“Failure comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles.”
— Jawaharlal Nehru
“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them . . . well, I have others.”
— Groucho Marx
There is generally a degree of hypocrisy about the infliction of sanctions on a country by another country or group of countries. Those who impose sanctions assert that their target has done something terribly wrong which will be corrected following its recognition that superior beings are setting an international example of flawless moral rectitude, but it is doubtful that such perfection exists.
If the sanctioning countries were in reality superior in moral behavior to every other nation on the planet, this might possibly excuse such action in some cases; but at times the unwelcome fact emerges that imposing sanctions is usually an act of sanctimonious humbug.
Take India and Pakistan, for example. India conducted nuclear tests in May 1998 and Pakistan followed suit “to even the score” in an ill-advised counterstroke. There was outrage in Washington. President Clinton, notable for his high moral standards, declared that India’s tests “clearly create a dangerous new instability in their region and... I have decided to impose sanctions against India.” Then he took the same action against Pakistan.
Both countries were subjected to severe economic penalties at the instigation of Washington. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were forbidden to help them, and there were many other punishments. The western world, and especially Israel, which had been producing nuclear weapons for years, expected sanctions to have the effect of halting the nuclear weapons programs of both countries.
The US Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs echoed the President’s righteous indignation and told the Senate that “this action by India not only threatens the stability of the region, it directly challenges the firm international consensus to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
But today India and Pakistan each have about 130 nuclear warheads in bombs and ballistic missiles and their nuclear weapons programs are at full throttle. There has been massive nuclear proliferation. So what could have happened? Why didn’t sanctions work?
What happened was that another paragon of moral integrity, George W Bush, decided to remove sanctions on India and Pakistan because “We intend to support those who support us. We intend to work with those governments that work with us in this fight [against terrorism].”
As Groucho Marx once said, with a cynical eye on the world around him, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them . . . well, I have others.”
The latest sanctions on Russia are a prime example of malevolent spite, and are intended to make life as difficult as possible for its citizens in the hope that they will revolt and overthrow President Putin, just as sanctions on Cuba were intended to have Cubans topple President Castro, if the CIA couldn’t murder him first. (They tried many times.) The US has been punishing Cuba for almost sixty years, but, as observed by the Cato Institute, “the embargo has been a failure by every measure. It has not changed the course or nature of the Cuban government. It has not liberated a single Cuban citizen...”
Obama tried to end the petty, spiteful anti-Cuba campaign, but the psychotic Trump got things back to normal by announcing introduction of even harsher restrictions, including a ban on tourism. That is intended to stop Cubans supporting their government. But workers in ports and airfields and hotels and night clubs and restaurants — and the vast majority of other Cubans — will condemn Washington, and not their government for their hardship.
Then there were the years of punishment of Iraq which penalized its citizens to a criminal degree. The US attitude was summed up by Ambassador Madeleine Albright, who was asked on television if she considered the deaths of half a million Iraqi children a reasonable result of US sanctions. She replied “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.” This callous, pitiless, utterly heartless statement was indicative of US official policy — which continues, world-wide.
But that’s what sanctions are all about. And the latest bout of jubilant vindictiveness centers on Russia. To the joy of the warmongers, and especially of NATO, so desperately seeking a reason for its continued existence, the Cold War has begun again.
But there’s a little problem for Washington’s saber–rattling psychos.
Unfortunately for US national pride, there are some things for which it has to rely on Russia. An embarrassing fact is that US astronauts are ferried to and from the International Space Station in Russian rockets, and that some most important American rockets rely on Russian engines.
So among its vicious measures to try to punish Russia the US Congress didn’t include sanctions that might be awkward for US space programs. There were no mainstream media reports about this humiliating tap-dancing, but one observation was that “Officials at Orbital ATK [an American aerospace and military equipment manufacturer] and ULA [a Lockheed-Boeing space venture] breathed sighs of relief as the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to exempt rocket engines from a sanctions bill targeting Iran and Russia. The amendment to the sanctions measure exempted RD-180 engines used by ULA in the first stage of its Atlas V booster and the RD-181 engines Orbital ATK uses in the first stage of its Antares launch vehicle. Both engines are produced by NPO Energomash of Russia.”
And the really funny thing is that the Russian-engined Atlas V rocket launches US spy satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office, the NRO. On 1 March NASA reported the seventieth mission by an Atlas V, when “a final launch verification took place at T-16 seconds, leading to the start sequence of the RD-180 engine at the base of the Atlas V core at T-2.7 seconds.” They couldn’t possibly mention that the RD-180 is made in Russia.
As observed by Britain’s Royal Aeronautical Society, “The information hoovered up by these satellites is radioed to ground stations around the world and then sent across secure networks to the US. The satellites are developed and launched by the NRO but once in orbit they are used by the NSA to intercept radio traffic.”
In 2014 there was a mega-patriotic principled move in Washington to ban Russian rocket engines from US rockets, and “the Senate voted 89-11 to approve a bill Friday that would ban the Pentagon from awarding future rocket launch contracts to firms using Russian engines.” The Senators were obviously determined to stand firm on their principles and punish Russia. You had to admire their virtuously moral decision.
But then things changed, and Space Flight Now reported that the ban had been lifted, so that “the Air Force could award launch contracts to any company certified to fly the Pentagon’s satellites, regardless of the country of origin of the rocket’s engines. The lifting of the engine restriction was backed by Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican of Alabama, where ULA’s rocket factory is located.” His amendment received full Senate support. (He received $40,000 from Boeing during the 2016 election cycle.)
How very principled.
The US Senate and House of Representatives support imposition of sanctions all round the world on the most principled grounds — except when their actions would interfere with the profits of the US aerospace industry and Washington’s ability to spy on us all from space.
To the despair and fury of the war fanatics in Washington and Brussels who are determined to increase the already dangerous level of US-NATO confrontation with Moscow, there are examples of US-Russia cooperation which they cannot destroy.
The International Space Station is a heart-warming example of US-Russia teamwork which is anathema to every Senator and member of the House of Representatives and the Washington Post. Not one of them has ever mentioned the gratitude the US owes Russia for its many years of willing cooperation. As recorded by NASA on 28 July — at the height of the Senate’s war-crazed anti-Russia hysteria — “This morning, a trio of astronauts will make their way to the International Space Station, launching on top of a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan. They will join the three astronauts already living on board the ISS.”
Groucho Marx put it well by saying “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them . . . well, I have others.” He was joking, but the US Congress is deadly serious. What a bunch of humbugs.