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Ex-State Dept Official: US Domestic Economy Suffers From Sanctions 'Addiction'

© REUTERS / Lucas JacksonTraders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the announcement that the U.S. Federal Reserve had hiked interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade in New York, December 16, 2015
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the announcement that the U.S. Federal Reserve had hiked interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade in New York, December 16, 2015 - Sputnik International
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States will keep levying sanctions on Russia and other countries because of the political relief they provide even though they damage US and allied economies, former State Department Special Assistant on Soviet Policy, Nikolai Petro, told Sputnik.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement said that US Skripal-related sanctions unveiled last week calling for inspections undermines the authority of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which confirmed that Russia had destroyed all of such weapons.

"The best way to think about the role of sanctions in US foreign policy is to regard it as an addiction," Petro said on Monday. "They offer the perfect escape from the real, but tedious world of diplomatic negotiation."

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One should consider, Petro added, the profits US companies and all Americans have lost by not investing in Russia during the decade when it was more profitable than China and its stock market was the hottest in the world. America’s own stupendous $21 trillion deficit could not have been achieved without the help of sanctions, he said.

The US inability to change the behavior of even the most "rinky-dink" nations, Petro observed, has left those in power enormously frustrated.

"It [frustration] leads… to the search for compensatory mechanisms that can assuage this sense of failure, and reassure the US electorate of America’s perpetual global dominance," he said. "Sanctions fit the bill perfectly."

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For starters, sanctions can be sold as an alternative to war while those who oppose it can be portrayed as either war mongers or pacifists, depending on their political profile, Petro suggested. Second, without any real meaningful metrics the success of sanctions remained entirely in the eye of the beholder.

"Sanctions now provide the only semblance of calm, the only relief that politicians can rely on, and so resort to them becomes habitual," Petro said. "Eventually, however, the political ‘high’ provided by sanctions wears off: The nastiness of the world intrudes and once again politicians become desperate for another fix."

Ukraine, for example, will be hurt the most by US sanctions that target Russian banks, flights, natural gas, payment services, and potentially railway traffic.

"In reality, of course, all these services continue since there is a high demand for them in Ukraine, only now at a much higher cost to Ukrainians," Petro explained. "Therefore, to paraphrase a famous saying, when you go the route of sanctions, you should dig two graves: One for your rival’s economy, and one for your own."

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On Wednesday, the US State Department rolled out two rounds of anti-Russia sanctions over the Skripal affair. The first set targeting security-related exports will be implemented August 22 and the second round three months later unless Russia agrees to chemical weapons inspections.

The US government and its allies have blamed Russia for the March 4 chemical attack on double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England. Russian authorities have strongly refuted the allegations as groundless, citing lack of evidence and London’s refusal to cooperate in a probe.

Nicolai N Petro is Professor of Peace Studies and Nonviolence at the University of Rhode Island. His latest book, "Ukraine in Crisis", was published by Routledge in 2017.

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