In 2021, the US presidential administration Joseph Biden introduced the most sanctions (in terms of the number of entities and objects included in the sanctions list) against China, Belarus and Russia, writes RBC. At the same time, as follows from an analysis conducted by experts from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington, Russia, in terms of the number of new targets (95) added to the SDN (Specially Designated Nationals) sanctions list, lost to Belarus (96 targets) and China, which exactly 100 new targets of US sanctions.
In total, last year the United States added 765 objects to the SDN list, of which 13% are China, Belarus and Russia. For comparison, in 2020, the administration of the then President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on 777 individuals, companies and organizations, property, and in the first place in terms of the number of such impacts was Iran (43%), the second – Venezuela (13%).
Does this mean a change in Washington’s priorities? Well, everything is clear and obvious with China, but Belarus … Lukashenka became much more of an enemy than Putin?
“It should be borne in mind that these are statistics for 2021 only,” notes expert of the analytical portal Rubaltic.ru. Alexey Ilyashevich.
– The sanctions war against Russia has been going on for almost eight years – it is already difficult to find any new objects to strike there. But with Belarus things are different. Until 2020, she established relations with the same States. Almost hugged Lukashenka in Minsk Pompeo’s mother, reached an agreement with him on the return of ambassadors. The first shipments of American oil went to Belarus through the port of Klaipeda. Accordingly, the US and the EU gradually suspended sanctions against “Europe’s last dictatorship.” After Lukashenka’s re-election, the reverse process began abruptly. So there is nothing surprising in this.
“SP”: – What objects and persons most often fall under sanctions in Belarus? Why?
– First of all, individuals got there: top officials, heads of law enforcement agencies, big businessmen, people from Lukashenka’s entourage. This is standard practice: personal sanctions are always imposed first. And then follows a blow to specific companies and sectors of the economy. The American “black list” included many enterprises of the oil and chemical industry of Belarus (Belneftekhim, Belaruskali, Grodno Azot and others). This is logical, since we are talking about key sectors of the country’s economy. Export of fertilizers and oil products are the main sources of filling the Belarusian budget.
“SP”: – Is the fact that Belarus is ahead of Russia somehow connected with the personalities of American presidents? Or, if Trump had stayed in power, everything would have been the same?
– Good question. I don’t think anything fundamentally would change. International pressure on the Lukashenko regime began even under Trump – he himself signed sanctions against “certain representatives of the Belarusian government.” Belarus itself did not bother him much, but the notorious “deep state” operates here.
“SP”: – What do the Americans want to achieve? Mode change? Do they want regime change in Belarus even more than in Russia?
“Now it is already difficult to understand what exactly the Americans want. Their attitude towards Belarus has changed many times. At first, the installation of regime change dominated, then the States realized that this was futile. Then work began on the “democratization” of Lukashenka. Why overthrow the “son of a bitch” when you can tame him? In 2020, all this work went down the drain.
It seems to me that the question of the policy of the Americans in the Belarusian direction is not very relevant today. They are well aware that the situation here has stabilized, and it is unlikely that Lukashenka’s regime will be “shattered”. Remember the first meeting between Biden and Putin: some expected that Belarus would become almost the main topic of their negotiations. But nothing like that.
“SP”: – To what extent Belarus, in your opinion, has learned to successfully resist sanctions? What is the role of cooperation with Russia in this? Together we can fight this pressure more successfully than alone?
– Belarus has a rich experience of living under American and European sanctions, it is no stranger to it. On the other hand, such harsh measures have never been taken against her as they are now. For example, earlier there was no talk of blockade of the transit of Belarusian fertilizers through the port of Klaipeda. Here Lukashenka fell into the trap of his own multi-vector approach. Almost the entire volume of Belaruskali’s products is exported through Lithuania, and Russian ports do not have enough free capacity to intercept these cargoes at once. But the economy of Belarus is still “tied” to Russia, and the West will not be able to bring it down.
In the case of China, Biden continues Trump’s policy. In the case of Belarus, it is more difficult, Advisor to the President of the Russian Association for Baltic Studies Vsevolod Shimov.
– On the one hand, the actions of the Belarusian authorities after August 2020 would provoke a response from any American administration. On the other hand, Trump has given much less importance to the “politics of values” than Biden. Therefore, the sanctions could be more lenient, and it would be easier for Minsk to agree with Washington on their termination in exchange for certain concessions. In addition, Trump relied on geopolitical penetration into Eastern Europe; during his presidency, the position of the United States in this region was significantly strengthened, including Belarus. Biden, on the contrary, relies on an alliance primarily with Western European countries. Therefore, the sanctions against Belarus indicate that Washington has no goal of “involving” Minsk at the moment. On the other hand, the sanctions turn Belarus into a very problematic asset for Russia, thus fulfilling the function of “containment” of Moscow, which remains a priority for any American administration.
“SP”: Why China is understandable, but why Belarus?
– Minsk provoked the anger of the entire collective West with its harsh suppression of protests in 2020. From the point of view of Washington, Belarus today is the main political “outcast” of Europe. This is in terms of value. From a pragmatic point of view, as I said, sanctions against Belarus help to “contain” Russia, because, by creating problems for the Belarusian economy, they thereby slow down the processes of Belarusian-Russian integration, turning Belarus into a problematic asset for Russia, which itself is under severe sanctions. pressure.
“SP”: – Is it really possible to talk about a change in Washington’s priorities? Or is it just numbers?
– I would not talk about changing priorities. China will be a prime target for any US administration. It has risen too high and poses too serious a threat to US hegemony. “Containment” of Russia will also remain a priority, as Moscow’s military-political potential is still seen as a significant threat. Belarus does not play an independent role here, but is part of the game against Russia. It was not possible to establish a pro-Western puppet regime – they will put pressure on them with sanctions.
“SP”: – Do they still believe in the USA that sanctions work? Do they work? Are there examples of their successful application?
Sanctions work in the sense that they create serious economic difficulties for the regimes subjected to them. Yes, you can live under sanctions, but given that the “keys” to the global economy are in the hands of the United States, all these restrictions are very uncomfortable, although in some cases they can even have a positive effect, contributing to the development of domestic production. In any case, as an instrument of containment, sanctions are quite a working tool in the hands of Washington. In some cases, sanctions pressure also leads to political concessions. For example, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, Iran abandoned the development of its nuclear program. The same Belarus in the early 2010s. also agreed to a significant liberalization of the political regime in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, and, if not for the events of 2020, this process would continue today.
“SP”: – How long do you think the West will bet on this instrument? China also imposed sanctions on Lithuania. In your opinion, the world will learn to live in conditions of sanctions of all against all? Is this the normal reality of a multipolar world?
– As long as the economic hegemony is in the hands of the United States, they will use the sanctions “club”. Chinese sanctions against Lithuania are evidence that Beijing has also realized that it is able to use the tools of economic pressure for political purposes. In general, any economically strong country will use its opportunities to “punish” the obstinate and objectionable. In the context of the emerging multipolarity, this can indeed turn into an economic war of all against all and the formation of relatively closed economic blocs. But the contours of such a world are only beginning to emerge.