As Putin famously put it, the “breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the century.” http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7632057/ns/world_news/t/putin-soviet-collapse-genuine-tragedy/#.XEtKxlwzY2w . It did indeed, seem as though the breakup of the USSR left the United States, “the last man standing” and thus, the sole hegemon of the world. As expressed by its foreign policy, it believed at that point, it could do what it wanted, and what it wanted was to ensure that in the future no power, whether regional or international, would ever arise to challenge it again. It believed that it at last had what it had desired for so long: a world under its complete control. From that point on, the nations of the world would conform to its central values: democracy in the political realm and free markets in the economic realm. Thus, the delusion was propagated that political equality without economic equality would actually make people equal, and that free market economics would improve rather than degrade the conditions of existence of the peoples of world.
If anyone has any doubt that after the fall of the Soviet Union the goal of American foreign policy was to destroy any and all challenges to its power and that the ideological justification for doing so would be the propagation of “democracy” and “free markets”, that doubt will be quickly eliminated by even a cursory reading of http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/pdf/naarpr_Defense.pdf, which is just an extended elaboration of what is called “Wolfowitz Doctrine.”
And so, it is, that any nation, no matter how large or how small, will not be allowed to defy let alone challenge the control of the United States. If it does so it will find itself in the crosshairs of America’s powerful weapons. These weapons are of a two-fold nature: on the one hand they are economic and ideological, on the other, they are weapons in the truest sense of the word – technologically advanced and precise lethal weapons of mass destruction such as have been routinely aimed at various nations of the world. They kill quickly.
The economic weapons operate more like pythons. The impulse of the python is to entwine and constrict; it encircles and crushes its victims until they are dead still and ready to be consumed. The muscles used to crush unfortunate peoples are sanctions which financially isolate the country from the rest of the world and lead to hyperinflation. Most recently, President Trump has also flexed his muscles with tariffs. Like Obama before him, Trump has relied on a time-honored tool for asserting America’s hegemony, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Enacted in 1977 the IEEPA gives the president the authority to act in response “to any foreign threat, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” This is the act legitimizes sanctions against Venezuela, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other nations. What all these countries have in common is a failure to kow tow to American hegemony. https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/2018/05/31/challenging-executive-actions-under-the-international-emergency-economic-powers-act/
Venezuela has long endured America’s pythonic efforts to crush it; it has neither submitted nor caved in under the crushing pressure of American economic weapons.
The sanctions Congress imposed on Venezuela in 2014 were justified as a defense of the human and civil rights of the people. Stating that ‘‘Under the leadership of President Chavez and now President Maduro, the accumulation of power in the executive branch and the erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, censor, and prosecute its critics.’’ In addition, hypocritically and illogically, it points to the poverty of the people as a reason for the imposition of the sanctions, knowing full well that the sanctions would only make them more impoverished.
The fact of the matter is that the reasons the sanctions had been imposed was because for a long time the leaders of Venezuela had resisted capitalist domination. When oil prices collapsed in the 1980s, inflation rose to 84%. In 1989 the people rioted for three days against government plans, urged by the IMF, to privatize assets, cut food and fuel subsidies, and the amount spent on health and education. Then President Perez, who had implemented the policies demanded by the IMF characterized them as “a neutron bomb that killed people, but left buildings standing.”
The political structures and parties of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie could not contain the people, and a socialist revolution, led by Hugo Chavez, ensued. He was a fierce foe of capitalism and loyal friend of the leftist block of Latin American countries that sought to curb U.S. influence in the region. He would nationalize key industries, establish social welfare programs, improve health and education services for the people. In a most audacious move in 2005 Chavez began a program to provide reduced-priced heating oil for the impoverished people in the United States. I remember being both shocked and pleased when I saw ads on American TV, sponsored by the Chavez government, in which poor people expressed their gratitude to Venezuela for providing them fuel to heat their homes.
Little wonder that in 2002, the bourgeoisie and some members of the military, attempted a coup which involved the kidnapping of Chavez. As CIA records prove, the U.S. government and media supported the attempted overthrow. Before the putsch took place there had been street protests, led by Leopoldo López. The coup was defeated by the Venezuelan people themselves, who demanded Chavez’s return and restored him to power in 48 hours. One should remember the two coup attempts that occurred in Russia. The first against Brezhnev that Yeltsin, with the aid of the U.S., helped curtail, and the second, by Communists to return to power. Yeltsin simply turned the tanks loose on them. Just as the Venezuelan military remained loyal to Maduro in the face of another attempted coup led by the United States most recently, so too had they remained loyal to Chavez and so it was impossible to use force against the people; that was the difference between the outcomes in Russia and in Venezuela.
