Mental blockade: US embargoes 20 nations but frets over imaginary Russian siege

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
Mental blockade: US embargoes 20 nations but frets over imaginary Russian siege
US and British troops this week joined thousands of NATO forces to conduct war games in Poland rehearsing the 'possible' blockade of Baltic states by Russia. Talk about mental blockade.

Never mind that Russia has repeatedly denied it has any intention of invading Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania, or any other state for that matter. And never mind that there is no evidence at all of any unusual build-up of Russian forces posing a threat to its Baltic neighbors.

NATO commanders themselves admit that the latest war games are a “theoretical scenario” in which Russian military sever the 104-kilometer Suwalki Gap between Belarus and Kaliningrad, thus cutting off the Baltic NATO members from the rest of the 29-member alliance.

The amusing thing about this imaginary blockade by Russia of sovereign states is that it contrasts with actually existing blockades or embargoes imposed by the US and its allies against at least 2o nations.

And topping the list of countries sanctioned by Washington and its allies is Russia. Only last week, the US Senate voted through new punitive measures to tighten financial and diplomatic restrictions imposed on Russia over the 2014 Ukraine crisis. In addition to dubious claims of Russian interference in Ukrainian affairs, the American senators have now added unfounded allegations of Russian interference in the US presidential elections at the end of last year.

Other countries to feel the heat from US sanctions include Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea. Cuba takes the unenviable title of having been subjected to a blanket embargo imposed by the US for nearly six decades. A relative easing of the sanctions under the previous Obama administration is now being reversed by President Trump who is accusing Havana of harboring a “brutal regime”.

According to the US Treasury and the State Department, a full list of some 20 blacklisted foreign nations extends to Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Zimbabwe among others. When counting in nations which are sanctioned or blockaded with US approval by Washington’s allies the list includes the Palestinian territory of Gaza, the Donbas breakaway republics of eastern Ukraine, Yemen and most recently Qatar.

Out of the 20 or so nations blockaded in some way by American complicity, none is in more grave humanitarian crisis than Yemen. Millions of children are facing starvation and death from diseases like cholera due to a land, sea and air blockade imposed on the war-torn country by Saudi Arabia with the support of the US and Britain.

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab region, depends on imported food for 80 per cent of its total supply. The US and British-backed Saudi blockade on Yemen has also cut the country off from vital medical supplies. What is going on there is a truly barbaric siege which is comparable to the most notorious sieges recorded in history, such as the Nazi Wehrmacht’s three-year horrific blockade imposed on St Petersburg (Leningrad).

Of less humanitarian severity is the blockade thrown up around the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar. Nevertheless, the draconian move by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies to cut off transport and financial links between Qatar and the rest of the world is an outrageous violation of international law. The siege on Qatar could not be applied if it were not for at the least tacit approval of Washington.

The accusations leveled against the Qatari rulers of sponsoring jihadist terrorism are serious enough. But the idea that Saudi Arabia is leading these pious allegations is ridiculous given the oil kingdom’s own well-documented sponsorship of terrorism.

The salient point is the way certain states evidently consider it their prerogative to use financial and diplomatic coercion of others. It is not an exaggeration to say that such one-sided measures are used like weapons. Rather than diplomatic means of dialogue and arbitration, the resort to slapping on sanctions is simply bullying.

Such substitution of diplomacy and international law by unilateral punitive measures is a dangerous erosion of normal relations.

It is no coincidence that the US-backed Saudi military coalition blockading Yemen for the past two years with such horrendous human suffering – and with such little international outcry – can then turn around casually to blockade Qatar. Once international law and norms have been breached as they have been so horribly with regard to Yemen, then it becomes “acceptable” to repeat elsewhere.

What is even more dangerous is that sanctions and embargoes are all too often a prelude to all-out war, as history has shown. The Pacific War between the US and Japan (1941-45), for example, was the culmination of years of an oil embargo imposed by Washington on Tokyo. The “surprise” Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was in many ways a desperate resort to full-on conflict.

The latest US sanctions lined up against Russia take aim at disrupting its giant gas trade being expanded with Europe through the Nord 2 Stream project. This is the real geo-strategic objective of the US. To disrupt the European energy market for Russia in order to advantage American companies.

Even European leaders, such as Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, issued statements last week decrying the Senate’s proposed Russian sanctions. “Threatening European enterprises is a violation of international law,” they said. Perhaps their complaints could be taken more seriously if these same European leaders did not also comply with US-led sanctions against Russia and Crimea.

How long Russia will tolerate this American attack – and attack is what it is, albeit in financial form – against its vital national interests is a troubling question. History shows that threats against vital interests sooner or later reach a threshold beyond which overt violence becomes inevitable. The surge in tensions in Syria over the American shoot-down of a Syrian warplane could be one such spark.

The US and its NATO allies accuse Russia of “threatening” Europe and destabilizing the “liberal world order”. This is while NATO spends a total of 10 times more on military than Russia. And while NATO forces amass on Russia’s borders.

Similarly, Washington conducts war games that “envisage” an imaginary, future blockade of NATO countries by Russia. Russia has not blockaded any country and has categorically denied having any intention of doing so. Meantime, it is Washington and its allies that are actually blockading, embargoing or sanctioning as many as 20 nations.

Washington’s blockades entail a unilateral repudiation of diplomatic means. In some cases, they are an outrageous violation of international law. And further still, financial coercion by Washington can be seen as an act of war.

If one has trouble deciding which nation is the source of so much international tensions and aggression, perhaps a sure way of making an assessment is to answer the question: which nation is responsible for imposing the most sanctions and blockades on others?

And if we view the unilateral use of blockades as low-intensity warfare, then without hesitation, the United States is the world’s number one warmongering regime.

A curious Western mental blockade seems to obscure this otherwise clear conclusion.



The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.