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The Geostrategy that Guides Trump’s Foreign Policies

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According to Alastair Crooke, writing at Strategic Culture, on June 5th“Trump’s US aims for ‘domination’, not through the globalists’ permanent infrastructure of the US defence umbrella, but through the smart leveraging of the US dollar and financial clearing monopoly, by ring-fencing, and holding tight, US technology, and by dominating the energy market, which in turn represents the on/off valve to economic growth for US rivals. In this way, Trump can ‘bring the troops home’, and yet America keeps its hegemony [America’s control of the world, global empire]. Military conflict becomes a last resort.”

He bases that crucially upon a landmark 6 November 2017 article by Chris Cook, at Seeking Alpha, which laid out, and to a significant extent documented, a formidable and complex geostrategy driving U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policies. Cook headlined there “Energy Dominance And America First”, and noted that,“Towards the tail end of the Clinton administration and the Dot Com boom in 2000,[Trump’s U.S. Treasury Secretary until April 2018] Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs had dinner with his counterpart at Morgan Stanley, John Shapiro. From this dinner was hatched an audacious plan to take control of the global oil market through a new electronic global market platform.”

This “global market platform,” which had been started months earlier in 2000 by Jeffrey Sprecher, is “ICE,” or InterContinental Exchange, and it uses financial derivatives in order to provide to Wall Street banks control over the future direction of commodites prices (so that the insiders can game the markets), by means of the financial-futures markets, locking in future purchase-and-sale agreements. It also entails Wall Street’s buying enormous commodities-storage warehouses and stashing them with such commodities  — such as, in that case, aluminum), and so it influences also the real estate markets, and doesn’t only manipulate the commodities markets. Those vast storehouses (and the operation of the U.S. Government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to carry out a similar price-manipulation function in the oil business) are crucial in order for the entire scheme to be able to function, because without control over the storehousing of physical commodities, such futures-price manipulations aren’t possible. Consequently, ICE couldn’t get off the ground without major Wall Street partners, which are willing to do that. Cohn and Shapiro (Goldman, and Morgan Stanley) backed Sprecher’s operation; and Wikipedia states that,

“Wall Street bankers, particularly Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, backed him and he launched ICE in 2000 (giving 80 percent control to the two banks who, in turn, spread out the control among Shell, Total, and British Petroleum).”

This is today’s financial world — a world in which billionaires control the future directions of commodities-prices, and thus manipulate markets, and even determine the economic fates of nations. It’s not the myth of capitalism; it is the reality of capitalism. It functions by means of corruption, as it always has, but the corrupt methods constantly evolve.

However, Trump’s geostrategy goes beyond merely this, especially by bringing into the entire operation the world’s wealthiest person, the trillionaire King Saud, who, as the sole owner of the Saudi Government, which in turns owns the world’s largest corporation Aramco, which in turn dominates the oil market and which is also #6 in the natural-gas market (far behind the three giants, which King Saud is trying to destroy — Russia, Iran, and Qatar — so that the Sauds will become able to dominate even there). Trump’s geostrategy ties King Saud even more tightly than before, into America’s aristocracy.

King Saud, as Cook noted, is trying to disinvest in petroleum and reposition increasingly into natural gas, because outside the United States and around the world, people are seriously concerned to minimize global warming so as to postpone global burnout from uncontrollably soaring atmospheric carbon. Petroleum has an even worse carbon footprint than does natural gas; and therefore natural gas is the world’s “transition fuel” to a ‘survivable’ future, while solar and other alternatives take hold (even if too late). Despite all of the carbon-fuels industries’ propaganda, people outside the United States are determined to delay global burnout, and the insiders know this. King Saud knows that his petroleum-laden portfolio will have to diversify fast, because the long-term future for petroleum-prices is decline. And he won’t be able to control prices at all in the natural-gas business unless he’s got America’s aristocracy on his side, in the effort to keep those prices up (at least while the Sauds will be increasing their profits from natural gas). Unlike his dominance over OPEC, Saudi Arabia has no such position to control natural gas-prices. He thus needs Wall Street’s cooperation.

Cook said:“The second objective was a switch from oil to natural gas, and when the U.S. [military] was obliged to leave Saudi Arabia, they [the U.S.] thereupon established their biggest regional base in Qatar, who co-own with Iran the greatest single natural gas reserve on the planet – South Pars.

