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How & Why the $2,000 Covid-19 Stimulus Checks Were Defeated

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On December 30th, U.S. Senators voted 80 to 12 not to increase the Covid-19 relief one-time payments from $600 per qualifying person, to $2,000. The same bill had already passed, December 28th, in the U.S. House, by a vote of 322 to 87.

Here is how the great investigative-reporting team of David Sirota and Andrew Perez reported this on December 31st, under the headline “Senate Democrats’ Motion To Concede On $2,000 Checks”,

Only six members of the Senate Democratic Caucus mustered the courage to vote against [Republican leader Mitch] McConnell’s maneuver — [Bernie] Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey and Ron Wyden. Democratic senators in fact provided the majority of the votes for the measure that lets the defense bill proceed without a vote on the $2,000 checks. …

Liberal Economists And Pundits Gave McConnell His Talking Points 

McConnell’s crusade to stop direct aid was abetted not only by Senate Democrats’ surrender, but also by media elites who loyally represent the party’s corporate wing and who began promoting canned talking points to undermine the direct aid. 

First came a barrage of attacks on the $2,000 checks initiative from [Lawrence] Summers, a former hedge fund executive who as President Barack Obama’s national economic director stymied the push for more stimulus after the 2008 financial crisis.

Then the New York Times’ Paul Krugman pretended the wildly popular initiative is “divisive” and said “the economics aren’t very good.” Timesman Tom Friedman, who married into a real estate empire, called the idea “crazy” and fretted that checks might go to “people who don’t need the help.” The minions of billionaire Michael Bloomberg joined in with a house editorial demanding Congress block the checks. 

Meanwhile, only weeks after the Washington Post news page told the harrowing tales of rising poverty and starvation in America, the paper’s editorial board argued against stimulus by insisting that “the economy has healed significantly.” 

The Post — which is owned by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos — argued against the $2,000 checks by saying it is unjust that some rich people might in theory end up benefiting from the proposal. …

All of this noise was quickly weaponized by McConnell, who in a Senate floor speech directly cited Summers and the Post as justification to stop the $2,000 checks to the two thirds of households in his own state who would benefit. 

“The liberal economist Larry Summers, President Clinton’s Treasury Secretary and President Obama’s NEC director says, ‘There’s no good economic argument for universal $2,000 checks at this moment.’ McConnell said, adding: “Even the liberal Washington Post today is laughing at the political left demanding more huge giveaways with no relationship to actual need.”

Basically, what Sirota and Perez were reporting is that with the exception of only 12 members in the U.S. Senate and 87 members in the U.S. House, all members of the U.S. Congress are owned 100% by America’s billionaires.

Those billionaires also own and control America’s 100 corporations that sell the most to the U.S. Government and to its allies, firms such as Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, which derive all or most of their sales — and especially their profits — from selling to those governments, and which therefore are obsessed to keep ‘defense’-spending high (and organization such as NATO going). Since these same people also donate the most to America’s politicians, one can now say that their corporations, and especially the ones which sell the most to the U.S. Government, effectively own the U.S. Government, and are the actual constituency that every U.S. President, and almost every member of the U.S. Congress, represents above all. Consequently, attaching the $600 Covid-19 relief payment, instead of the $2,000 amount, to the annual ‘defense’-spending bill, assured that the $1,400-per-person difference would be able to be spent on companies such as Lockheed Martin, and go into the pockets of America’s billionaires — the people who really count, to ‘democratically’ elected U.S. Government officials.  

Whereas the overt, the official, position of the Republican Party was opposing the proposal to increase the $600 to $2,000, the overt, the official, position of the Democratic Party was to support that increase. Why, then, did only 6 of the 46 Democratic Senators (including the ‘independent’ Bernie Sanders) vote in favor of that official position, and only 20 of the 233 Democratic Representatives vote in favor of it? It certainly wasn’t being done in order to please their electorate.

The proposal to increase the $600 to $2,000 was supported by 78% of Americans and opposed by only 17%; so, if the Congress were authentically democratic instead of aristocratic, then the proposal would have passed overwhelmingly. But it’s not. Nor is the U.S. House democratic.  And why are they not? (Furthermore, even 73% of Republicans in that nationwide poll supported the proposal to raise the $600 to $2,000; so, even their Party’s official position on this was hostile toward themselves. The only difference between Republican politicians and Democratic politicians is that Democratic ones are lots more hypocritical, claiming that they support ‘workers and regular people’ instead of only their own megadonors.)

On December 31st, The Hill bannered, “Graham calls for stand-alone vote on $2K checks” and reported that, 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) broke with his party’s Senate leader Thursday, calling for a stand-alone vote on $2,000 stimulus checks.

“If you had a stand-alone vote on the $2,000 check, it might pass,” Graham said while appearing on “Fox & Friends.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has knocked the prospect of raising the stimulus checks that are going out to many Americans from $600 to $2,000, vowing the Senate would not pass a stand-alone bill increasing the amount. President Trump has pushed for the increase and the House passed one earlier this week, but most Senate Republicans are wary.

“The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help,” McConnell said.

(The $1,400 difference wouldn’t go to the American people, he was implying: it would instead go “into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends.”)

