US sanctions on Russia

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JOSÉ LUÍS FIORI*

American veto of the Baltic gas pipeline: geopolitical imperative and capitalist competition.

According to Halford Mackinder, “whoever controls the 'heart of the world' commands the 'island of the world', and whoever controls the 'island of the world' commands the world”. The 'island of the world' would be the Eurasian continent, and its heart would be located – more or less – between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, and between Berlin and Moscow.
(JL Fiori. Anglo-American geopolitics. In: History, Strategy and Development. Petrópolis: Voices, 2014, p. 141).

Halford Mackinder (1861-1947), the father of Anglo-American geopolitics, formulated at the beginning of the XNUMXth century a theory about the spatial distribution of world power and outlined a corresponding strategy of conquest and Anglo-Saxon control of global power. His theory and strategy were actually a systematization and rationalization of what England had been doing since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, when the Foreign Office The English defined, for the first time, the imperial Russia of the Romanovs as the main competitor of British power in Europe, Central Asia and even America. The same strategy that was later maintained in the XNUMXth century, with regard to communist Russia from Vladimir I. Lenin to Mikhail Gorbachev, and remains in force today, with regard to the nationalist and conservative Russia of Vladimir Putin.

In the 1823th century, this British concern was the real origin of the so-called Monroe Doctrine, which was in fact formulated and suggested to the Americans by the British Foreign Minister, George Canning, and which, after being rejected by President James Monroe, was appropriated and announced by him as being of his own creation, in his speech to the American Congress, of December XNUMX.[I]

At the end of the 1871th century, and particularly during the XNUMXth century, this strategy of isolating Russia acquired a new dimension, and a more specific objective, from the “first unification” of Germany, in XNUMX, as is almost explicit in the vision of Mackinder, which appears in the epigraph of this text: never allow Russia and Germany to establish among themselves some kind of strategic alliance or economic interdependence that would allow them to hegemonize Europe, and, as a consequence, control world power.

The same idea was taken up by the American diplomat George Kennan, in his famous telegram of February 22, 1946, in which he defended the need for “permanent containment” of the USSR, an idea that was endorsed by Winston Churchill in his famous speech at the Westminster College, in the city of Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946, when he proposed the creation of a kind of “iron curtain” separating Western Europe from the USSR and its allied countries in Central Europe.

That same strategic doctrine is now being taken up – even more radically – by the new Democratic administration of Joe Biden and his head of the State Department, Antony Blinken, regarding Vladimir Putin's Russia. There has been an increase in sanctions, threats and military pressure on exactly the axis that connects the Baltic Sea with the Black Sea, and which involves direct strategic interests of Germany and Russia around Ukraine and Crimea, in the Black Sea region , in and around Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the Baltic Sea region.

It is this same strategy of blockade and distance between Russia and Germany that explains the increasingly aggressive veto by the North Americans to the construction project of the “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline, which starts in the city of Vyborg, in the northwest of Russia, and reaches the city of Greifswald, in northeastern Germany, passing through the bottom of the Baltic Sea, with 1.230 km of extension and an estimated cost of US$ 10,5 billion. This pipeline is already installed in 95% of its length, and when completed, it will double the capacity of Nord Stream 1.

This was completed in 2011, with a capacity for 55 million cubic meters of gas per year, and with the installation of the new pipeline, will increase to 110 million cubic meters per year. The project for this gas pipeline from the Baltic Sea includes its land supply in Russia, its submerged part and numerous connections through Western Europe, and was financed by a consortium led by the Russian company Gazprom, associated with the German companies Uniper and Wintershall, the Austrian OMV, the French Engie and Anglo-Dutch Shell.

In its first four months, the Biden government has already practiced two more rounds of new sanctions against all companies and governments involved in the project, and threatened to turn its veto into an insurmountable “red line”, with threats even more serious and destructive than those that have already been made, especially with regard to the government of Germany. In its geopolitics, the USA has the support of Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic and Nordic countries, in addition to a significant part of the governments and political forces of the European Union itself.

