When large animals fight, take care not to be trampled

Sunday, July 22, 2018

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There is a wise old adage which says that when large animals are engaging each other, whether they are making love or war, small animals must get out of the way to ensure their survival.

This common sense approach avoids the unintended collateral damage that could emanate from the conduct of foreign policy, particularly for developing countries of no strategic importance to the protagonists.

One of the most enigmatic relationships in world affairs is that between the United States of America and Russia; always complex, shifting and emblematic of the oft repeated dictum: “There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests.”

Divided by the ideological dichotomy of capitalism-communism, they were enemies from the Lenin-led Russian Revolution of 1917 until World War II in the form of the Soviet Union, which broke with the Western allies when they struck a bilateral peace agreement with Germany.

The Soviet Union states were allies with the USA, Britain and Europe against Nazi Germany before using their gains to create a communist empire in Eastern Europe. This action ushered in an era of tension known as the cold war from 1945 until the implosion of the Soviet Union and the “evil empire”. Whittled down to a nuclear-armed Russia, a capitalist country run by a dictatorship, it remains a rogue state.

The apparently warm relationship between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin is a big shift in the foreign policy of the two states. But Mr Putin is unpredictable, and the Russian Government shrouded in secrecy, which make it extremely difficult to understand Russian foreign policy.

Even the foreign policy experts, experienced diplomats and Sovietologists admit they are having difficulty figuring out what is going on between Moscow and Washington. In this situation it is necessary for individuals, organisations or governments wishing to intercede in an issue involving the two countries to tread cautiously, applying the most sophisticated and skilled diplomacy.

This is advice that is relevant to Jamaica. As part of US sanctions, several of Russia's richest businessmen closely associated with Mr Putin have been “blacklisted”. One of them is Mr Oleg Deripaska, the majority owner of Rusal, which that operates the West Indies Alumina Company in Jamaica.

Documents made public by the Justice Department show that Mercury LLC lobbyists drafted letters for several embassies recommending that they write to the US Government expressing support for a plan to eliminate Mr Deripaska's majority stake in the EN+ Group, the holding company that owns UC Rusal. The June 14 letter sent by Jamaica to US Treasury Department officials is nearly identical to the one sent to the embassies by Mercury LLC.

On the surface this appears to be an imprudent course of action, but we wait to see what explanation will be forthcoming from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

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