Photo: Embassy of Russia in the United States. Credit — Kent Wang (Wikimedia Commons)
In response to the supposed “unusual and extraordinary threat to the National security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Joe Biden today declared a national emergency. He expelled 10 Russian diplomats and imposed new sanctions on Russia. According to the Biden administration, these actions are the result of Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections, the SolarWinds cyber attack, and Russia’s “severe human rights abuses” and assertion of sovereignty over the disputed Crimean peninsula.
The idea that the U.S. government is sincerely concerned with human-rights violations is absurd. If this were true they would denounce and sanction Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Colombia, countries governed by some of the biggest perpetrators of human rights abuses in the world. Instead, the United States has refused to condemn Israeli apartheid against Palestinians, right-wing death-squad violence in Colombia, or the Saudi-led genocide in Yemen. With the United States still supporting these states virtually unconditionally, it is clear that human rights are not the true reason for the actions taken against Russia.
Similarly, for there to be any validity to the claim that the SolarWinds cyber attack is the reason for the sanctions, we would expect to see equivalent consequences in cases where other countries engaged in cyber attacks, especially those intended to sabotage US diplomacy. However, just last week Israel carried out a cyber attack against a nuclear facility in Iran with the aim of disrupting attempts to reinstate the JCPOA nuclear deal. Despite the fact that Israel is universally recognized as the perpetrator of the attack, the United States has neglected to respond with anything like the measures being taken against Russia.
The Biden administration also claims that Russia’s “targeting of dissidents” is a contributing factor to the new sanctions, a clear reference to the Russian government imprisoning far-right opposition leader Alexei Navalny. But if the United States wants to free political prisoners, they could begin at home. U.S. political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier have been incarcerated in inhumane conditions for decades. If the targeting of dissidents were a true concern of the United States, both these men, as well as all political prisoners, would have been freed a long time ago.
Ultimately, Joe Biden is not worried about Russia’s purported threat to human rights, nor does he stay awake at night worrying about cyber attacks or political prisoners. Russia is an independent regional power with a significant military and economy, and therefore poses a threat to U.S. dominance of the globe. This line of thinking is explicitly stated in the U.S.’s official national security strategy, oriented toward “great power competition.”
To put pressure on Russia, the United States has continually escalated tensions under successive administrations, both Democrat and Republican. This will only cause suffering for working people in both countries. As tensions increase with Russia, it is working people in both countries who will be impacted, and should the conflict become an armed one, working-class people will be sent to kill and die, while those in power profit off of their deaths. The people need and want peace.