Despite this, Russia has insisted on the exclusively commercial nature of its joint project with the Germans, not least because Germany already receives Russian gas through Nord Stream 1 itself, in addition to two other pipelines that cross Ukraine and Turkey, without these projects having been vetoed at the time of their construction. However, it should be remembered that these “authorizations” took place before the Russian military intervention in Syria, which consecrated a new level in the correlation of military forces between Russia and the United States, and, in particular, with regard to NATO forces. .

On the side of Germany, however, the panorama appears more complex and undefined, and at this moment, eyes are set on the general elections of next September, when the replacement of Angela Merkel, chancellor will be elected since 2005. And the German position towards its Nord Stream 2 project has been at the epicenter of electoral discussions: the Social Democratic Party overwhelmingly supports the project, but today it is only the third or fourth political force in Germany, but the Democratic Party itself- Angela Merkel's Christian is divided on the issue; and, finally, the Greens, who are the country's second political force, are adamantly opposed to the Russian gas project.

Chancellor Angela Merkel sees no difference between the Nord Stream 2 project and the other gas pipelines that already supply Russian gas to Germans and Europeans, and considers that the current American opposition involves political and geopolitical issues that transcend the economic and energy fields. proper. So does Gerard Schroeder, former social democratic chancellor and current leader of the Nord Stream AG consortium, which is leading the gas pipeline project, who believes that Nord Stream 2 is an effective and “clean” energy alternative to the use of coal and nuclear energy, and which will solve Germany's energy shortage problem for generations to come. Furthermore, Schroeder considers that Russian gas gas fracking is less expensive, better quality and less ecologically aggressive than the gas fracking American.

Along the same lines, but using even more aggressive language, the Minister of Finance of Germany, Olaf Scholz, denounced the American sanctions as a “severe intervention in the internal affairs of Germany and Europe”,[ii] and the German Foreign Minister, Helko Maas, even tweet that “European energy policy has to be decided by Europeans, not by the United States”.[iii] Even so, the project is “in the air” and it is likely that it will remain that way until the general elections in September, despite the fact that the Russians are moving forward on their own account to complete the approximately 150 km that still remain to complete the project. construction of this Russian-German gas pipeline. But there is no doubt that the solution to the impasse seems increasingly hampered by the increase in geopolitical and military tensions between the United States and Russia, and therefore its outcome is unpredictable, or at least will have to be postponed for some time.

Meanwhile, however, American liquefied gas producers manage to conquer and establish themselves within the European market, exposing once again the direct relationship that exists between geopolitics and their struggle for power, and the conquest and monopolization of world oil markets and gas by large oil and gas producing and exporting companies.

This is how the East German Business Association (OAOEV) recognizes and denounces it, when it declares that “in practice, America wants to sell its liquefied gas in Europe and its American sanctions are aimed at expelling its competitors from the European market”.[iv] An iron law that transcends this immediate conjuncture, and that is repeated every day in the world of oil and gas, and in the entire “capitalist market economy.[v]

* Jose Luis Fiori Professor at the Graduate Program in International Political Economy at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of History, strategy and development (Boitempo).

Notes


[I] Fiori, JL; “The global power of the United States: formation, expansion and limits”, in Fiori JL (org), the american power, Voices, Petrópolis, 2004, p, p:73.

[ii] “Germany, EU, declare US Nord Stream sanctions”, Deutsche Welle, December 21, 2019.

[iii] “Ukrania and Russia look to strike new gas deal amid US sanctions threats”. CNBC, December 16, 2019.

[iv] “Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines face sanctions under US defense bill”. Deutsche Welle December 12, 2019.

[v] “The 'great predators' that are at the origin of capitalism together with the large and systematic 'extraordinary profits' were the true driving force of capitalism, above the market economy in which only 'normal profits' are produced and accumulated, incapable of by itself to explain the original European success, in the accumulation and concentration of world wealth”. (Fiori, JL Formation, expansion and limits of global power. In: ______. [Org.]. the american power. Petrópolis-RJ: Voices, 2004, p. 31).

 

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