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Here Is One of the Biggest Lessons from Trump's Withdrawal from the IranDeal


原文时间:2018-05-17 08:21:51

Image: White House National Security Advisor John Bolton (R)departs with U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence afterTrump announced his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreementduring a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington,U.S. May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst


Changes in international relations and world politics rarelyhappen overnight. Rather, the flow of events makes international actorsreconsider their tactics and strategy, adjusting policies in order to achievetheir goals. Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Joint ComprehensivePlan of Action (JCPOA)—better known as the Iran nuclear agreement-is important byitself. However, its long-term influence may be even more significant. A lotwas said and written about the potential impact of Trump's announcement, butone issue has received less attention that it actually deserves: the U.S. withdrawalfrom the JCPOA emphasizes the importance of economic means in internationalconflicts. The growing understanding of this fact is changing internationalrelations in a historic way. Specifically, the U.S. withdrawal shows thatAmerican sanctions against one country can have negative, “collateral” effects on others. This development highlights the virtuesof Russia's protests against U.S. sanctions policies.


The past months of public discussions on whether Americashould pull of out of the agreement obscures the core of President Trump'sdecision-the reintroduction of sanctions against Iran. At the same time, thelink between the sanctions and the progress of Iran's nuclear program has beenbroken: the Islamic Republic is in compliance with the JCPOA, a fact confirmedby U.S. intelligence services, but the sanctions are returning. The Trumpadministration has made several demands to Iran (never have an ICBM; cease itssupport for Hezbollah and Hamas; end the publicly declared quest to destroyIsrael etc.), pronouncing, that before Tehran fulfills them, it will be subjectto sanctions initially developed and implemented to stop the Iranian nuclearprogram.


What does this move mean for the international relations?Time will tell if Europeans can implement their declarations to both save theJCPOA and to protect European companies from U.S. sanctions for doing businesswith Iran. This seems unlikely for now, confirming that America's central rolein the world economy gives it an effective foreign policy tool. This alsoraises the following question: how should other countries counter Americaneconomic influence?


Every country has either already integrated this issue in itsforeign political thinking or will have to do it sooner than later. Russia,being an object of American sanctions itself, does not need this reminder.However, this gives Moscow a new argument in its communications with otherpowers: you can become a “collateral” object of American sanctions even if you are not violatingthe international law and following your international obligations. In thisregard, Moscow's relations with Europe are in the limelight. Last year,Europeans were concerned that the White House was going to strengthen sanctionsagainst Russian energy companies supplying Europe. The rational concerns ofEuropeans and sane American experts prevailed. After the reintroduction of the sanctionsagainst Iran—with little, if any, regard of Europe—leaders on the continent are askingwhether the United States will always have their interest in mind.


Many observers have noted how damaging Trump's decision to withdrawfrom the JCPOA is to transatlantic solidarity—but the issue is broader than that. Will America use itseconomic power to achieve political goals in spite of European economicinterests?


Talk of the Trump administration imposing tariffs on Europehighlight this danger. The energy cooperation between Russia and Europe couldalso be in America's crosshairs if the showdown between Moscow and Washingtonintensifies. It is no surprise that Russia's desire to separate economiccooperation and political issues on the continent is gaining legitimacy.


While Europe is grappling with Trump's decision, the negativeimpact of existing American sanctions against Russia is obvious: Moscow haslimited access to foreign investment and expertise needed for economicdevelopment. Arguably, American sanctions against Iran will be less damaging toRussia than to Europe, China and other Asian buyers of Iranian oil. The majordownside for Washington is that the move against Iran is bringing Tehran andMoscow closer together. Russia's partnership with Iran hardly makes up for lostcooperation with the West, but the two neighboring countries can do moretogether than separately. Withdrawing from the nuclear deal makes the IslamicRepublic the partner of choice for sanctioned Russian companies.


One should not forget that China is one of the participantsof the JCPOA. American sanctions will likely push Beijing closer to an actualalliance with Moscow, aimed at curbing American economic influence. So farcooperation with China helps Russian companies in a purely economic sense.Beijing and Moscow have not yet forged a strategic partnership aimed at jointdefense against American economic pressure for the sake of political goals.After pulling out of the Iran deal and the looming threat of a U.S.-Chinafull-scale trade war, decision makers in Beijing are reexamining the use ofeconomic tools as foreign policy instruments by the United States. As one ofthe biggest buyers of Iranian oil, China now has to receive a U.S. waiver. Butwill Washington issue it? Or will China extend its practices of avoiding U.S.sanctions by avoiding payments in American dollars and regular bankingchannels? If Beijing decides to build up its capacities to counter the economicinfluence of the United States, it can be done in cooperation with Russia andother major players. These capacities will allow China—and others sensitive to Americanpressure—to better compete with the United States in the global economyand diminish the efficiency of American economic tools of foreign policy.


Russia, as a country already feeling American economicpressure, will undoubtedly support such an international effort. While othermajor powers have a lot to lose from escalating economic conflict with theUnited States (i.e. China) or, are yet not ready mentally, politically orotherwise to challenge Washington (i.e. Europe) Russia is becoming the leaderin establishing cooperation meant to resist American economic pressure. TheU.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA gave Moscow one more example to convince otherswhy such cooperation is so important.


Nikolay Pakhomov is President of The New York ConsultingBureau.

Nikolay Pakhomov是纽约咨询局的主席。