by Ghassan Kadi, for the Saker Blog
Do Western sanctions have any chance of achieving their objectives? Perhaps we need to look back at history and see how the earliest recorded sanctions were implemented.
Before the age of electronic transfers and massive international trading and complex technology came into existence, warring factions enforced sanctions on each other by way of imposing sieges, and therefore cutting off food and water supplies to heavily fortified cities. Those cities had to ration out their supplies, and when they ran out, they often capitulated.
Much has changed since, but the only way for any sanction to work now is in the ability to deprive a nation from goods and services that are essential. But this is now easier said than done.
In today’s age of technology and all what comes with it, the world depends on a huge array of manufactured goods for its economy and the services that support that economy to run. Manufactured good are themselves made of parts often made in different countries and assembled together somewhere else. Many, if not most of those goods and parts, are made in China, and this is fact.
How do we know that the manufacturers of American/NATO military hardware do not use parts and components that are made in China and no longer made in the West? They can be as simple as special size or shape screw, but without it, the strategic weapon cannot be assembled. And if one of the suppliers of hardware to the Pentagon suddenly wakes up to the realization that it needs the part that is made in China to put together a strategic defence weapon, what will happen then? Alternative Western productions lines can be put to work, but these things take time, and time is precious commodity in the event of a military blitz.
But here is more. Even if in peacetime an American buys a T-shirt made in America from American grown cotton, the cotton crop is highly likely to have been fertilized with urea imported from China. As a matter of fact, China controls a huge sector of the global fertilizer market, and when one controls food and its production, no other leverage becomes comparable in magnitude. Having control of the food supply is tantamount to the ancient city sieges.
The dependence of the West on China therefore is alarming, and the examples mentioned above, have been selected to demonstrate that Western sanctions against China, if ever implemented, would boomerang and hit the West in the guts.
The whole world and particularly the West are reliant on and addicted to Chinese goods. All the way from T-shirts to iPhones, a huge percentage of global consumable goods are made in China.
China is therefore the ultimate example of where American sanctions would fail abysmally. As a matter of fact, if anything at all, a Chinese export sanction against America would bring the latter to its knees in a few weeks if not less.
What about Russia? Are American sanctions effective against Russia? Thus far, they haven’t been. Time will tell if new ones will, but Russia does not ‘need’ any American imports or franchises. Russia does not need either McDonald’s or Starbucks. It doesn’t need those fast-food chains that litter its streets. Honestly, what a manner to sanction Russia with? What is next, the Disney Channel?
It is America that needs Russian rocket engines and not the other way around. Fancy this, comparing rocket engines to hamburgers.
And with its ties with China, Russia has a huge export market of gas and petroleum crude, all the while Western EU slumps into cold nights or enormous power bills. In the last couple of days alone, the price of gas has nearly doubled.
What is pertinent here is going back to the basics and remembering that any talk of sanctions can only be effective if based on depriving an adversary from what its people 1) need and 2) want. Currently, there is no product, no commodity, no technology, absolutely nothing that is essential for the rest of the world, that the West exclusively produces and the rest of the world cannot.
The current Western sanctions on nations that refuse to follow the directives of the West do not carry any weight at all; or anything that comes close. Non-Western countries can survive without Tesla, Porsche and Ferrari cars. Earth will continue to spin without French perfumes and champaign.
With those facts known though unspoken, the USA continues to impose sanctions on other nations by utilizing the power of the Greenback, ie US Dollar of USD for short.
But this approach is foolish to say the least, and it is bound to backfire.
America is determined to keep the stature of the USD as the single reserve world currency. But to maintain this stature, America must make sure that the rest of the world needs to use the USD and that it has no other alternative. But when successive American administrations impose sanctions on other nations that prevent them from using the USD, they are effectively shooting their last and only remaining asset in the foot.
This is not a complex issue that requires a PhD in macro-economics to understand. It is very simple in fact. You cannot coerce people to do something by way of banning them from doing it. This is a simple logical contradiction that even children can understand.
This oxymoronic comedy of errors appears more ludicrous when we see that the USD is the only asset left that the USA can use to impose sanctions with. Do successive American administrations really believe that sanctioned and potentially sanctionable nations, are going to sit idle and starve themselves to death without taking pre-emptive measures to avert this?
If anything, sanctions over the years have taught even small and developing countries like Cuba, Syria and Iran to be self-reliant and innovative. Those countries have produced whole ‘armies’ of technicians who are able to manufacture spare parts even for old American cars. When you see photos of 1950’s Chevvies in Cuba, rest assured that there are hardly any original made-in-America parts left in them. If an American owns such an antique model and cannot find parts for it in the US, he/she may be able to find them in Cuba.
What makes the situation more farcical is that America knows well that China and Russia are intent to replace the USD as the single global reserve currency with China having a good chance to have it replaced by the Renminbi. It is also no secret that both Russia and China have been buying huge amounts of gold, and this is not to mention that they already have an alternative to the SWIFT system (СПФС or SPFS) of international banking transfers.
Back in the days of city sieges, the Athenians built their infamous horse, the original horse that coined the term ‘Trojan Horse’ and tricked the Trojans to take it into Troy. But in the West right now, there are no such strategists.
The current soaring fuel prices at service stations world-wide are not an outcome of the Russian action in Ukraine. They are the outcome of the sanctions.
These sanctions can only turn back and hurt the hand that created them. They are not arrows aimed at targets. They are boomerangs, but even boomerangs are meant to return to the hand that launched them when they miss the target. But Western sanctions are sharply-pointed boomerangs that can only hit back, and hit with vengeance, and the soaring fuel prices may just be only the beginning.