The West’s three options in the face of global hunger caused by the war in Ukraine
More often than not, the important thing at an international summit is what is not addressed. At the moment, this is all too true for the G7 leaders. They are ignoring global hunger, which is emerging as a tragic consequence of the Russian occupation of Ukraine.
Due to the disruptions caused by the war, the mining of Ukrainian waters and the blockade of the port of Odesa by the Russian navy, millions of tons of grain and sunflower oil, which should now feed people in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, are still in warehouses Ukrainians waiting to be exported or rotted, stolen and transported to Russia.
When there are bread lines in Ukraine, this should be a cause for concern. The West has three options before it, all of them awkward and dangerous. The first option is to do nothing. And the conspicuous silence despite the need to end the global food crisis by the G7 suggests that this is the preferred approach.
In fact, this approach would condemn thousands, if not millions, of the poorest people in countries from Ghana to Yemen. As always, those at the bottom of the list will be the first to experience hunger. But many others will follow, when high inflation drives them out of the market.
This is a dire prospect, further exacerbated by reports that future harvests will be around half the current amount due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Bad weather and poor harvests elsewhere in the world could further exacerbate this crisis.
In any case, it seems destined to get worse. In addition to the immediate humanitarian crisis, such instability in large areas, including low-income and developing countries, will cause unrest, ignite conflicts, and increase migratory flows to the West. Over time the global pressure to do something to feed the bellies will force the rich world to act. But for some it will be too late.
A second option is suggested by the Kremlin itself. The Russians have offered to allow the safe passage of grain and oil from Ukraine and through the Black Sea to North Africa and beyond, in exchange for easing sanctions against it. It is a form of blackmail, which would hasten the decisive defeat of Ukraine.
Sanctions, including the harshest ones, take time to be effective, and even now European countries still import Russian gas. But the problem is that if Russia controls Ukrainian agriculture, directly or indirectly, it will be in the same position as it was with fossil fuels: holding the West and the rest of the world hostage. Of course, this would not end Vladimir Putin’s ambition to reform the old Soviet and Russian empires.
The third option is to create a safe corridor to get food exports out of Odesa, and break the Russian blockade. But this would require unprecedented international cooperation. To be effective, this cooperation must be supported by a global “coalition of volunteers”, not limited to NATO, and supported by the navies of many countries, although some of them may only have a symbolic force.
It will take a large armada to gain control of Ukrainian and international waters, clear the mines there, and prevent the Russian navy from sinking merchant ships. Turkey, the guardian of the entrance to the Black Sea, and the guarantor of the implementation of the international Convention of Montrose, must be convinced to allow the entry of military ships through the Black Sea.
So far, President Erdogan has emerged as an ambiguous ally, however sincere his efforts to secure peace in the region may be. Faced with the combined pressure and friendly incentives of his NATO allies and EU neighbors, Erdogan may be tempted to anger the Kremlin.
However, it cannot be in Turkey’s long-term strategic interest to have an aggressive, expansionist, and constantly trouble-making Russia around. In fact, Ankara does not even care about having a wave of coups and acts of violence, like those of the Arab Spring.
After all, Russia and Turkey are traditionally natural rivals to each other. But until now, the 7 great powers have not weighed and analyzed these unpleasant choices. But with every day that passes without any sign of decisive action, there is a greater chance that Russia will starve the world.
No one enjoying the beautiful Bavarian landscape this week should have any doubts about Vladimir Putin’s willingness to sacrifice even more lives just for the sake of his megalomaniac project. / “The Independent”, Bota.al