Karunakshim Vatsalam

At the end of May, the war in Ukraine entered its 115th day of stalemate. The UN has said there could be no winner in this unequal war. Statistics compiled on the 100th day are grim. According to UNHCR, 6.8 million Ukrainians have been driven out of their homes, and 7.1 million children have been internally displaced. Regarding casualties, nobody knows the exact numbers killed and wounded. However, it is estimated that 22500 Ukrainian and 3000+ Russian combatants have been killed. In Ukraine, 38000 residential buildings have been razed by aerial strikes, and 2,20,000 people have been rendered homeless. One thousand nine hundred educational facilities from kindergartens to grade schools to universities have been damaged; 300 cars, 50 rail bridges, and 500 factories and as per WHO, 296 attacks were carried on hospitals, ambulances and medical workers that damaged around 500 hospitals.

The economic fallout has been equally, if not grimmer. Russia faces over 5000 targeted sanctions, more than any other country; some 300 billion Russian gold and Foreign Exchange reserves are frozen in the West. Air traffic dropped from 8.1 million to 5.2 million passengers between January and March. Ukraine reports that the war has wiped out 35% of its GDP, and it cannot export 22 million tons of grain due to the naval blockade of Black Sea ports. In addition, the Russians have been accused of stealing half a million tonnes of grain from Ukrainian fields during the invasion.

Against this backdrop, US President Joe Biden and his Western counterparts are pushing their agendas of turning Russia's invasion of Ukraine into a war between Washington and Moscow. Several experts are seeing the horrific time when severe global hunger looms in which hundreds and thousands of people may suffer due to acute starvation. And Joe Biden does not show much inclination to solve this imminent crisis; instead, he focuses on intensifying the Ukraine war for domestic political reasons. He needs to somehow salvage his party's disastrous result during this November's midterm elections.

Ukraine cannot export about 90 million tons of agricultural products as Russia has blocked Ukrainian ports, its Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told local media. The country produces a significant share of world food – about 27 percent of its sunflower seeds, 5 percent of its barley, 3 percent of its wheat and rapeseed, and 2 percent of its corn. At the same time, Russia is the world's largest wheat exporter. Although it can export grain, it also faces problems due to sanctions and its own requirements. Meanwhile, food prices worldwide have skyrocketed, and the West blames this on Russia's hybrid war strategy, saying it has turned the war against Ukraine into a 'grain war'. However, Moscow counters this by blaming Western sanctions, and they say prices are rising due to sanctions imposed by the collective West under pressure from the United States. Commenting on the forecasted cruel global hunger, Vladimir Kornilov wrote in Ria Novosti: "The world will look into the eyes of starvation because of the consequences of the crisis in Ukraine". The rise in prices for world products results from the ongoing war, so the West ironically feels that they must continue supplying weapons indefinitely to Ukraine.

The impossibility of supplying Ukrainian grain provokes its shortage. Because of the actions of Russia, a terrible famine is inevitable in Ukraine itself. Therefore, exporting grain and food from Ukraine to the West is urgent. Russia blocked the grain supply by sea from Ukraine to Asia and Africa, which is threatened with a terrible famine. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky repeatedly managed to include mutually contradictory theses on the topic of the food crisis. He is constantly crying about the unenviable fate of African countries, where Ukrainian grain allegedly blocked by Russia will not reach. But he immediately calls in his speeches: "It is necessary that all Europeans block the ports for all Russian ships." That is, the fate of starving Africa suddenly recedes into the background. Immediately after the conclusion of the G-7 summit, Zelensky decided to support their findings of the famine threatening the planet and said: "The world has already recognized that the Russian blockade of our ports and this war is provoking a large-scale food crisis. Russian officials are also openly threatening the world that there will be famine in dozens of states. And what could be the consequences of such a famine? What kind of political instability, and what migration flows will it lead to? How much then will have to be spent to overcome the consequences? Packages against Russia? The G7 countries want to look for alternative ways of delivering grain from Ukraine to the world. But no tangible results can be seen.