For years after the death of Chavez, Maduro faced the chaos that was the result of the Pythonization of his nation. In response he has created a new currency, The Sovereign Bolivar, the value of which is pegged to the price of one barrel of petroleum. The national oil company, PDVSA, will thus transfer a huge oil field in the Orinoco Belt to the Venezuelan Central Bank. Oil will thus take the place of gold as the support for Venezuela’s currency.
“If the mafias dollarize prices, the government of Venezuela will petroize them,” Maduro argued.
Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas in a show of support for the new economic reforms that took effect as part of the government’s Economic Recovery Plan.
However, one should never forget that should the Python fail to subdue its prey, the Cobra will be called in. On August 6, 2018 drones armed with explosives detonated while Maduro was delivering a speech being broadcast live on television. Those who attempted to assassinate Maduro had no qualms about doing so openly.
In Russia a similar process had been implemented. In the late 1980s under Brezhnev and Yeltsin, their economic advisers, principally Chubias and Gadar, under the direct guidance of CIA operatives and with the help of U.S. government and NGO financial support, were implementing “shock therapy” in Russia. The rapid transformation of a Communist economy into a capitalist one resulted the impoverishment of the people, a steep devaluation of the rouble, and rise of a greedy capitalist class, who sought not only economic but political control over the nation. The man who stopped them was no socialist, but was rather, a fierce nationalist who would not allow his country to be ground into the dirt by foreign powers – Vladimir Putin. The defensive python measures he would undertake to protect his country, such as the repatriation of Crimea, would cause the Python to be released on Russia.
On March 6, 2014, the President Obama issued E.O. 13660 pursuant to, inter alia, the IEEP and imposed sanctions on Russia. “the imposition of sanctions against persons responsible for or complicit in certain activities with respect to Ukraine; against officials of the Government of the Russian Federation; against persons operating in the arms or related materiel sector of the Russian Federation; and against individuals and entities operating in the Crimea region of Ukraine…. on certain entities operating in specified sectors of the Russian Federation economy.” Also prohibited was the “importation or exportation of goods, services, or technology to or from the Crimea region of Ukraine, as well as new investment in the Crimea region of Ukraine by a United States person, wherever located.” https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/ukraine.pdfI. On August 2, 2017, President Trump signed into law the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (Public Law 115-44) (CAATSA), which among other things, imposed new sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea . The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, strong input from industry and think tanks, and cooperation from European allies.
Russia’s response, in the years after the first major sanctions were imposed has been to commit to fiscal restraint and focus on rebuilding its international reserves. Russia has slowly but steadily been divesting itself of the dollar and increasing its reserves of gold. Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak recently noted that a growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar as a medium in global oil trades and other transactions. Thus, the Kremlin has said it is interested in trading with Ankara using the Russian ruble and the Turkish lira. India has also vowed to pay for Iranian oil in rupees.
Like Russia, China too has been building up its gold reserves. Moreover, China, has also been taking steps to challenge the greenback’s dominance with the launch of an oil futures contract backed by Chinese currency, the Petro-yuan. https://countercurrents.org/2018/08/25/trade-wars-is-there-an-off-ramp/
There are two questions regarding the Way of the Python. The first regards its victims: will they be able to free themselves from its crushing grip by delinking from the dollar, or building solid supports…oil or gold…for its currencies? The second is whether the Python will squeeze so tight that it will crush itself. There is the distinct possibility that the sanctions could destabilize the energy and financial markets. Sanctions have already had a small but negative financial impact on EU countries that have done business with Russia. Sanctions also target some of the world’s largest banks and energy companies, such as Sberbank and Gazprom, which does not bode well for the world economy. Gazprom supplies energy to a large part of Europe. What is going to happen if those energy supplies are disrupted? Western companies would be unable to use Russian railways to transport their products. Every company in which Russia is a minority stake holder would suffer from sanctions. Meanwhile, American companies have had to dismantle joint ventures, and divest from hundreds of energy projects across the globe and dump billions of dollars invested in Russian projects. https://www.brookings.edu/research/economic-sanctions-too-much-of-a-bad-thing/
So, it is today that the United States, unable to bring about a coup and unable to bring Maduro and his people to heel, seems ready to abandon the way of the Python as it threatens the sovereign nation of Venezuela with military intervention. In doing so, they face the United front of those nations, which like Venezuela, have been feeling or will soon feel, as in the case of The People’s Republic of China, the cobra like economic muscles of the U.S.- Cuba, The Russian Federation, The People’s Republic of China, among so many others. It is interesting to note that the overwhelming majority of the countries who have come forward to confront the United States for its treatment of Venezuela, either are or have been Communist/Socialist Countries. I say this lest the United States, in its Wolfowitz world view, think that it really has defeated Communism, or that socialist ideals do not still move the hearts and minds of the people …… or, that America truly does have absolute control over the world. If so, America suffers from delusions of grandeur.
Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.