(Graham’s top donor was the “Republican Jewish Coalition” — extremely wealthy supporters of Israel, the nation that America’s taxpayers already donate $3.8 billion per year to, for it to purchase weapons from the U.S. — and second was employees of the U.S. Department of Defense, which likewise benefits from Senator Graham’s consistent neoconservatism. Fifth was Boeing, which is the second-largest ‘defense’ contractor, after only Lockheed. So: why was he ‘fighting for the little man’ here? It was only theater, to satisfy the voters back home, who need the extra $1,400 far more than Graham’s megadonors do.)

America’s billionaires despise the American public and control both of the political Parties. In fact, at the Presidential level, each contest is always between a Republican nominee and a Democratic nominee, both of whom have been approved by the given Party’s billionaires. The billionaires have an effective veto-power over the nominees of both of the Parties. If the billionaires don’t like a given candidate in the primaries, then not only will that candidate get none of their money, but all of the billionaire-owned-and-or-controlled media will be against that candidate and will spread hostile ‘news’-reports against that person. The public are fooled, because however much the billionaires need to spend in order to fool them, it will be done. Owning the Government is seen by them as being their right, just as has always been the case in every aristocracy throughout history. The difference is that, in America, the billionaires’ Government and their press call this a ‘democracy’, so as to fool the public even more. Only if the American public come to recognize that it’s definitely not a democracy (it’s even a police-state but the billionaires hide that fact from the public) will there be a revolution against the billionaires. However, the billionaires control the public’s mind; so, a second American Revolution — this time to defeat not Britain’s aristocrats but America’s — appears to be impossible. It certainly wouldn’t be supported by any successful American politician. That’s the basic difference between 1776 America and 2021 America. Overthrowing a foreign aristocracy is far easier than overthrowing a domestic one.

This is the reason why the poor, who get hardest hit by plagues and who are getting especially hard hit by Covid-19 in America, will now increasingly become homeless and die. And they’ll be getting the least help.

On December 30th, David Wallace-Wells at New York magazine bannered “America’s Vaccine Rollout Is Already a Disaster” and documented that when compared against UK and Israel — neither of which is among the world’s relatively successful countries at restraining this virus — the U.S. is doing vastly worse than those (unsuccessful) countries at distributing vaccines against it. (Since that magazine is owned by the family of a Democratic billionaire, its report actually ignored all of the countries that have performed effectively against the virus, because none of the best performers were allied with U.S. billionaires. The news-report was true, but was aimed against the Republican Party — specifically the Republican President — instead of opposing the entire American Government, which is actually to blame. It’s partisan propaganda, but truthful — as far as it goes. Even truthful propaganda like that, however, is harmful, because it’s not criticizing the source of the problem, which is all of America’s billionaires — the people who control the U.S. Government. None of them even cares about the source of America’s problem, because they are part of it, and won’t oppose it.)

U.S. actually has even higher percentages of its population infected with Covid-19, and higher percentages dying from it, than Brazil — an infamous basket-case. If this isn’t a pre-revolutionary situation, then nothing could be. How much longer will Americans be deceived, and tolerate this — this “socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor”?

On January 1st, the same reporting team of Sirota and Perez headlined “Schumer Begins 2021 Promising To Fight — Then Immediately Surrenders”, and described how the Democratic leader in the Senate, Senator Schumer, had been promising that “Democrats will not stop fighting” for the $2,000 figure, and within hours cooperated with Republicans to block it from being passed. The reporters concluded:

Schumer doesn’t want any of this out in the open — he wants everyone to think he and his caucus are doing all they can to actually fight for the things they insist they support. But the mask is now off — this morning, he showed what’s really going on here. 

Whether or not anyone wants to look at what he showed us remains an open question. The situation is demoralizing, and there is an entire misinformation infrastructure of cable TV news and partisan punditry designed to avert our eyes.

Almost all Democrats in Congress had merely been playing the ‘good cop’ to their Republican counterparts’ ‘bad cop’, in order to get that money to the Pentagon instead of to the public. Getting it to the public would be ‘waste, fraud, and abuse’, but getting it to the Pentagon — the most corrupt Department in an extremely corrupt Government — would be ‘essential for national security’.

Going back and forth between Democrats and Republicans will no longer work and hasn’t worked for a long time now; it has become a dead end, because neither Party is, any longer, either democratic or republican. The problem isn’t the Constitution; it is the individuals who have hired the personnel, in all branches of the U.S. Government, to transform that Constitution into just a piece of parchment and to defile its meaning by lies. That can happen even to the best of constitutions. America now is a limited democracy only on parchment, no longer in practice. It’s a dictatorship (by the billionaires) in practice. This time around, a revolution won’t require a new constitution. It requires, instead, merely new personnel. And that’s a fact. Changing the Constitution won’t get us out of this mess. The problem is more drastic, even though a new Constitution won’t be required. New Amendments (such as, perhaps, this) will be required, but a new Constitution won’t. And those Amendments will be propagandized against ferociously by America’s billionaires. So, all billionaires will need to be removed from power before it happens. Their stranglehold on the American mind must be ended first. Then, the issue of Amendments can be discussed.

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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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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