Sanctions Serve to Maintain US Global Hegemony

In a world where the US dollar and American corporations are still dominating, the anti-Russia sanctions are designed to restore the shaky hegemony of the United States. The US President is not against them, though some hope that he will overcome the crisis in bilateral relations, Valdai Club expert Andrei Tsygankov writes.

The new anti-Russia sanctions, announced by the United States under various pretexts, no longer related to Ukraine, have become the subject of lively debates about their nature and possible consequences. According to many analysts, the core of the issue lies in the US domestic policy. Roughly speaking, the logic of these arguments could be reduced to the confrontation between Donald Trump, who wants to cooperate, and the Russophobe establishment in Congress, the US media and security services.

At the same time, some hope that the relations between the US and Russia will be normalized relatively quickly due to possible consolidation of Trump’s positions domestically, his “common sense” and understanding that the American hegemony is a thing of the past. Others do not expect any positive progress, but also associate sanctions with the spiraling internal political conflict due to the forthcoming midterm elections in November. Trump is seemingly ahead of the game, being forced to pay tribute to the popular anti-Russian trend and demonstrating that he is tougher on the matter than his Congress opponents.

These arguments are missing that Trump is not only a fighter in Washington political jungles, but also a convinced supporter of the US global hegemony. His criticism of free trade liberals and democratizers shows that he is not an isolationist, but a superpower nationalist. Trump’s “respect” for Putin (and vice versa) is due to ideological kinship, not one of interests. Both leaders know that finding a common language does not mean consent. Nationalism means harsh rivalry for advancing one’s own interests. That is the “normalization” that Trump talks about, relating it to conquering new markets and weakening the rivals shamelessly. For this, he uses a broad set of tools, including political pressure, threats of military invasion, various sanctions, trade limitations.

In a world where the US dollar and American corporations are still dominating, these financial-economic measures are designed to restore the shaky hegemony of the US. The US President is not against anti-Russian sanctions, though some hope that he will overcome the crisis in bilateral relations. Ideologically and psychologically, he is ready to actively impose economic limitations not only against China, North Korea, Iran and Turkey, but also against his European “allies”, who do not share his ideology. Trump could “agree” with Putin only on his own terms, so in his game Russia is supposed to play the part of a country that helps the US to trample its rivals and totally accepts the US global hegemony.

Since the US economy demonstrates growth and opponents of the American neo-mercantilism are scattered, the sanctions strategy will be beneficial for the US. Non-Western countries led by China could block this strategy, but they are still preparing for the fight both politically and psychologically. The Europeans either make concessions or prove themselves unable to protect their businesses from the American pressure. We saw this inability, when the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and many European companies decided to quit the Iranian market despite all EU attempts to counter Trump. If the US President keeps on strengthening his internal positions after the Congress elections in November, we should expect him to reconcile with his political opponents in Washington and keep pressuring on Russia economically.

Although the Russian Foreign Ministry announced reciprocal sanctions, Russian response is unlikely to be symmetrical. Considering the asymmetry in the US-Russia relations, such response would be pointless. It is obvious that as the global international system is organized hierarchically, any symmetrical or “mirror” response will be a trap, designed to weaken the country. The Kremlin policies of the recent years, including the measures of implicit military, informational and digital resistance, have been imbued with deep understanding of how dangerous symmetrical confrontation could be. Importantly, the sanctions announced by Congress in April were left without any significant response, and the Duma’s initial tough draft was rectified thoroughly to remove any hints of symmetry.

The Kremlin also understands that the US could keep pressuring economically up to the measures assessed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a trade war declaration. There cannot be one-time response to such measures, which does not rule out the possibility of Russia responding asymmetrically in any spheres sensible for the US. An adequate response will be an integrated one, aimed at further reorganization of the international political, economic and financial ties, development and coordination of relations with the opponents of the US neo-mercantilist hegemony, as well as active work on the domestic and regional markets of economic ties.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.