Sanc­tions may iron­i­cally lead to US-EU rift

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

Rus­sia has de­manded the United States cut its diplo­matic staff in Rus­sia to 455 by Septem­ber and could con­sider tak­ing fur­ther action as part of its re­sponse to fresh US sanc­tions ap­proved by Congress. US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is ex­pected to sign the bill into law soon, im­pos­ing sweep­ing sanc­tions on Rus­sia, Iran and the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea that were ap­proved by the Se­nate with an over­whelm­ing bi­par­ti­san ma­jor­ity of 97 to 2.

The “over­lap­ping con­sen­sus” on the sanc­tions against the three coun­tries, which pri­mar­ily tar­gets Rus­sia, sup­pos­edly has some­thing to do with the con­clu­sion drawn by US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that Rus­sia “med­dled” in last year’s US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. It also sig­nals an at­tempt to limit Trump’s diplo­matic pow­ers and sub­ject them to con­gres­sional ap­proval, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to ties with Moscow.

Even if Trump re­fuses to sign the sanc­tion bill into law, the Congress can over­rule him. In fact, the only way Trump can stall the bill is to pro­pose tougher sanc­tions against the three coun­tries, a move that risks shrink­ing Wash­ing­ton’s diplo­matic lee­way in the Mid­dle East and Korean Penin­sula is­sues, as well as plung­ing US-Rus­sia re­la­tions into un­cer­tainty just one month af­ter Trump met with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin at the G20 Sum­mit in Ham­burg.

There is hardly any sim­i­lar­ity between the lat­est US sanc­tions against Rus­sia and those im­posed by the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Un­like Trump, Obama had full pres­i­den­tial author­ity in de­vis­ing the coun­try’s Rus­sia pol­icy, and his sanc­tion pro­pos­als were in line with that of the Euro­pean Union.

But since do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal en­tan­gle­ments have ne­ces­si­tated the US’ new sanc­tions, they could strain its ties with the EU. The bill, which aims to pe­nal­ize com­pa­nies that con­trib­ute to Rus­sia’s en­ergy de­vel­op­ment, could ham­per plans for a nat­u­ral gas pipe­line from Rus­sia to Ger­many called Nord Stream 2. In re­sponse to the US’ move, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Amer­ica First can­not mean that Europe’s in­ter­ests come last”.

Dur­ing Obama’s pres­i­dency, the US-EU sanc­tions were ba­si­cally about restrict­ing Rus­sian en­ergy com­pa­nies’ fi­nanc­ing chan­nels and block­ing their ac­cess to key oil pro­duc­tion tech­nolo­gies. Moscow is heav­ily de­pen­dent on en­ergy de­vel­op­ment as are many Rus­sian politi- cal and eco­nomic heavy­weights who run most of the coun­try’s oil and gas com­pa­nies.

Such “smart” sanc­tions from Wash­ing­ton and Brussels could ap­ply the right amount of pres­sure on Moscow, with­out par­a­lyz­ing EU-Rus­sia en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion or invit­ing Rus­sian re­tal­i­a­tion. Af­ter the US ap­peared to ex­ploit shale gas at home, tra­di­tional gas ex­porters in­clud­ing Qatar de­cided to ex­plore the Euro­pean mar­ket, slightly re­duc­ing the EU’s de­pen­dence on Rus­sia for en­ergy.

De­spite Brussels’ pur­suit of di­ver­si­fied en­ergy sup­pli­ers, it is un­likely to cut its en­ergy ties with Moscow, which ex­plains why some EU lead­ers are an­gry at the US Congress’s uni­lat­eral sanc­tion bill. Tougher sanc­tions will do lit­tle dam­age to US-Rus­sia trade, which reached just $20 bil­lion last year, but they might deal a ma­jor blow to EU-Rus­sia trade, which once reached €338.6 bil­lion ($400.4 bil­lion) be­fore drop­ping to €191.3 bil­lion last year.

While the US’ sanc­tion bill may drive a wedge into the trans-At­lantic al­liance, Rus­sia could ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit from it by mo­bi­liz­ing sup­port at home. And the re­sul­tant rift in Wash­ing­ton-Brussels ties could pro­vide Moscow a mo­ment of re­lief and enough time to use its diplo­matic ma­neu­vers amid tough­en­ing sanc­tions.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at the School of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Pub­lic Af­fairs, Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies Univer­sity.

This prompted one hos­pi­tal af­ter an­other to or­ga­nize such sim­u­lated child­birth pro­grams. Even some TV shows have joined the fray. In April 2015, Fight for Her, a TV game broad­cast on Jiangsu TV, in­vited some celebrity hus­bands to ex­pe­ri­ence a la­bor sim­u­la­tion pro­gram. In the show, ac­tor-direc­tor Wang Yuelun gave up half­way while ac­tor Lu Yi could not en­dure the pain at all and called for a “Cae­sarean sec­tion”.

And to think of the other pains a preg­nant woman has to bear. Preg­nant women have to en­dure morn­ing sick­ness, some more than oth­ers. Their feet can swell, mak­ing walk­ing dif­fi­cult. Many can­not sleep well. And they are ner­vous be­cause they can­not be cer­tain about their or the child’s health, and most are scared of go­ing into la­bor.

A guinea pig like me has to en­dure the pain for only 10 min­utes or so, which can be “switched off ” any time upon re­quest. But when a woman in la­bor cries “no”, no de­vice can “switch off ” the pain.

Af­ter I was back on my feet, the nurse told me that the “pain” I “en­dured” is cat­e­go­rized as level 6, while ac­tual la­bor pain is between level 10 and 12, and the in­ten­sity of the pain in­creases ex­po­nen­tially from one level to an­other.

Let’s hope more men are will­ing to get to know the pain women ex­pe­ri­ence giv­ing birth.

The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. zhangzhoux­i­ang@ chi­


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