Energy Dominance

In the four months since President Trump’s announcement, the market strategy developed by Gary Cohn is now being implemented and its elements are emerging into view.

Firstly, there has been a massive inflow of Managed Money into the oil market, particularly the Brent contract, which has seen the Brent oil price increase by 35% since the starting point, which I believe can be dated to the August Brent/BFOE Crude Oil option expiry on June 27th 2017. …

The dominant market narrative is that the backwardation in Brent is evidence of surging global oil demand which has emptied inventories and is leading the price to new sunlit uplands. However, I see the market rather differently.

Firstly, whether the Brent spot month is supported by financial, rather than physical demand, the result will still be a backwardation, and because few oil producers expect a price over $60 to be sustainable they therefore hedge and depress the forward price. In support of this view, I am far from the only market observer who believes that Aramco, and Rosneft would not be selling equity if either Saudi Arabia or Russia believed the oil price trajectory will be positive even in the medium term. …

This still leaves open the $64 billion question of which market participant is motivated and able to support the ICE Brent term structure for years into the future by swapping dollar risk (T-Bills) for long term oil risk (oil reserves leased via prepay purchase/resale contracts).

My conclusion by a process of elimination is that this Big Long can only be Saudi Arabia and regional allies, with Saudi Arabia now under the management of the thrusting young Mohammad bin Salman.”

However, I do not agree with Alastaire Crooke’s “In this way, Trump can ‘bring the troops home’, and yet America keeps its hegemony [America’s control of the world, global empire]. Military conflict becomes a last resort.” I explained at Strategic Culture on March 25th “How the Military Controls America” and noted there that “on 21 May 2017, US President Donald Trump sold to the Saud family, who own Saudi Arabia, an all-time-record $350 billion of US arms-makers’ products.” This means that not only Wall Street — the main institutional agency for America’s aristocracy — and not only American Big Oil likewise, are committed to the royal Saud family, but U.S. corporations such as Lockheed Martin also are. Vast profits are to be made, by insiders, in invasions and occupations, just as in gas and oil, and in brokerage.

Although Trump routinely talks about withdrawing U.S. troops, he does the exact opposite. And even if this trend reverses and America’s troop-numbers head down, while the U.S. economy becomes increasingly dependent upon Big Oil and Big Minerals and Big Money and Big Military, America’s military budget is, under Trump, the only portion of the entire U.S. federal Government that’s increasing; so, “Military conflict becomes a last resort” does not seem likely, in such a context. Rather, the reverse would seem to be the far likelier case.

War against King Saud’s chosen enemies (Iran, Qatar, Syria) and possibly even against the U.S. aristocracy’s chosen enemy, Russia (and against Russia’s allies: China, Iran, and Syria) — seems more likely, not less likely, with Trump’s geostrategy.

In fact, on 29 June 2017, when President Trump first announced his “Unleashing American Energy Event,” the President spoke his usual platitudes about the supposed necessity to increase coal-production, and what he said was telecast and publicized; but his U.S. Energy Secretary, the barely literate former Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, also delivered a speech, which was never telecast nor published, except that a few days later, on July 3rd, an excerpt from it was somehow published on the website of Liquified Natural Gas Global, and it was this:“I want to address what Mr. Cohn was talking about from a standpoint of how important American energy is as an option, not as the only option, but as an option to our allies and to count[r]ies around the world. 

At the G7 it was really kind of interesting.  The first thing they beat on the table talking about the Paris accord, you can’t get out of it, and I was kind of like OK. Then we would go into our bilats and they’d go, how about some of that LNG you’ve got? How do we buy your LNG, how do we buy your coal?  And it was really interesting, it was a political issue for them. This whole Paris thing is a public relation[s], political issue for them. We made the right decision, the President made the right decision on this. I think it was one of the most powerful messages that early on in this administration that was sent. 

We are in a position to be able to clearly create a hell of a lot more friends by being able to deliver to them energy and not being held hostage by some countries, Russia in particular. Whether it is Poland, Ukraine, the entirety of the EU. Totally get it, if we can lay in American LNG, if we can be able to have an alternative to Russian anthracite coal that they control in the Ukraine. That singularly will have more to do with keeping our allies free and building their confidence in us than practically anything else that I have seen out there. It is a positive message around the world right now.”

