove their innocence? 

First, the Organization of United Nations has never imposed any sanctions against Syria. Second, Russia is not a United States colony and not a European Union member-state, so the decisions taken by Washington or Brussels on Syria cannot affect Russia in anyway… 

Since a long time the gentlemen from Washington and Brussels offer to consider their resolutions, directives, laws and other acts as the ones of extraterritorial extension, meaning they are mandatory for all states of the planet without any exclusions. 

The attempts of United States and Brussels to make Russian banks comply with the Washington-imposed sanctions against Syria is a gross violation of international law and brazen interference into the internal affairs of Russia, which is a sovereign state. 

There are common rules of international law to abide by; one of them is the principle of non-interference into internal affairs of other states. All banks with licenses that operate on Russian soil conduct their activities in accordance with the Constitution of Russian Federation. 

As I have already mentioned, the Washington’s aggression against Syria is ultimately aimed at Russia, Damascus is just another target on the way. The senators’ letter can be considered as a proposal to start a war directly against Russia. Until now it’s only economic warfare that is in question.