Alternative Viewpoint: Western sanctions against Russia - is it a tomahawk or a boomerang?

Russian Ambassador to South Africa Ilya Rogachev. File Picture: Ian Landsberg / Independent Newspapers

Russian Ambassador to South Africa Ilya Rogachev. File Picture: Ian Landsberg / Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 24, 2024


By Ambassador of Russia to South Africa Ilya Rogachev

The EU started to design the 13th and the 14th packages of sanctions against Russia, Tomáš Zdechovský, Czech MEP claimed in Dec 2023. With almost 19,000 sanction measures implemented so far by the collective West against it, Russia has already become the world’s most sanctioned country ever.

We treat sanctions as a sort of ‘levy’, the price our country has to pay to remain sovereign in today’s Western-dominated world (as the true multipolarity is yet to come into being).

History has it that the West used the ‘sanctions tomahawk’ against us since ancient times, according to some scholars, as early as the rule of Ivan the Terrible (XV century). While Western neighbours imposed embargoes on Russia striving to deter it, and deprive of resources for development, Russia’s countermeasures were always retaliatory in nature.

Sanctions against Soviet Russia implemented by the US in 1920s-1930s - aggravated the Great Famine (pushed as ‘Holodomor’ by today’s Ukraine propaganda) in the USSR, in the territories of present-day Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Moldova: the Soviet Union couldn’t buy grain abroad as the West refused to accept gold as a means of payment. After the end of WW2, already in 1948, new restrictions were introduced by the US against its former ally USSR.

In the last 70 years, sanctions turned into the collective West’s favourite instrument to influence other nations and bend them to Western will. List of these nations except for Russia includes Cuba, Chile, Yugoslavia, China, in Africa – Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Central African Republic, and many others.

Russia has repeatedly pointed out on many occasions that actions by the United States and its allies to impose unilateral illegal sanctions bypassing the UN Security Council based on systematic attempts to persecute and suppress undesirable governments around the world are openly neo-colonial in nature.

Western dominance is coming to an end. BRICS (original ‘Five’, excluding the newly joined nations), has overtaken G7 by making up a larger share of the global GDP based on purchasing power parity. According to ‘Acorn Macro Consulting,’ a UK-based macroeconomic research think-tank, BRICS countries contribute 31.5% of the world’s GDP, while G7 (US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK) considered the most advanced economic bloc of countries on the planet, add up to 30.7%.

Under these conditions, illegal unilateral restrictions are utilized by the West as a tool to preserve its fading hegemony. In the ‘rules-based world order’ pushed by the US and its satellites, sovereign equality of states has no place. There’s only one neo-metropole represented by the collective West (the ‘Garden’ according to HR/VP Josep Borrell) imposing its will upon neo-colonies represented by the rest of the world (the ‘Jungle’). Neo-colonies are not allowed to implement their own political decisions arising from their national interests.

In that model, principles of free market, fair trade and competition, or inviolability of private property are only applicable to the collective neo-metropole, while trade preferences are provided and sanctions are imposed depending on political loyalty to it. Independent states are subjected to pressure and forced to economically self-isolate from outer world.

That policy won’t work with Russia, for one reason. As President Vladimir Putin put it: “For a country like Russia, existence, mere existence, is impossible without sovereignty. Without sovereignty, Russia would cease to exist, at least in the form it exists today and has existed for a thousand years.”

When Russia started its special military operation in Ukraine to eliminate threats resulting from NATO hostile policies, sanctions tsunami predictably struck our country. Twelve packages of restrictions related to Russian officials and authorities, banks and industry, companies and think tanks were implemented one after another. Russian financial institutions were disconnected from SWIFT, Western payment systems Visa and Mastercard were suspended in Russia.

Collective West declared equipment embargoes, introduced price cap for Russian crude, imposed restrictions on freight and insurance.

The US and its allies froze Russian sovereign assets for billions of US dollars, in a number of cases it confiscated private property owned by Russian nationals. In late 2022, President Biden approved the initiative to strip Russian businessmen of their assets abroad to pass them to Ukraine.

Europe significantly reduced consumption of pipeline gas from Russia. Yes, it was not Russia which cut supplies, as the mainstream media insist, but the West itself which did it with its own hands. First, a turbine belonging to Gazprom was detained due to sanctions. Then certification of the Nord Stream pipeline was put on hold by Germany ‘until further notice.’ Then some European states refused to pay roubles for the gas (move by Russia in response to freezing Russian sovereign assets, nominated in Western currencies) and terminated their agreements with Gazprom.

Eventually, to make sure Europe won’t return to Russian supplies, Nord Stream pipelines were sabotaged (according to US veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, by US special services) – just as President Biden promised during a joint press conference with Chancellor Scholz on Feb 7, 2022.

What we witness today as a result is EU in part still buying Russian pipeline gas directly from Russia, in part purchasing the same Russian gas but from the third parties and with extra charge, and in part buying the US- and Russia-produced LNG. However, for 20 months since Feb 2022 Europe paid for the above €185 billion more than before sanctions came up.

A propos, gas prices became jittery well before the special military operation in Ukraine: already in Sept 2021 we witnessed price hikes at European markets.

The main beneficiary of the situation turned out to be the USA which wasn’t thinking of restraining gas prices for its allies in Europe, but was definitely thinking of how to profit (and made extra €53 billion on that).