If that was more the reality of Trump’s “Unleashing American Energy” policy than just the pro-global-burnout cheerleading of Trump’s mere words, then it seems to be — in the policy’s actual intent and implementation — more like “send more troops in” than “bring the troops home,” to and from anywhere. It is more like energy policy in support of the military policy, than military policy in support of the energy policy.

This sounds even better for the stockholders of Lockheed Martin and other weapons-firms than for the stockholders of ExxonMobil and other extractive firms. On 6 March 2018, Xinhua News Agency reported that, “U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn has summoned executives from U.S. companies that depend on aluminum and steel to meet with Trump this Thursday, in a bid to persuade the president to drop his tariff plan, media reported Tuesday.” After all: Goldman has warehouses full of aluminum, and has the futures-contracts which already commit the Wall Street firm to particular manipulations in the aluminum (and other) markets. Controlling the Government so that it does only what you want it to do, and only when you want the Government to do it, is difficult. In any aristocracy, some members need to make compromises with other members, no matter how united they all are against the publics’ interests. This is the way it’s done — by compromises with each other.

first published at strategic-culture.org

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Americas

As Refugees Flee Central America, the Mexican Public Sours On Accepting Them

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Authors: Isabel Eliassen, Alianna Casas, Timothy S. Rich*

In recent years, individuals from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have been forced out of their home countries by extreme poverty and gang violence. While initial expectations were that the Lopez Obrador administration would be more welcoming to migrants, policies have slowly mirrored those of his predecessor, and do not seem to have deterred refugees. COVID-19 led to a decrease in refugees arriving in Mexico, and many shelters in Mexico closed or have limited capacity due to social distancing restrictions. Now that the COVID-19 situation has changed, arrivals could increase again to the levels seen in late 2018 or 2019, with overcrowded refugee centers lacking in medical care as potential grounds for serious COVID-19 outbreaks.

Mexico increasingly shares a similar view as the US on this migration issue, seeking ways to detain or deport migrants rather than supporting or protecting them. For instance, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute has been conducting raids on freight trains to find and detain migrants. Public opinion likely shapes these policies. In the US, support for allowing migrants into the country appeared to increase slightly from 2018 to 2019, but no significant majority emerges. Meanwhile, Mexican public opinion increasingly exhibits anti-immigrant sentiments, declining considerably since 2018, with a 2019 Washington Post poll showing that 55% supported deporting Central Americans rather than providing temporary residence and a 2019 El Financiero poll finding 63% supportive of closing to border to curb migration.

New Data Shows the Mexican Public Unwelcoming

To gauge Mexican public opinion on refugees, we conducted an original web survey June 24-26 via Qualtrics, using quota sampling. We asked 625 respondents to evaluate the statement “Mexico should accept refugees fleeing from Central America” on a five-point Likert scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. For visual clarity, we combined disagree and agree categories in the figure below.

Overall, a plurality (43.84%) opposed accepting refugees, with less than a third (30.08%) supportive. Broken down by party affiliation, we see similar results, with the largest opposition from the main conservative party PAN (52.90%) and lowest in the ruling party MORENA (41.58%). Broken down by gender, we find women slightly more supportive compared to men (32.60% vs. 27.04%), consistent with findings elsewhere and perhaps acknowledgment that women and children historically comprise a disproportionate amount of refugees. Regression analysis again finds PAN supporters to be less supportive than other respondents, although this distinction declines once controlling for gender, age, education and income, of which only age corresponded with a statistically significant decline in support. It is common for older individuals to oppose immigration due to generational changes in attitude, so this finding is not unexpected.

We also asked the question “On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being very negative and 10 very positive, how do you feel about the following countries?” Among countries listed were the sources of the Central American refugees, the three Northern Triangle countries. All three received similar average scores (Guatemala: 4.33, Honduras: 4.05, El Salvador: 4.01), higher than Venezuela (3.25), but lower than the two other countries rated (US: 7.71, China: 7.26) Yet, even after controlling for general views of the Central American countries, we find the public generally unsupportive of accepting refugees.

How Should Mexico Address the Refugee Crisis?

Towards the end of the Obama administration, aid and other efforts directed at resolving the push factors for migration in Central America, including decreasing violence and limiting corruption, appeared to have some success at reducing migration north. President Trump’s policies largely did not improve the situation, and President Biden has begun to reverse those policies and re-implement measures successful under Obama.

