In this CoVid-19 era there has been a lot of talk about freedom, specifically personal freedom, the freedom to do as you wish irregardless of how it negatively affects others. National freedom, at a country level, is the freedom to not be blackmailed by trading partners. You would think that trade would not have such dark tones, but in this day and age trade between countries has been weaponized. It looks like this is changing.
When Russia invaded Ukraine a couple of days ago, there was a stark awakening of EU countries, specifically Germany. Germany imports 50% of its natural gas and coal, and 30% of its oil from Russia. German sanctions on Russia could cripple Germany, but morally economic sanctions on Russia had to be done. Freiheitsenergien, “freedom energy”, is energy from countries that can’t blackmail Germany, that, “frees us from dependencies.” is what Germany has decided to do. This will greatly delay the push for reducing greenhouse gases and climate change, but there was no way Germany would leave friendly democracy Ukraine out to dry.
China has long used trade as a political weapon. Cross China and your trade would be cut off. Australia, Canada, Sweden, South Korea, Japan, the US and other countries have experienced this first hand and very recently. This is one of China’s first weapons: Agree with us or you will be cut off from China’s 1.4B person market. This economic blackmail is not a new weapon.
In the past Western thinking was that if we traded with despotic and totalitarian regimes that they would soften up and be nicer people, both to the world and to their own people. They would then slowly become democratic. This has turned out to be completely wrong. China has used trade to grow stronger and to finance its incursions in the South China Sea and to their borders with India. Russia has used its profits to build up its military, which lead to the invasion of Ukraine.
I suppose it is human nature to think the best of others, that Western countries have China and Russia a good shot, but it is evident now that Western think was completely delusional. Trade with despotic totalitarian regimes only encourages bugger bullies, and they will eventually bite the hand that feeds them. The lower price of goods is the short-term benefit from such deals with the devil, but in the end, you pay for it, one way or another. Trade with a bully is not worth it.
The West has tipped toed around China’s incursions into the South China Sea, tolerated gross human rights violation of their Uighurs, destroyed Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the list goes on and on. The last straw was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is now consensus in the West that you cannot logically appeal to tyrants. tyrants have other motives, such as the reunification of their Motherland, as their goal. Russia wants Ukraine under its power, and China wants Taiwan at any cost. These ulterior motives are far removed from the simple “I want your coal, here is some money”. Tyrants want your soul, not your money. Your money is only a means to entice you to do their deal.
A deal with the devil is a bad deal. While it might cost us more in the short-term, we will be able to live with ourselves and sleep better at night. Freedom, in this case National Freedom, is a worthwhile goal. Feel no twinges of conscience at night, when you see innocent Ukrainians being bombed, or innocent Uighurs in jail.