To a certain extent, Europe could adapt itself to the new conditions, albeit predominantly because of reduced energy consumption (a clear sign of de-industrialisation). Look at Germany – once the economic powerhouse of Europe.

The country went into recession, decrease of the national GDP in 2023 is expected to reach 0,5%. For several months in a row, industrial production has been shrinking while the number of corporate bankruptcies – steadily increasing.

Among the most affected areas are chemistry and automobile industry. High-tech and energy-consuming industries tend to relocate to the US, along with highly-skilled professionals.

Germany’s stance with regard to its economy was best characterized by a prominent US journalist Tucker Carlson in Jimmy Dore show: “It’s like some dude is in the process of raping your wife, but you are too embarrassed to mention it.”

Let’s look into the quagmire in the global food market, too. Russia is blamed for the looming global hunger because of the increasing food and fertilizer prices, allegedly arising from Russia’s ongoing special military operation.

Yet, international experts recognize skews in global economy, blunders in macroeconomic, energy and food policies of major Western countries as the root causes of the global food inflation, which anti-Russian sanctions policy only exacerbated. Among other factors are volatile gas prices which account for up to 80% of ultimate fertiliser production costs, forced ‘green energy transition’ and underinvestment in the oil-and-gas industry in the West altogether affecting fuel prices and hence transportation tariffs.

FAO experts emphasise that food prices began surging long before the special military operation in Ukraine. A group of researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences revealed no interdependence between the situation around Ukraine and grain prices dynamics whatsoever. While French analysts highlight the flaws in the existing model of agricultural production, like focus on single-crop farming, problems with yields, disruptions in chains of supply of energy resources and equipment.

Despite all odds, Russia boasted record-breaking yields in 2022-2023 which allowed our country to fully meet the domestic demand for major crops and strengthen its role as world’s leading supplier of agricultural products. For that matter, Russia is still able to avert or at least significantly relieve the looming food crisis across the globe – if not for the US and EU striving to undermine Russia’s positions in this capacity with sanctions.

“Food and fertilisers are not covered by sanctions” as Western officials claim – this half-truth is worse than a lie. The truth is that the list of sanctions does not contain an item saying “food”, but what it does contain is prohibition for the Russian ships to call at ports in the Mediterranean, prohibition for the foreign ships to call at Russian ports, to pick up food and other cargo, prohibition to insure the Russian ships. And of course, restrictions targeting the Russian Agricultural Bank, serving the payments for Russian food exports.

Again, have you ever thought who benefits from soaring food prices and destabilisation of supplies? This is the so-called ‘Big Four,’ including ‘Archer Daniels Midland’ (USA), ‘Bunge’ (USA), ‘Cargill’ (USA) and ‘Louis Dreyfus’ (Netherlands) which account altogether for 75%-90% of global agricultural trade turnover. In 2022, ‘Cargill’ alone increased its revenue to $165 billion and recorded a net profit of $5 billion.

Subsidiaries of the said companies in Ukraine contributed significantly to improving their performance in the recent years. The ‘Big Four’ as well as US chemical giants ‘Monsanto’ and ‘DuPont’ own, directly or via affiliated

organizations, 17 out of 32 million hectares of farmlands in Ukraine. Which makes it perfectly evident why the West is frantically pushing for resumption of the ‘grain deal.’ Think they care about Ukrainians, or Africans, or somebody else?

Russia could escape extensive damage to its economy due to sound macroeconomic and monetary measures and, of course, the unprecedented consolidation of our society. Some scholars believe, the West got into a ‘big country trap’: any restrictions against a country like Russia, holding a significant market share, or even expectations of such restrictions, inevitably entail price surge, allowing to compensate for possible decline in sales.

According to the World Bank, the Russian economy became the largest in Europe in the GDP’s key indicator of purchasing power parity, running ahead of Germany.

In Q2-Q3 of 2023, Russia’s GDP fully compensated for the decline in 2022. In August and September, GDP grew 5.2% monthly, and is expected to grow by 3.5% by the end of the year.

Unemployment in Russia is at a historic low of 3%. Over the nine months of 2023, industrial production went up 3.3%; the manufacturing industry – 7.1%.

Technology-intensive sectors are showing higher-than-anticipated growth, including machine engineering (+22%), computer and electronic device manufacturing (+34.5%) and electric equipment (+22.2%). Automobile manufacturing, envisaged to deeply decline by HR/VP Josep Borrell in 2022, grew by almost 50% in the Q3 of 2023.

We have no illusions that Western sanctions against our country will be lifted next year, or in five years, or any time later (for the reasons indicated above). Since there’s been left not much to sanction in Russia, they will further tighten export control, add new items to ban lists, as well as clamp down on third parties unwilling to pursue the sanctions. Collective West’s arrogance, colonial habits and lack of consideration towards other countries’ interests aren’t gone, and they will continue to dominate Western foreign policies in the nearest future.

According to objective laws governing the economy, the collective West and its people, as well as the world’s poorest countries, will further face consequences that will be hard to reverse in this ongoing sanctions frenzy. Full responsibility for all that lies squarely with the Western elites, who are ready to sacrifice the rest of the world for the sake of preserving their global dominance.

It must be understood: today Russia – tomorrow it can be any other nation the ‘neo-metropole’ is dissatisfied with. The only way to tackle these risks is complete de-colonisation.

* The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.