For months, the US has been bullying its wayward NATO colleague and former ally Turkey, regarding Ankara’s intentions to purchase Russia’s S-400 missile defence system. Turkey has responded furiously to the threats of sanctions from Washington with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying,
“If it [the United States] wants to punish Turkey with sanctions, Turkey will react in another way, not like Russia or other states… We will respond. You cannot threaten us. The United States threatens many countries saying ‘Do not buy gas of one or another country.’ That does not work”.
Now, a group of US Senators led by Bob Menendez of the Democratic Party wants to sanction Russia for selling its S-400 systems to any foreign country. While this may sound like just another way to sanction Russia, such a proposal reveals that the US simply does not and perhaps cannot respect Russia as a sovereign nation. The sale of goods, including security hardware, is one of the fundamental, inalienable rights of any nation. For the US to punish Russia for exercising such a right is beyond the realm of cynical, it demonstrates a further use of American money to try and bully Russia into ceasing its practice of normal sovereign activities.
Beyond Turkey, US ally Saudi Arabia also plans to purchase S-400 systems as does Qatar, America’s new South Asian ally India and Russia’s most important partner, China. Russia has already grown largely immune to sanctions, with some in Russia, including Presidential hopeful Vladimir Zhirinovsky asking for more sanctions, as he believes that it was sanctions which helped kick-start many previously under-performing areas in the Russian economy. Indeed, Russia’s agricultural output has reached historic highs following on from sanctions of overpriced but previously desired foreign goods.
Unlike the US for example which depends on imports that are generally less expensive than domestic alternatives, for Russia, in almost all categories, imports are overpriced compared to domestically produced alternatives. Thus, the economic impetus for enhanced domestic production was always there, but it has taken sanctions to ween Russia off of a dependence on foreign goods, a dependence previously motivated more by domestic under-performance than by economic pragmatism.
Even if one takes the view that sanctions are a blessing in disguise for Russia, the very idea that the US would seek to move punitively against Russia for doing what all states do and what especially the United States does, is absurd. It is a blind aggression and the penultimate provocation.
It is not clear how far these proposals will go, but even if they do not reach the desk of the President of the United States, the fact that such things are even being considered, shows that many in the US senate know increasingly little about how to conduct diplomacy in a multipolar world.