As discussed in a meeting between the Lopez Obrador administration and US Vice President Kamala Harris, Mexico could adopt similar aid policies, and decreasing the flow of migrants may make the Mexican public respond more positively to accepting migrants. Lopez Obrador committed to increased economic cooperation with Central America days into his term, with pledges of aid as well, but these efforts remain underdeveloped. Threats to cut aid expedite deportations only risks worsening the refugee crisis, while doing little to improve public opinion.

Increasingly, the number of family units from Guatemala and Honduras seeking asylum in Mexico, or the United States, represents a mass exodus from Central America’s Northern Triangle to flee insecurity. Combating issues such as extreme poverty and violence in Central American countries producing the mass exodus of refugees could alleviate the impact of the refugee crisis on Mexico. By alleviating the impact of the refugee crisis, refugees seeking asylum will be able to navigate immigration processes easier thus decreasing tension surrounding the influx of refugees.

Likewise, identifying the public’s security and economic concerns surrounding refugees and crafting a response should reduce opposition. A spokesperson for Vice President Harris stated that border enforcement was on the agenda during meetings with the Lopez Obrador administration, but the Mexican foreign minister reportedly stated that border security was not to be addressed at the meeting. Other than deporting migrants at a higher rate than the US, Mexico also signed an agreement with the US in June pledging money to improve opportunities for work in the Northern Triangle. Nonetheless, questions about whether this agreement will bring meaningful change remain pertinent in the light of a worsening crisis.

Our survey research shows little public interest in accepting refugees. Public sentiment is unlikely to change unless the Lopez Obrador administration finds ways to both build sympathy for the plights of refugees and address public concerns about a refugee crisis with no perceived end in sight. For example, research in the US finds public support for refugees is often higher when the emphasis is on women and children, and the Lopez Obrador administration could attempt to frame the crisis as helping specifically these groups who historically comprise most refugees. Likewise, coordinating efforts with the US and other countries may help portray to the public that the burden of refugee resettlement is being equitably shared rather than disproportionately placed on Mexico.

Facing a complex situation affecting multiple governments requires coordinated efforts and considerable resources to reach a long-term solution. Until then, the Central American refugee crisis will continue and public backlash in Mexico likely increase.

Isabel Eliassen is a 2021 Honors graduate of Western Kentucky University. She triple majored in International Affairs, Chinese, and Linguistics.

Alianna Casas is an Honors Undergraduate Researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in Business Economics, Political Science, and a participant in the Joint Undergraduate/Master’s Program in Applied Economics.

Timothy S. Rich is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Kentucky University and Director of the International Public Opinion Lab (IPOL). His research focuses on public opinion and electoral politics.

Funding for this survey was provided by the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.

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Indictment of Trump associate threatens UAE lobbying success

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This month’s indictment of a billionaire, one-time advisor and close associate of former US President Donald J. Trump, on charges of operating as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States for the United Arab Emirates highlights the successes and pitfalls of a high-stakes Emirati effort to influence US policy.

The indictment of businessman Thomas  J. Barrack, who maintained close ties to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed while serving as an influential advisor in 2016 to then-presidential candidate Trump and chair of Mr. Trump’s inauguration committee once he won the 2016 election, puts at risk the UAE’s relationship with the Biden administration.

It also threatens to reduce the UAE’s return on a massive investment in lobbying and public relations that made it a darling in Washington during the last four years.

A 2019 study concluded that Emirati clients hired 20 US lobbying firms to do their bidding at a cost of US$20 million, including US$600,000 in election campaign contributions — one of the largest, if not the largest expenditure by a single state on Washington lobbying and influence peddling.

The indictment further raises the question of why the Biden administration was willing to allow legal proceedings to put at risk its relationship with one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, one that last year opened the door to recognition of Israel by Arab and Muslim-majority states.

The UAE lobbying effort sought to position the Emirates, and at its behest, Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed’s counterpart, Mohammed bin Salman, at the heart of US policy, ensure that Emirati and Saudi interests were protected, and shield the two autocrats from criticism of various of their policies and abuse of human rights.

Interestingly, UAE lobbying in the United States, in contrast to France and Austria, failed to persuade the Trump administration to embrace one of the Emirates’ core policy objectives: a US crackdown on political Islam with a focus on the Muslim Brotherhood. UAE Crown Prince Mohammed views political Islam and the Brotherhood that embraces the principle of elections as an existential threat to the survival of his regime.

