Sanctions have become the new Berlin Wall

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Germany last week for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which marked the end of communism in Europe. And yet, we’re still awaiting the capitalist dream.

We still haven’t seen what real capitalism — a truly free market with limited government control — can do for the world. Instead, we’re plagued by corporatism, mercantilism, corruption and self-dealing by elites who are at war with each other on a global battlefield. They drag the middle and working classes into their battles as pawns. Their weapons of choice are tariffs and sanctions — and, when all else fails, military intervention.

While we can’t see or touch these 21st century walls, we can’t miss the suffering that they cause. We, the people, didn’t ask for these walls. They were imposed on us — just as the Berlin Wall was imposed on Germans — under the guise of national security and ideology.

Try telling European entrepreneurs, who have been effectively banned through U.S. sanctions from doing business with the Iranian people as a result of America unilaterally reneging on a multi-country agreement with Iran, that there are no walls left to infringe on their freedom.

Tell the citizens of Iran, whose hospitals can’t get essential medicines and equipment, and whose businesses are deprived of the opportunity to engage with their European counterparts because an economic wall has effectively been erected around their country, that only communists build walls.

Try convincing the people of Venezuela, who are struggling for food and medicine because U.S. officials believe that a “maximum pressure” sanctions strategy will cause them to overthrow their own government, that they don’t have a wall imposed on them.

Tell the people of Syria, who have been flooded with Western-backed terror groups and subjected to sanctions because their president wouldn’t bend to economic will of the U.S. and its Persian Gulf allies, that walls are a relic of history.

Pompeo stood in Berlin spewing the kind of propaganda that wouldn’t have been out of place during the Cold War. He called Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has done far more for the advancement of capitalism than any of his predecessors, a “former KGB officer once stationed in Dresden” and said Russia “slays political opponents.” Pompeo said China was “shaping a new vision of authoritarianism,” and he warned Germany not to do business with Chinese telecom giant Huawei. Or what? The Berlin Wall goes back up? Or just another virtual wall — this one around China in the form of sanctions?

But Pompeo was right about one thing in his Berlin speech: Walls can inspire alliances to fight for freedom. And the walls that America is erecting all around the world are giving rise to new and unconventional alliances.

French President Emmanuel Macron, fresh off an official visit to China, where he signed contracts for $15 billion in new deals for French exports and industrial cooperation, gave an interview to The Economist in which he lamented the “brain death of NATO,” whose raison d’être to fight the Russian bogeyman in perpetuity is long past its sell-by date.

“NATO was designed in response to an enemy: the Warsaw Pact,” Macron told The Economist. “In 1990 we didn’t reassess this geopolitical project in the slightest when our initial enemy vanished. The unarticulated assumption is that the enemy is still Russia.”

Macron also expressed interest in breaking with the U.S. on its policy toward historic foes.

“That the United States is really tough with Russia, it’s their administrative, political and historic superego. … It’s our neighborhood, we have the right to autonomy, not just to follow American sanctions, to rethink the strategic relationship with Russia …”

Thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall was merely a primitive iteration of its successors. And when these newer walls (sanctions) fail to maintain the status quo for the elites who erect them, that’s when war begins. Macron apparently isn’t interested in having France or Europe riding shotgun into those conflicts and emphasized the need for European defense sovereignty.

While America debates Donald Trump’s proposed border wall to separate the U.S. from Mexico, there’s far less discussion about these new walls of the 21st century, which are no less harmful to peace and prosperity.