27 July 2022

There is an African Proverb

One of the interesting results of the war between Russia and The Ukraine is the collateral damage in countries that are not participants.

We see this in skyrocketing fuel shortages and food shortages, but the most extreme case I've seen so far, as described by John Helmer, is the collapse of Sri Linka.

The short version is that emergency shipments of oil from Russia to the island nation were never off-loaded because of attempts by the Sri Lankan government to enforce US sanctions as a result of US pressure:

The President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was toppled from power in Colombo and forced to flee the country on July 13, leaving behind a prime minister he had appointed to succeed him, assuring his immunity from prosecution and delaying national elections for two years. A week earlier, on July 6, Rajapaksa telephoned President Vladimir Putin and requested emergency shipments of Russian fuel to the country on credit because Sri Lanka had run out of fuel and also the money to pay for it.

The last Russian shipment, 90,000 tonnes of Russian crude oil to restart Sri Lanka’s sole but bankrupt refinery, had been ordered from intermediary traders and then delivered to port in May. However, the oil could not be unloaded until the government produced the cash to pay for it.  Rajapaksa followed in the last days of June by sending two officials to Moscow to ask for direct government-to-government oil deliveries without cash. There was no Russian agreement.


In Moscow the Russians interpreted Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa to be making a public show of asking for Russian help in order to persuade Washington to rescue them instead.

The Kremlin was convinced the Sri Lankans were scheming and bluffing. The reason was that on June 2, at Colombo’s airport, an Aeroflot Airbus Flight SU-288, with more than two hundred Russians returning to Moscow from holiday in the country, had been prevented from departing;  the aircraft had been stopped by an order from a judge of the Commercial High Court. Ostensibly, the court was acting on a lawsuit filed against Aeroflot by an Irish aircraft leasing company called Celestial Aviation Trading 10 Limited.

In fact, that entity was a front for AerCap, the dominant global aviation leasing corporation in the world, controlled by General Electric of the US;   Celestial Aviation is an AerCap special purpose vehicle;  its claim against the Aeroflot aircraft in Sri Lanka was part of Washington’s sanctions war — and Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe were immediately told so by Russian officials. They claimed the court order was a “commercial dispute” with “no involvement of the state”;  the Russians didn’t believe them. 

The aircraft was released on June 6 and a court official charged with corruption. But a month later, by the time Rajapaksa was appealing to Putin, Aeroflot had not restarted its flights. There would also be no Russian oil nor credit to save Rajapaksa. 


The State Department and the Pentagon were actively courting Rajapaksa during the weeks leading up his ouster. A delegation of US officials led by Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland [Victoria Nuland?  Where have I heard that name before?] and the Pentagon official in charge of Sri Lanka, Amanda Dory, were in Colombo on March 22-23. “You are a vital partner of the United States at a key crossroads in the Indo-Pacific,” Nuland declared, “and we are eager to support you at this critical moment…We share a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and as the Foreign Minister said, to a rules-based, democratic, international order.” That meant US opposition to Sri Lanka’s relations with China and Russia. “I want”, Nuland emphasized, “to particularly make note of the fact that Russia’s brutal aggression in Ukraine just underscores for all of us the importance of the democracies, strengthening ourselves and standing together in the face of brutal autocratic behavior, coercion, aggression. Whether it’s coming from Russia, whether it’s coming from other autocracies around the world.”


In April Nuland followed with an official warning that if Sri Lanka’s relationships with Russia or China crossed Nuland’s red lines, Rajapaksa would face sanctions. “Malign influence countries could displace any U.S. agreements being signed. We will mitigate this risk by staying tied in with our allies, friends and partners along with steady engagement across the Sri Lankan services to ensure the U.S. remains a partner of choice. Congressional scrutiny could limit the amount of funding available to Sri Lanka for Security Cooperation/Security assistance.”

It seems to me that Sri Lanka in general, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa in particular.,is roadkill on the “Domino Theory” road, like Laos and Cambodia were.

When elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.

H/T naked capitalism.


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