By Andrew Korybko
The American Hybrid War on Ethiopia is multifaceted, but one of its most crucial components is the economic dimension. The end game is to use economic means to advance political ends, in particular the Bosnian scenario of de facto internally partitioning the country through the imposition of a Dayton Accord-like “solution” to its ongoing anti-terrorist operation in the northern Tigray Region. The modus operandi relies on existing sanctions, recent threats to promulgate more of these punishments, credible speculation about denying Ethiopia access to the US market by excluding it from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and the US-influenced IMF's latest provocation of refusing to release a growth forecast for the country over the next four years with the implied intent of deterring foreign investment into its economy during that period.
All of these aims to put immense pressure on the Ethiopian people with the expectation that they'll increasingly turn against their government out of desperation and thus somehow or another get it to capitulate to the external political demands that are being forced upon it, possibly through violent rioting or even some of them joining terrorist groups in other parts of the country outside of Tigray. It's the IMF's latest move, however, which should analyzed more in depth in order to better understand the pace at which this scenario is proceeding. Tom Collins wrote an insightful piece about this for the African Business online outlet titled “'Bad sign' as IMF withholds Ethiopia growth forecast”. He importantly notes that only Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria were excluded from their latest report, which is an observation that speaks volumes about their intent.
Collins also reminded readers about how the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) “applied to the IMF for a new deal in September to restructure nearly $30 billion of external debt, and awaits the IMF executive board’s approval of disbursements from the Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility.” While he quotes an expert who predicts that it would obviously be a success for the country if it can achieve such a deal in the first half of next year, that best-case scenario shouldn't be taken for granted. The reason why observers should be cautious is because the IMF has recently proven that it's susceptible to American influence when it comes to weaponizing its financial assistance to other countries. This is evidenced by its decision in late August to suspend Afghanistan's access to funds following the Taliban's takeover.
Although the group isn't recognized by any country as their homeland's formal leaders and are still designated as terrorists, they're nevertheless Afghanistan's de facto leaders and are being pragmatically engaged by leading powers, including the US. Washington wants to use its influence over the IMF to pressure the Taliban into undertaking various reforms, knowing full well that the country will struggle to stave off its impending humanitarian crisis without access to the financial institution's resources. Regardless of one's personal views about that country's de facto leaders, the unmistakable fact is that the US is weaponizing the IMF for political purposes at the serious risk of possibly worsening Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis. In other words, it truly doesn't care about helping desperate people but regards them as pawns on a larger geopolitical chessboard.
This insight is extremely relevant to Ethiopia since the US might soon seek to replicate a similar scenario in that Horn of Africa country as the one that it's presently advancing in the Central-South Asian country. To explain, the IMF's possible refusal to reach a deal with Ethiopia could be falsely premised on manufactured humanitarian pretexts if the US' information warfare campaign against that country intensifies in the coming future. The very fact that it declined to release a growth forecast suggests that the IMF is already meddling in Ethiopia, albeit indirectly. Collins' report cited an expert who observed that “Even for conflict-ridden countries like Somalia or South Sudan projections are available. That may hold back investors and consequently desperately needed foreign exchange.”
What this means is that the IMF deliberately applied a double standard to Ethiopia by treating it as even more conflict-ridden than those two comparatively more unstable states and thus equating it to Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. This is an objectively inaccurate assessment that's contrary to the facts. It's only the Tigray Region and the parts of the Afar and Amhara Regions that the TPLF invaded over the summer that are experiencing an armed conflict. The rest of Ethiopia is stable. To compare Ethiopia to those three much more conflict-torn states solely on the basis of the contained conflict in its north and thus decline to release a growth forecast for the entire country over the next four years is dishonest. It shows that the IMF has already been exploited by the US for Hybrid War ends related to the economic dimension of this unconventional campaign against Ethiopia.
The US intended to signal to Ethiopia that its prospective debt deal with the IMF can't be taken for granted but that one of the ways to increase the odds of it being clinched is to politically capitulate to the Bosnian scenario otherwise its economy will be ruthlessly attacked in the coming future. It's not difficult to imagine what might follow in the event that the US weaponizes the IMF even further by getting it to suspend dealings with Ethiopia just like it already got it to do with Taliban-led Afghanistan. This would likely be accompanied by the country's exclusion from AGOA and more US sanctions, which would have the cumulative effect of crushing its economy and thus advancing the anti-government scenario that was earlier warned about in this analysis. Furthermore, it could also deal a heavy blow to Chinese interests in the country as well as in all of Africa.
About that, Ethiopia is one of China's top Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) partners in Africa. The two countries are comprehensive strategic partners, and Chinese investments have been crucial to Ethiopia's rise in recent years. The so-called “Asian Century” led by China is inextricable from an “African Century” due to the complex and mutually beneficial economic interdependence between them. China cannot continue growing without Africa and vice-versa, which is why the American Hybrid War on Ethiopia can be conceptualized as a pivotal part of its much larger Hybrid War on China in the New Cold War. Economically crushing Ethiopia through the means that were warned about in this analysis would directly impact on Chinese interests as well, especially if the American Hybrid War on Ethiopia is subsequently replicated and waged against BRI's other African partners.
The People's Republic will never abandon its Horn of Africa ally, but it cannot completely subsidize its economy during this potentially forthcoming time of unprecedented crisis either, nor would Ethiopia want to become fully dependent on any single partner whether China or whoever else. The US hopes to place these comprehensive strategic partners in a dilemma whereby pressure is simultaneously placed upon China to unrealistically subsidize the Ethiopian economy out of strategic necessity in parallel with similar pressure being placed upon Ethiopia to preemptively avert potentially disproportionate dependence on China. America's perception managers can then be expected to get to work manipulating the narrative in order to provoke distrust between them with the intent of adding an anti-Chinese dimension to anti-government riots.
This pernicious strategy requires advanced coordination and planning between China and Ethiopia in order to avoid such a worst-case scenario, and it would be wise for such discussions to begin as soon as possible behind closed doors just in case because the economic dimension of the American Hybrid War might soon accelerate beyond all control. That's not to say that it will indeed happen, but just that it cannot comfortably be dismissed at the moment considering the IMF's hostile signal to Ethiopia after refusing to release a growth forecast for it due to what are unquestionably subjective reasons related to the deliberate imposition of double standards for ulterior ends as explained. The US is increasingly desperate to expand its Hybrid War on Ethiopia after the northern front has largely been contained so it hopes to provoke nationwide conflict through economic means.
This strategic insight enables one to arrive at several conclusions. First, the US is weaponizing financial institutions like the IMF in order to blackmail countries with the Damocles' sword of an intensified humanitarian crisis like it's presently doing against Taliban-led Afghanistan unless they capitulate to its political demands. Second, this confirms that America isn't sincere when it shares its concerns about such crises, which it's sometimes responsible for deliberately worsening for ulterior ends. Third, Ethiopia is poised to be targeted by this Hybrid War strategy. Fourth, the potential economic consequences could destabilize the entire country and thus worsen its internal security situation. And fifth, since all of this is arguably connected to the American Hybrid War on China, Ethiopia should closely coordinate realistic backup plans with its BRI partner.