The bold threat from America’s UN ambassador recently, when in Ghana, directed at African countries toying with the idea to trade with Russia was clear. If African countries want to do business with Russia beyond grain and agricultural equipment, then there would be consequences warned Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Secondary sanctions are important to the US as they beef up existing ones between the US and Russia, even though for many western countries they are a cruel parody which punish those imposing them, rather than those who are on the receiving end; few citizens of EU countries believe that their spiralling economies and out of control heating costs are worth the stance taken against Russia, which has never had a Rubel as strong as it is today, while the British pound for example hits an all time low.
Secondary sanctions, those which the US imposes on the global south for example, it is believed can make the difference. Quite apart from many of these countries buying oil and gas from Russia, many in Africa in particular, look towards Russia as the new big brother, exhausted by the EU’s rants on human rights or America’s deluded ideas about hegemony. And so to cut trade between Africa and Russia would be a real coup for the West, if it were able to pull it off.
And yet, it seems, despite the battlefield looking different in Ukraine, as Russia loses territory, the bigger picture of this global war around the world is nothing to celebrate for the West, given that secondary sanctions will be nigh on impossible to sustain.
All it will take is one African country to disregard them, and a house of cards tumbling down scenario will almost certainly entail.
Which is why Joe Biden has a real problem now with Morocco, a country which has stood out for decades as being a special friend of the US, with what state department types call “best buddy” status.
Even with this friendship, Morocco has grown tired of both the Ukraine war and the bullying from the Biden administration and its king has chosen to put the needs of his people first. Just recently, Morocco signed a huge deal with Russia for the construction of both nuclear energy plants and desalination operations along its coastline – two areas in both desperate need of an overhaul to make the country more energy independent and able to fend of a drought unseen for forty years in the kingdom.
Astute analysts will notice since February that relations between two key GCC countries (UAE and KSA) and Russia have actually improved since the Ukraine war started in February. And Morocco is now waking up and smelling the coffee and joining this group and its ethos: get closer to Russia and use this for leverage with Washington. In fact, Saudi Arabia and the UAE took this concept even farther recently when they agreed with Russia to cut oil production, with the specific aim of harming Joe Biden at the mid term elections, paving the way for his second half of his term in office as being ceremonious only, hoping that Donald Trump can come back into the Oval office. For Morocco, the move to actually smash the US demands of secondary sanctions is a geopolitical colossus all on its own and has thrown a spotlight on a diffident monarch who now leads a cause on behalf of the continent. But it is less nefarious that the GCC states to keep oil prices high and more to do with try to help poor Moroccans cope with a new world order, climate change and a drought, which are of course all linked. The King has risen above the foibles and fatuous gestures and has gone ahead with the Russia deal as it makes sense in the coming years to tackle these issues head on, providing water for his own people and cheaper energy. It’s also a good idea to become more independent energy wise so as to keep a distance to any future energy squabbles which might emerge.
The message to many African countries will be heard by Washington, weakening Joe Biden’s reputation with voters back home who see that everything he touches outside of America blows up in his face like a cheap party trick, leaving most Americans baffled as to what America’s objectives are around the world. Americans are woefully naïve and are led by a corrupt, partisan press which refuses to join up the dots for them in Ukraine, where Biden’s own alleged investments, money laundering and illegal arm sales aren’t yet linked to US foreign policy there. For Morocco to be the first to break the house rules and set the example to many African countries which respect it and its monarch, is a big deal. The King, it seems has grown tired of the games the West plays. France is blocking Moroccans from entering the Republic, the EU is doing little if anything to assist Rabat with its problems with Algeria and Macron’s latest ‘EU Community’ conference didn’t even invite the Moroccans to it, despite inviting Turkey. So much for special relationships when in reality they are not worth the press releases they are written on. The King of Morocco has set the example and many others will follow in Africa. The months previously of a frosty relationship with Moscow are a thing of the past as Russia is now seen as a valued partner and one even Rabat can negotiate with, regarding Algeria’s position in Western Sahara – an initiative which the EU and US couldn’t even manage when the occasion called for it and tensions reached fever pitch.