Biden speaking to American farmers recently also blamed the rise in food prices on Russia and agreed that Ukraine is fighting for the opportunity to “feed those who are left hungry around the world because of Russian atrocities.” Judging by Biden, for the Kyiv regime, the goal in itself is to reduce world food prices -- the holy mission to feed the planet. It would be logical to call on the world to ensure unhindered market access for Russian goods in order to mitigate the price shock and prevent famine in Africa. But no, according to Biden, only Ukraine should feed the hungry, and in no case Russia, which is actually the absolute leader in grain exports. That's what the collective West is trying to do, coming up with schemes for the maximum export of Ukrainian grain abroad. Europe loudly announces plans to create “grain corridors” for Ukrainian agricultural products. Moreover, for the sake of this, she is ready to take an unthinkable step – the creation of such corridors through Belarus, for the transport blockade of which the same Europe called for long before the Ukrainian crisis. Only one thing stops them: the fear that Ukrainian grain, passing through Belarus, will end up not in Klaipeda, but in Russian ports. And it does not matter that further it will still achieve the holy goal declared by Europe, that is, it will feed the starving Africa. 

As a result, the European Commission has devised an elaborate plan to create "Roads of Solidarity'' (Solidarity Lanes) to maximise the use of EU infrastructure for the speedy transportation of Ukrainian grain to Europe. These efforts have especially intensified against the backdrop of concerns about the food security of the EU itself due to the drought in France. Quite capaciously and figuratively, the Russian military commander Alexander Kots commented on the initiatives of Europe: "The essence of these Solidarity Lanes ultimately boils down to the fact that the Ukrainians will be left without food and the government of the country with money".

Historical precedents show such an eventuality may not be entirely farfetched. In the spring of 1918, when Germans occupied Ukraine, echelons with grain moved westward, leading to a terrible famine in Ukraine. The same situation was repeated in 1941 when the Nazis captured the Ukrainian SSR. Then the Germans sought to take out not only grain but also black soil. At that time, the Ukrainians were dying of hunger, but enlightened Europe never worried about the problems of the conquered people. From the tragic events of the famine of the years 1932-1933 in Ukraine, it is well known that the trading companies of the same West demanded that the USSR not reduce grain exports, knowing full well about the problems with food in that country.

Today we are again seeing how trains are moving westward, exporting grain from Ukraine, at a time when Western analysts recognize the real prospect of food shortages in that country. If the famine begins, none of them will remember the European Commission's plans for large-scale grain export or Biden's similar calls. Since the nation responsible for all the future troubles of Ukraine has already been declared – and this, of course, is Russia. Russians feel that no matter how much Ukrainian wheat leaves for the West and how much Moscow brings in humanitarian supplies with food, the West will still blame them for the famine.

Meanwhile, another aspect is the fallout of the war and sanctions. Western banks are looking for asset swaps to exit Russia. It said, in an attempt to escape hefty write-downs on operations in Russia due to their exit from the sanction-hit country, UniCredit and Citigroup are exploring the possibility of swapping assets with Russian banks. FT reports, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The plan comes amid a mass exodus of foreign lenders from Russia due to Western sanctions imposed on the nation over its military operation in Ukraine. According to estimates revealed last week, European banks took a hit of nearly US$10 billion, writing down assets and setting aside cash to protect themselves against the expected economic ramifications of anti-Russia sanctions. UniCredit is discussing selling its Russian business to several financial institutions that the West hasn't sanctioned; people briefed on the talks told the media.

While these economic power games and political blame games continue, countries affected by drought across the eastern Horn of Africa could be hardest hit by the Ukraine war. The combined effect of drought and other shocks has led to a significant deterioration in food security from 12-14 million people in the first quarter of 2022 to at least 15 - 16 million in the second quarter as the drought conditions intensified. It is the stark reality. According to the World Food Program, the cost of a food basket has already risen, particularly in Ethiopia (66 percent) and Somalia (36 percent), which depend heavily on wheat from Black Sea basin countries, and the disruption in imports further threatens food security. Shipping costs on some routes have doubled since January. In Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen, food prices have skyrocketed. As a result, the number of food-insecure people is soaring. Needs were already outstripping available resources before the war, and now the cost of buying and transporting food has become much more expensive. In Yemen, 18 million could face starvation by the end of the year. It needs to be addressed immediately by the rich countries – the world powers.

It is a sad state of international affairs. While there's food on the fields, the world faces the spectre of starvation. And the US continues to fight Russia firing from the shoulders of Ukraine. Russia fires missiles at Ukraine, and the US sends sophisticated pinpoint missiles to Ukraine for its defence. It is a 700 million dollar package. In the bargain, who gains but the capitalist arms manufacturers! The only logical answer would be for the world to ensure unhindered market access for food grains from both Russia and Ukraine to control prices and prevent hunger in Africa and Asia. Meanwhile, an unwinnable war drags on in a stalemate with no signs of it abating. ˜

Powered by Froala Editor