Sanctions are an act of war and a plague on all houses
Updated 14:21, 25-Mar-2022
Danny Haiphong
Gas prices in Westchester are above $6 as prices at the pump continue to rise across Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 13, 2022. /CFP

Gas prices in Westchester are above $6 as prices at the pump continue to rise across Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 13, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Danny Haiphong is an independent journalist and researcher in the United States. He is a contributing editor to the Black Agenda Report, co-editor of Friends of Socialist China and founding member of the No Cold War international campaign. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Sanctions are a unilateral measure meant to pressure countries into meeting political objectives. By their very nature, sanctions are an act of economic warfare. On March 23, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will require that the EU and other "hostile countries" pay in rubles instead of U.S. dollars or Euros for buying its natural gas. This move is a direct response to the unprecedented U.S.-EU sanctions that have harmed Russia's economy and led to an enormous rise in the cost of oil and gas in the West.  

The West, led by the United States, has framed sanctions as a necessary response to Russia's military operation in Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken highly of the power of sanctions to fight corruption and wrongdoing, going so far as to claim that sanctions will redistribute wealth from Russia's "oligarchy" to the people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Half of Russia's gold and foreign reserves have been effectively frozen.  

China has been a vocal leader in the global opposition to sanctions, and with good reason. Ample evidence suggests that sanctions are an incredibly harmful and counterproductive policy. U.S. sanctions on Iraq during the so-called Gulf War are estimated to have killed at least 500,000 children. A study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that 40,000 people in Venezuela died in the two-year period between 2017 and 2018 due to the impact of sanctions. A similar report from Korea Peace Now estimates that U.S. sanctions caused the deaths of nearly 4,000 people in 2018 in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) due to shortages in medical supplies and treatments for preventable diseases. 

Such enormous humanitarian consequences are verifiable proof that sanctions do not merely target "governments" or "leaders." The U.S. and EU currently impose sanctions upon no less than 30 countries, stripping them of the revenue and access to markets needed to meet the needs of their societies. Cuba lost more than $5 billion in revenue from U.S. sanctions in the one-year period of 2019-2020. Russia has lost hundreds of billions in potential revenue since sanctions were first imposed upon the country by the U.S. in 2014. Sanctions promote isolationism by cutting off economic opportunities to countries that need them most. 

Sanctions also trample upon the right to peaceful development and life itself. Both of these rights are enshrined by international law. To make matters worse, imperial hubris plays a major role in the brazenness with which the U.S. and its Western allies employ sanctions. Smaller and poorer countries are treated as second-class global citizens. Imperialist countries such as the United States dehumanize sanctioned countries and treat their people as if their lives do not matter. 

The Moscow Exchange office, Moscow, Russia, March 21, 2022. /CFP

The Moscow Exchange office, Moscow, Russia, March 21, 2022. /CFP

In the case of Russia and China, the U.S. and EU have demonstrated that sanctions are a plague on all houses. Russia's announcement that it will seek payment in rubles from EU countries for its energy resources comes amid a global economic crisis. Sanctions have exacerbated inflation in the West. Russia, China, and a host of countries are losing confidence in the U.S. dollar and are seeking alternatives. Saudi Arabia is considering the trade of oil to China in yuan and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) led by Russia is discussing the formation of an independent monetary exchange system. 

Thus, sanctions on Russia threaten to accelerate the decline of the dollar. This process began well before the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Sanctions are nothing but one policy in a larger unipolar project that has cut the West off from key markets in the Global South. Russia is a rising economy, as is Iran. Venezuela, while not a large economy, is oil-rich. 

Neither China nor Russia has rejected the dollar or economic relations with the United States. Nor are sanctions a causal factor in the strengthening of the China-Russia strategic partnership or the growing unity of the Global South. Rather, sanctions validate the correctness of China's policy of South-South development reflected in the Belt and Road Initiative. Integration, solidarity and cooperation are key to global prosperity and the resolution of problems such as climate change that affect the whole of humanity. While each is an inevitable byproduct of the people's striving for development and dignity, it cannot be denied that sanctions have accelerated the process. 

The U.S. is thus "shooting itself in the foot" with its violent sanctions policy. Its model of unipolarity is reaching a logical endpoint. The assertion of economic sovereignty in the realm of currency is thus a welcome outcome and one that will continue to plague the U.S.'s hegemonic ambitions for years to come, so long as sanctions remain a staple of its foreign policy.

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