Weekly round-up – Venezuela, Saudi arms exports, INF Treaty and dangerous nuclear commerce

Our latest round-up of important events focuses on the latest developments on Venezuela, including a heartbreaking Haiti connection; German courage and UK cowardice in the ongoing saga of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and arms transfers; yet more signs of tension between the USA and Russia over the INF Treaty; and, last but not least, the Trump administration’s reckless efforts to sell sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Two insider views of the Venezuela crisis and a surprising Haiti connection

Venezuela in Crisis: As U.S. Pushes Regime Change, Fear Grows of Civil War & Famine (democracynow.org, 19 February 2019).

In this must-see and/or read interview from DemocracyNow.org, hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interview Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodríguez and Vijay Prashad, Director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. Coming from quite different perspectives, they both strongly agree that the situation in Venezuela is extremely dangerous, with the country on the brink of catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

Francisco Rodríguez:

…for a country that essentially only produces oil—and, by the way, its second export, which is gold, is also sanctioned by the U.S.—this is very, very dangerous. This risks creating a famine in Venezuela.

Vijay Prashad:

This is not a credible, you know, set of concerns about democracy or human rights. These people [in the USA administration] want to go to war. These are resource wars.

The Haiti Connection

Vijay Prashad goes on to describe the efforts by Venezuela, when oil prices were high, to provide low-price oil at very reasonable rates to poor Caribbean countries like Haiti — in his words “a genuine form of humanitarianism”. With the collapse of oil prices and the economic crisis in Venezuela, western countries did not step up. Instead, American oil tankers now sit off-shore refusing to unload unless the Haitian government pays in cash.

Whether or not one supports the departure of President Maduro, the lack of an American “Plan B” — in the event that sanctions and international pressure fail — is cause for huge concern. Rodríguez warns:

…even if the U.S. invades and takes over power quickly in Venezuela, we will probably see a very prolonged civil war and very bloody times for Venezuela and for the region ahead.

For the full interview and transcript, see: Venezuela in Crisis: As U.S. Pushes Regime Change, Fear Grows of Civil War & Famine(democracynow.org, 19 February 2019).

Whither Canada?

We again call on the Government of Canada to unequivocally state that any international action with respect to Venezuela must be fully in accordance with our obligations under the UN Charter, particularly with respect to the non-use of force.

Courage and cowardice on display in ongoing saga of Saudi Arabia and Yemen

It seems that Germany’s ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia is having a much bigger effect than expected because, as required by the Arms Trade Treaty, it includes parts exported for inclusion in bigger weapons systems, manufactured elsewhere in Europe. Kalyeena Makortoff, writing in the business section of the the Guardian, explains:

Germany is part of a four-country consortium that builds the Eurofighter Typhoon and its ban could threaten the future of lead partner BAE’s pending £10bn deal to sell 48 new jets to Saudi Arabia.

BAE said Germany’s arms export embargo could also threaten its maintenance and support contract with Saudi Arabia for the Typhoon, which currently brings in around £2.5bn in annual revenue for the UK firm.

At the other end of the morality spectrum is the UK government, which appears indifferent to the carnage in Yemen — despite a unanimous report by a House of Lords committee that UK exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen were on the “wrong side” of international law. Not only is the government ignoring this report, but it is also trying — so far without success — to convince the Germans to lift their ban. The German Foreign Minister Maas made it clear that

any future decision [to lift the ban]  would be “dependent on developments in the Yemen conflict and whether what was agreed in the Stockholm peace talks are implemented”.

For the full article see: BAE Systems shares fall over Germany’s ban on arms exports to Saudis (Kalyeena Makortoff, theguardian.com, 21 February 2019).

We ask again — whither Canada?

Tensions increase between Russia and USA over INF Treaty

In a balanced and informative article (except for the failure to mention justifiable Russian concerns over alleged American violations of the INF Treaty), President Putin’s response to American withdrawal from the landmark treaty is examined:

Putin responded to the U.S. move by saying Russia would mirror Washington’s actions by suspending its own obligations and quitting the pact. But the Russian leader, who has sometimes used bellicose rhetoric to talk up Russia’s standoff with the West, did not up the ante.

He did not announce new missile deployments, said money for new systems must come from existing budget funds and declared that Moscow would not deploy new land-based missiles in Europe or elsewhere unless Washington did so first.

Reuters goes on to note that on 20 February Putin did make clear he was ready, reluctantly, to escalate if the United States escalated.

Specifically, Putin stated that Moscow will match any U.S. move to deploy new nuclear missiles closer to Russia by stationing its own missiles closer to the United States or by deploying faster missiles or both.

For the full article see: Moscow ready to cut time for nuclear strike on U.S. if necessary: Putin (Andrew OsbornKatya Golubkova, Reuters, 20 February 2019).

Whither Canada?

We continue to await any constructive action by Canada to help ease tensions as a first step to securing compliance with the INF Treaty by both Russia and the USA.

The Trump administration’s reckless efforts to sell sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia

Alarm bells were raised in Washington and elsewhere following the 14 February release of an interim report of the House Oversight Committee on attempts by several top White House advisers and Trump allies to push through the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia despite legal and ethical warnings. Arnsdorf writes:

The proposal gained traction in the early days of the administration because of then-national security adviser Michael Flynn and presidential confidant Tom Barrack, who had potential financial stakes in the plan, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said in initial findings released on Tuesday.

For the full article see: House Panel Probes Trump Advisers’ Push for Saudi Nuclear Deal (Isaac Arnsdorf, propublica.org, 19 February 2019).

Whither Canada?

Since these potential transfers constitute a security threat far beyond Saudi Arabia, Canada should be seeking clarification of this issue in appropriate forums including the Nuclear Suppliers Group. To put this another way, if Russia were proposing similar transfers to Iran, what do you think the response would be?

Photo credit: Commondreams.org (Saudi Crown Prince MBS and President Trump)

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