In one instance cited in the indictment, Mr. Barrack’s two co-defendants, a UAE national resident in the United States, Rashid Al-Malik, and Matthew Grimes, a Barrack employee, discussed days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration the possibility of persuading the new administration to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a designated foreign terrorist organization. “This will be a huge win. If we can list them. And they deserved to be,” Mr. Al-Malik texted Mr. Grimes on 23 January 2017.

The unsuccessful push for designating the Brotherhood came three months after Mr. Barrack identified the two Prince Mohammeds in an op-ed in Fortune magazine as members of a new generation of “brilliant young leaders.” The billionaire argued that “American foreign policy must persuade these bold visionaries to lean West rather than East… By supporting their anti-terrorism platforms abroad, America enhances its anti-terrorism policies at home.”

Mr. Barrack further sought to persuade America’s new policymakers, in line with Emirati thinking, that the threat posed by political Islam emanated not only from Iran’s clerical regime and its asymmetric defence and security policies but also from the Brotherhood and Tukey’s Islamist government. He echoed Emirati promotion of Saudi Arabia after the rise of Mohammed bin Salman as the most effective bulwark against political Islam.

“It is impossible for the US to move against any hostile Islamic group anywhere in the world without Saudi support…. The confused notion that Saudi Arabia is synonymous with radical Islam is falsely based on the Western notion that ‘one size fits all,’ Mr. Barrack asserted.

The Trump administration’s refusal to exempt the Brotherhood from its embrace of Emirati policy was the likely result of differences within both the US government and the Muslim world. Analysts suggest that some in the administration feared that designating the Brotherhood would empower the more rabidly Islamophobic elements in Mr. Trump’s support base.

Administration officials also recognized that the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt constituted a minority, albeit a powerful minority, in the Muslim world that was on the warpath against the Brotherhood.

Elsewhere, Brotherhood affiliates were part of the political structure by either participating in government or constituting part of the legal opposition in countries like Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Indonesia.

The affiliates have at times supported US policies or worked closely with US allies like in the case of Yemen’s Al Islah that is aligned with Saudi-backed forces.

In contrast to UAE efforts to ensure that the Brotherhood is crushed at the risk of fueling Islamophobia, Nahdlatul Ulama, one of, if not the world’s largest Muslim organization which shares the Emirates’ rejection of political Islam and the Brotherhood, has opted to fight the Brotherhood’s local Indonesian affiliate politically within a democratic framework rather than by resorting to coercive tactics.

Nahdlatul Ulama prides itself on having significantly diminished the prospects of Indonesia’s Brotherhood affiliate, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), since the 2009 presidential election. The group at the time successfully drove a wedge between then-President Susilo Yudhoyono, and the PKS, his coalition partner since the 2004 election that brought him to power. In doing so, it persuaded Mr. Yudhoyono to reject a PKS candidate as vice president in the second term of his presidency.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s manoeuvring included the publication of a book asserting that the PKS had not shed its links to militancy. The party has since failed to win even half of its peak 38 seats in parliament garnered in the 2004 election.

“Publication of ‘The Illusion of an Islamic State: The Expansion of Transnational Islamist Movements to Indonesia’ had a considerable impact on domestic policy. It primarily contributed to neutralizing one candidate’s bid for vice president in the 2009 national election campaign, who had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood,” said militancy expert Magnus Ranstorp.

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Biden Revises US Sanctions Policy

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

In the United States, a revision of the sanctions policy is in full swing. Joe Biden’s administration strives to make sanctions instruments more effective in achieving his political goals and, at the same time, reducing political and economic costs. The coordination of restrictive measures with allies is also seen as an important task. Biden is cautiously but consistently abandoning the sanctions paradigm that emerged during Donald Trump’s presidency.

The US sanctions policy under Trump was characterised by several elements. First, Washington applied them quite harshly. In all key areas (China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, etc.), the United States used economic and financial restrictions without hesitation, and sometimes in unprecedented volumes. Of course, the Trump administration acted rationally and rigidity was not an end in itself. In a number of episodes, the American authorities acted prudently (for example, regarding sanctions on Russian sovereign debt in 2019). The Trump-led executives stifled excess Congressional enthusiasm for “draconian sanctions” against Russia and even some initiatives against China. However, the harshness of other measures sometimes shocked allies and opponents alike. These include the 6 April 2014 sanctions against a group of Russian businessmen and their assets, or bans on some Chinese telecommunications services in the United States, or sanctions blocking the International Criminal Court.

