West’s sanctions contradict goals

The carcass of an elephant which was killed after drinking poisoned water, lies near a water hole in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Picture: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

The carcass of an elephant which was killed after drinking poisoned water, lies near a water hole in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Picture: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

Published Nov 27, 2022


By Ekaterina Bloniva

Western sanctions appear to have hindered the growth of vulnerable developing economies and upended their progress in tackling climate change. One glaring example is Zimbabwe, whose economy has been crippled by severe restrictions, as Emmerson Mnangagwa, president of Zimbabwe, outlined at COP27.

“The US sanctions against Zimbabwe have been piled on since 2001, following a government decision to repossess land from minority white farmers for redistribution to landless indigenous Zimbabweans,” Dr Mamdouh G Salameh, an international oil economist and global energy expert, told Sputnik.

“The sanction-induced economic mire has inflicted a myriad of real challenges on Zimbabweans, especially amid an unprecedented global pandemic.”

“Although the Zimbabwean government said the land reform would promote democracy and the economy, Western countries launched repeated sanctions with little regard for the average person’s suffering,” the economist continued.

The issue of Western restrictions slapped on Zimbabweans was raised by Mnangagwa at COP27 (the UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt). Mnangagwa emphasised that the West’s “illegal economic sanctions” imposed on Zimbabwe upends its climate goals and demanded that the “unwarranted and punitive” measures be lifted.

“In 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, Alena Douhan, said in a report she compiled after visiting Zimbabwe that Western sanctions were undermining the human rights of ordinary Zimbabweans because the government had been forced to cut funding,” Salameh noted.

“She said that sanctions have prevented the Zimbabwean government from using resources to develop and maintain essential infrastructure, thereby affecting the country’s whole population, especially those in extreme poverty.”

Zimbabwe “lost well over $42billion in revenue over the past 19 years because of the sanctions”, with a negative influence on most sectors of its economy and the investment climate, according to a 2020 report by the Southern African Development Community. Meanwhile, 63% of Zimbabwe’s 15.6 million population live below the poverty line and 24% of the country’s children between six months and 5 years face malnutrition.

“The sanctions against Zimbabwe aren’t justified in any shape or form because they aim to protect and perpetuate the relics of Western imperialism in Africa,” argued Salameh.

However, Zimbabwe is just one among dozens of countries subjected to a unilateral sanctions regime by the US and its Nato allies and partners.

Sanctions have become nothing short of a tool used by the West to achieve its geopolitical objectives, punish countries that don’t toe the US foreign policy line, and contain potential competitors, according to Salameh.

“Since 1998 the US has imposed economic sanctions on more than 20 countries under one pretext or another,” the oil economist said.

“Prominent among these sanctioned countries are Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Cuba and North Korea. One common factor among all these s countries is that they have fallen foul of the US, either by objecting to its foreign policy or following policies the US considers counter to its national interests. Zimbabwe is no exception.”

The sanctions spree has by no means been helpful for the international community’s joint interests, such as combating terrorism, global crime, pandemics and climate change.

While the latter issue has become the focus of the Global North over the past few years, the negative impact of Western unilateral restrictions on the climate has been routinely overlooked by the architects of sanctions.

Non-profit think tanks, academia and institutions have raised alarm over sanctions’ long-standing ramifications on the environment. In particular, the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University argued that Western restrictions imposed on Iran, Russia and Venezuela significantly contribute to increased pollution, declining water resources, deforestation and desertification, as well as irreversible biodiversity loss in the given nations.

Many countries subjected to harsh sanctions have been forced to increase their dependence on fossil fuels and even resort to unsustainable agricultural practices to maintain their citizens’ well-being and shield their populations from existential crisis, according to the institution.

“For countries whose economies and their livelihood are badly suffering from harsh US sanctions, the last thing on their minds is to contribute to the global efforts to control climate change and help reduce harmful emissions,” said Salameh.

“For countries like Zimbabwe and many others under US sanctions, their priority is to use whatever resources they have to feed their people and improve their standard of living rather than fighting climate change, thus inadvertently affecting the global efforts to reduce global emissions.”

In addition to that, the aforementioned sanctions policies sometimes backfire on their initiators. In May, the Royal United Services Institute, a UK-based think tank, drew attention to the fact that sanctions on Russia have collectively induced a steady rise in crude oil prices, disrupted global grain and fertiliser markets, and led to environmental damage and reactive forced-hand policies to divest from Russian energy sources.

The report highlighted that unforeseen effects of Western policies imposed continuous stress on global markets strained natural resources and increased carbon emissions in direct contradiction with the Paris Climate Accord goals of 2015.

Russia used to provide roughly 40% of all imported gas to the EU. However, in the wake of the US-led Russia energy embargo, Europe has to slash coal, gas and oil deliveries from Russia and eventually reactivated many coal-fired power plants.

Earlier this year, prices for thermal coal, used to generate electricity, mounted to record levels. According to the press, Europeans are buying coal from places such as Tanzania, Botswana, and even Madagascar.

For his part, US President Joe Biden has called on domestic producers to step up the extraction of oil to curb soaring gasoline prices, thus contradicting his own “green” policies.

The White House has also repeatedly released crude from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, prompting criticism from progressives and environmental activists.

It also appears that Washington has no scruples about capitalising on the EU energy crunch by selling expensive liquefied natural gas to its European allies.

“The US will always look after its own interests irrespective of any adverse impact on others, even its own allies. This is the ugly face of Western capitalism,” said Salameh.

The policy of unilateral economic sanctions pursued by the West has become a catalyst for environmental degradation. Some experts believe that the US should adopt a so-called “environmentally conscious foreign policy” and consider the climate implications of the sanctions they impose.

However, Salameh noted that the US and the collective West in general have on multiple occasions demonstrated that it is not interested in maintaining such an approach, which throws into question the sincerity of the Western climate agenda in the first place.

“Experts who believe that the US, which is the cradle of capitalism, will ever transform itself to a global benevolent utopia must be deluding themselves or daydreaming,” the oil economist remarked.

Another illustrative example of the West’s hypocrisy is its unwillingness to assist African states’ transition to green fuels, according to Salameh.

Sudanese-British billionaire Mo Ibrahim argued before COP27 that African nations could use their rich gas deposits as a “transition fuel” and insisted on the necessity to fund the creation of gas and electricity infra- structure on the continent.

However, US climate czar John Kerry made it clear that Washington opposes any investment in long-term gas projects in Africa since they contradict the net-zero targets.

As a result, African states would be forced to continue to use dirty fuels to cook food or warm themselves, while Western corporations would continue to extract crude and gas on the continent for the needs of the Global North, according to the oil economist.

Needless to say, against this back- drop, Western restrictions further paralyse the development of African nations, making it almost impossible for them to become self-sufficient, let alone reach any climate goals in the future.

*This is an edited version of the article which was first published on sputniknews.com.