18 June 2017   Leave a comment

The US Senate passed, 98-2, new sanctions against Russia.  The legislation amplifies current sanctions by imposing penalties on non-US companies that are involved in various investments in Russia, including those involved in building pipelines.  The tough sanctions reflect a resolve by the Senate to penalize Russia for its interference in the US presidential elections in 2016 as well as Russian aggressive moves in Ukraine and eastern Europe.  Germany and Austria complained bitterly about the legislation because it jeopardizes the building of a new natural gas pipeline from Russia to Europe, the Nord Stream 2.  We expect that the Trump Administration will lobby hard in the US House of Representatives to change the legislation, an action which will likely aggravate those in the US who believe that the Trump Administration is too “soft” on Russia.  Coincidentally, the controversy sheds light on the issue of the natural gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey since that natural gas will compete with Russian natural gas.

Nordstream Pipelines

Alex de Waal works for the World Peace Foundation and he has written an essay for The London Review of Books on the use of starvation as a weapon of war.  He is concerned at the present time about starvation which is occurring in north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.  In all these cases, millions are dying because food is deliberately being withheld in order to force concessions among warring factions in brutal civil wars.  Unfortunately, this tactic is far more common than believed:

“The organisation I work for, the World Peace Foundation, has compiled a catalogue of every case of famine or forced mass starvation since 1870 that killed at least 100,000 people. There are 61 entries on the list, responsible for the deaths of at least 105 million people. About two thirds of the famine deaths in this period were in Asia, about 20 per cent in Europe and the USSR, just under 10 per cent in Africa. The biggest killers were famines that resulted from political decisions, among them the Gilded Age famines, the Great War famines in the Middle East, including the forced starvation of a million Armenians, the Russian Civil War famine, Stalin’s starvation of Ukraine from 1932 until 1934 (now known as the Holodomor), the Nazi ‘hunger plan’ for the Soviet Union, the famines during the Chinese Civil War, the starvation inflicted by the Japanese during the Second World War, and by Mao’s Great Leap Forward of 1958-62, the largest famine on record, which killed at least 25 million.”

Humanitarian organizations have a very difficult time addressing starvation under these circumstances and the issues raise important ethical and practical concerns.

Daniel Kurtz-Phelan has written a short piece on the new Cuba policy articulated by US President Trump for New York Magazine.  He points out the narrow political concerns that underlie the policy reversal and how those concerns ignore the changes in Cuba that former President Obama’s openness precipitated.  Most importantly, Kurtz-Phelan suggests that the reversal of policy leaves the US out in the cold as other nations rush to position themselves in anticipation of the retirement of Raul Castro in 2018.


Posted June 18, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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