THE INCREASINGLY fractious relationship between the US and its rival capitalist bloc the European Union, is on the point of erupting into a full scale economic war with both sides threatening sanctions that will bring havoc to the entire world capitalist system as previous ‘allies’ tear each other’s throats in order to survive the world crisis.
The spark for this was lit when the US House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday to impose a whole new raft of sanctions against Russia, along with Iran and North Korea, a bill that is widely expected to be signed into law by President Trump in the near future.
Under the threadbare pretext of punishing Russia for its unproven ‘meddling’ in the US Presidential Election the sanctions package, in the words of the House Speaker: ‘Tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep America safe.’
While on the surface this bill aims at punishing Russia it also will have a deadly impact on the EU as one of its principal targets is the pipeline project, Nord Stream-2, to transport Russian gas into Germany.
Under the proposed law US sanctions would be imposed on any company contributing to the development, maintenance or modernisation of Russian energy infrastructure. The US aim is not just to damage Russia but to destroy this pipeline and end the sale of Russian gas and oil to the EU.
The intention is to make Europe dependent on the US for gas supplies, a dumping ground for the boom in American shale gas. The EU, which until now has tamely followed every US sanction imposed on Russia, is in open revolt over these proposed new sanctions.
EU president, Jean-Claude Junker, immediately issued a statement that the bloc would act ‘within days’, saying the EU would hit back to protect European economic interests, adding: ‘America first cannot mean Europe’s interests come last.’
In Germany, which strongly supports the vital Russian pipeline, a foreign ministry spokesman, Martin Schafer, said that it was ‘unacceptable for the US to use possible sanctions as an instrument to serve the interests of US industry policies’. The French foreign ministry in a statement declared the sanctions ‘unlawful’ due to their ‘extraterritorial reach’.
According to Russia’s permanent representative to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, the EU is prepared to retaliate by declaring the sanctions ‘invalid’ within the union and by banning European banks from loaning to US companies, so ending any European financial support to US industry.
The EU is already furious at US meddling which it sees as an attempt to break up the EU and leave it open to American domination. Trump’s recent visit to Poland, where he encouraged and promised US support to the extreme right-wing anti-immigrant Law and Justice Government, was described by an EU diplomat as ‘an attempt to break-up European unity’.
Encouraged by Trump, the Polish government launched a plan to make the country’s judges political appointees, a move to impose a virtual dictatorship by the right-wing that has led to demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of Poles and the condemnation of the EU.
The EU has threatened that if these proposals are not withdrawn then they will use the ‘nuclear option’ of stripping Poland’s voting rights in the union for ‘breaking the rule of law and democratic principles’.
Behind the sanctions and ‘extraterritorial’ meddling by US imperialism is the complete break-up of the old post war consensus, which ceded to US imperialism the leadership of the capitalist world and consigned its capitalist rivals to the status of willing ‘allies’ living off the crumbs from the US table, under the impact of the world crisis.
To make US capitalism ‘great once again’ it must crush both its enemies in the degenerated and deformed workers’ states of Russia and China and at the same time destroy its former allies in order that bankrupted US capitalism can have a hope of surviving the developing world crisis.
This is a recipe for not just trade or economic war but for a new world war. The only way forward for the working class today is to put an end to capitalism and its crisis once and for all through the victory of the world socialist revolution.