The position of the west is not just prolonging the war, it is risking escalation and generating dangerous scarcities around the world

The war in Ukraine is already causing horrific suffering for the people of Ukraine. As last week’s UN food conference warned, it is now threatening to spark famine in Ukraine itself and across whole swathes of the globe.

Despite these dire warnings, the US, with strong support from Britain, continues to pile on the military pressure. Last week’s $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, largely military, is the biggest to be granted to any country in recent memory and sends a clear signal that the US is focused on a military solution.

The decision by Finland and Sweden to apply to join NATO – applauded by Boris Johnson amongst others – has ratcheted up the tension. Within days Putin cut gas supplies to the country and pledged to set up three military bases in border areas.

Perhaps most irresponsible of all has been the pressure applied by Western leaders to dissuade Zelensky from getting drawn into negotiations with Russia. Controversy about negotiations continues. Last Saturday President Zelensky publicly repeated his view that only diplomacy can end the war. The next day, the Polish Prime Minister used his speech at the Ukrainian parliament to oppose ceding any territory to Russia, arguing to do so would be a “huge blow” to the entire West.

The West’s approach to the war is to do as much damage to Russia as possible. The US defence secretary Lloyd Austin isn’t hiding the fact. In his own words:

‘We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,’

This posture is not just prolonging the war, it is risking escalation and generating dangerous scarcities around the world. Russia’s naval blockade of the Black Sea is helping to create a huge economic crisis for Ukraine with ripple effects around the world. Massive grain stockpiles in Ukraine can go nowhere while the Black Sea Ports are blockaded.

But this comes on top of the impact of the war itself and the massive sanctions that have been imposed by the West against Russia. David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme spelt out the problem at the UN food conference last week,  “When a nation that is the breadbasket of the world becomes a nation with the longest bread line of the world, we know we have a problem.”

A global food crisis, already sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, is being driven to famine levels worldwide by the war. Food scarcity, sanctions and fuel blockades are also adding to pre-existing inflationary pressure that is already impacting on the lives of millions around the globe. The month of March saw unprecedented rises in the price of food across all categories.

Leaders on both sides remain committed to war regardless. Russia wants the leverage that would come from the successful occupation of the bulk of the Donbass. While China is the US’s main global concern, Russia is a troublesome regional competitor. As CIA Director William J Burns complained recently, Putin ‘demonstrates in a very disturbing way that declining powers can be equally as disruptive as rising ones.’

Russia is the fourth highest military spender in the world and ranks even higher in terms of firepower. Before the war started Russia was the biggest supplier of oil and gas to Europe and was developing a threatening alliance with the Chinese. Putin’s invasion gave the US an opportunity to break Europe’s ‘addiction’ to Russian oil and gas, to and to force Germany firmly back into the fold. The results are already coming clear.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz has already promised a €100 billion fund for the military, the biggest increase in the country’s military expenditure since the end of the cold war. He has also committed to spend more than 2 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product on the military.

This is a historic change and more and more European countries are following suit. The rearming of Europe has been something successive American presidents have argued for, going back as far as Eisenhower.

Never mind the chaos and misery the war is generating around the world, the chance of destroying the Putin regime, sending a message to China about what happens when you attack western allies, and remilitarizing Europe, is too good to miss for Washington and Whitehall. That is why, for Biden and Johnson, the war in Ukraine is a good war.

25 May 2022 by Chris Nineham

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