Second, Trump clearly ignored the views of US allies. The unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 forced European businesses to leave Iran, resulting in losses. Even some of the nation’s closest allies were annoyed. Another irritant was the tenacity with which Trump (with Congressional backing) threw a wrench in the wheels of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Despite the complicated relations between Moscow and the European Union, the latter defended the right to independently determine what was in its interests and what was not.

Third, concerns about sanctions have emerged among American business as well. Fears have grown in financial circles that the excessive use of sanctions will provoke the unnecessary politicisation of the global financial system. In the short term, a radical decline in the global role of the dollar is hardly possible. But political risks are forcing many governments to seriously consider it. Both rivals (Moscow and Beijing) and allies (Brussels) have begun to implement corresponding plans. Trade sanctions against China have affected a number of US companies in the telecommunications and high-tech sectors.

Finally, on some issues, the Trump administration has been inconsistent or simply made mistakes. For example, Trump enthusiastically criticised China for human rights violations, supporting relevant legislative initiatives. But at the same time, it almost closed its eyes to the events in Belarus in 2020. Congress was also extremely unhappy with the delay in the reaction on the “Navalny case” in Russia. As for mistakes, the past administration missed the moment for humanitarian exemptions for sanctions regimes in connection with the COVID-19 epidemic. Even cosmetic indulgences could have won points for US “soft power”. Instead, the US Treasury has published a list of pre-existing exceptions.

The preconditions for a revision of the sanctions policy arose even before Joe Biden came to power. First of all, a lot of analytical work was done by American think tanks—nongovernmental research centers. They provided a completely sober and unbiased analysis of bothха! achievements and mistakes. In addition, the US Government Accountability Office has done serious work; in 2019 it prepared two reports for Congress on the institutions of the American sanctions policy. However, Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election significantly accelerated the revision of the sanctions instruments. Both the ideological preferences of the Democrats (for example, the emphasis on human rights) and the political experience of Biden himself played a role.

The new guidelines for the US sanctions policy can be summarised as follows. First, the development of targeted sanctions and a more serious analysis of their economic costs for American business, as well as business from allied and partner countries. Second, closer coordination with allies. Here, Biden has already sent a number of encouraging signals by introducing temporary sanctions exemptions on Nord Stream 2. Although a number of Russian organisations and ships were included in the US sanctions lists, Nord Stream 2 itself and its leadership were not affected. Third, we are talking about closer attention to the subject of human rights. Biden has already reacted with sanctions both to the “Navalny case” and to the situation in Belarus. Human rights will be an irritant in relations with China. Fourth, the administration is working towards overturning Trump’s most controversial decisions. The 2020 decrees on Chinese telecoms were cancelled, the decree on sanctions against the International Criminal Court was cancelled, the decree on Chinese military-industrial companies was modified; negotiations are also underway with Iran.

The US Treasury, one of the key US sanctions agencies, will also undergo personnel updates. Elisabeth Rosenberg, a prominent sanctions expert who previously worked at the Center for a New American Security, may take the post of Assistant Treasury Secretary. She will oversee the subject of sanctions. Thus, the principle of “revolving doors”, which is familiar to Americans, is being implemented, when the civil service is replenished with personnel from the expert community and business, and then “returns” them back.

At the same time, the revision of the sanctions policy by the new administration cannot be called a revolution. The institutional arrangement will remain unchanged. It is a combination of the functions of various departments—the Treasury, the Department of Trade, the Department of Justice, the State Department, etc. The experience of their interagency coordination has accumulated over the years. The system worked flawlessly both under Trump and under his predecessors. Rather, it will be about changing the political directives.

For Russia, the revision is unlikely to bring radical changes. A withdrawal from the carpet bombing of Russian business, such as the incident on 6 April 2018 hint that good news can be considered a possibility. However, the legal mechanisms of sanctions against Russia will continue to operate. The emphasis on human rights will lead to an increase in sanctions against government structures. Against this background, regular political crises are possible in relations between the two countries.

From our partner RIAC

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