Economic warfare is being fought with an intensity not seen since the period leading up to World War II as countries deploy tariffs, embargoes and economic sanctions to force policy changes or punish their adversaries.
Free trade is coming off second best, and global trade has stalled. There’s been no growth in trade volumes since late 2017, contributing to a slowing world economy.
The results of the ongoing normalization in relations between the EU and Belarus have been very modest, as have the domestic changes, which the turn in the European policy was intended to assist. Meanwhile, Moscow reacted to Alexander Lukashenko’s perceived “drift to the West” by toughening its approach towards Minsk. A new crisis in the east of Europe may be in the making.
On February 15, 2016, the EU decided not to prolong the sanctions it had imposed five years earlier on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in response to brutal repressions against the Belarusian political opposition. The sanctions were lifted as a reward granted to Minsk in return for the release of remaining political prisoners, for the less oppressive presidential campaign of 2015 and – perhaps above all – for Belarus’s refusal to fully support Russia in the conflict over Ukraine. At the same time, the decision was driven by hopes and expectations that the normalization of relations between Europe and Belarus would stimulate the latter to start domestic liberalization and economic reforms.
True to Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to directly engage radical regimes without preconditions, and in spite of having no diplomatic relations with them, his administration negotiated a breakthrough diplomatic deal. Meanwhile on the domestic front, the president has thus far prevailed over vehement congressional opposition and a storied, ethnically-based foreign policy lobby in pursuit of such an agreement.
While this capsule description fits the “Iran deal,” that titanic political battle has eclipsed a similar case that preceded it only seven months before: the agreement to restore normal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. And rather than any negotiation with Iran, it may be the Cuba precedent that is more clearly instructive of the political strategy accompanying Obama’s use of his executive powers in the context of divided government and acute partisan polarization in Washington.
This blog is the first in several leading up to the World Policy Institute Board trip to Cuba in May. The trip seeks to re-open a once highly effective dialogue with Cuban leaders. WPI plans to examine the achievements of 55 years of revolutionary society and explore ways to highlight what the U.S. and Cuba can learn from each other.
As the Obama administration and Cuban negotiators examine the 54-year-old unilateral embargo (or “blockade” as the Cubans refer to it), one obstacle—particularly painful for Cubans and extremely important to American interests—must be addressed: Cuba’s continued presence on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
President Obama directed the State Department to review this designation in December 2014, since Cuba’s removal from that list is entirely justified and long overdue. As a result, when the State Department issues its annual Country Reports on Terrorism on April 30, it is likely to be the first time in 33 years that Cuba is not designated a sponsor.
The concept of economic warfare has been traditionally used for addressing the complementary economic tactics of armed conflict. In the near future it could represent a way of conducting war per se.
The balance of forces amongst states is no longer only measured by assessing the strength of conventional armed forces. The years since 1990 are often defined as the “geo-economics’ era”. Following the end of the Cold War, the economic domain has become the main criterion of measuring the state’s power, at both the regional and global level.[i] The current trend sees the balance of forces measured by economic indicators rather than by military capabilities. Hence, the confrontation amongst competitors in a certain region is often played by exploiting the points of weakness and dependencies of the opponent/s as well as putting in place financial measures aimed at damaging it or limiting its influence rather than threatening it with military means. In short, geopolitics seem to be experiencing a renaissance, heavily impacting–at times dominating–the realm of international relations due to a decrease in the likelihood of full-scale military escalations.
In effect, without the constraints of a defined world order, risks of local military escalations have become great at the point that full-scale military actions are very few while more limited interventions and/or wars by proxy have increased.