What’s the worsening food crisis got to do with the war in Ukraine? - ABDULLAH MURADOĞLU

What’s the worsening food crisis got to do with the war in Ukraine?

The economic sanctions imposed on Russia on the grounds of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have virtually become a part of the war. An analysis of the content of the sanctions against Russia, a country that boasts strong ties with the global economy, shows that the Ukraine war closely concerns three important areas: geopolitics, geo-economics, and geo-technology. The conflict and sanctions have turned into a poisonous amalgamation of the military, commercial, financial, geopolitical, and information wars between Russia and the U.S.-Europe.

The Ukraine war is expected to lead to serious disruptions in the supply of food products, including wheat, barley, corn, and sunflower. More than a quarter of global wheat exports come from Russia and Ukraine. The crisis in grains supply, on the other hand, more closely concerns North African and South Asian countries. However, countries such as France and Italy will also experience rivalry with the Egyptians and Moroccans in wheat supply this year.

In addition to the great hikes in commodity prices, the instability in energy and food supply will affect countries at different rates, in accordance with their economic development. According to projections, poor countries and about 2 billion people will be impacted by the food crisis. Furthermore, increasing prices will have both political and social repercussions in numerous countries. Bad days may be in store for North Africa, which has repeatedly witnessed bread riots. Meanwhile, concerns that the course of events will take a more chaotic state in the upcoming years are further deepening, especially as the economic impact of the war starts to weigh heavier.

Grain or food supply has presented itself as a strategic matter for the global economy since the industrial revolution. Note that Russia was the grain supplier for the West’s industrial countries, primarily the U.K., in the 18th and 19th centuries. According to the information in Russian Marxist theoretician Boris Kagarlitsky’s book titled, “Empire of the Periphery: Russia and the World System,” Russian wheat was a strategic product for the West. Of course, cannabis and flax were among the strategic goods as well. Cannabis was critical for the sails and ropes used in British shipping. Russian cannabis was a strategic product in the 18th century, as much as coal in the 19th century, or fuel in the 20th.

Industrialization and increasing urbanization had driven the U.K. to overseas dependence, and particularly on Russia, for its food supply. Russia had become Europe’s granary, and its port city Odessa was becoming known as the trade capital of the Black Sea coastal region. Ukraine was Russia’s most important source for both wheat and the metallurgy sector. According to Kagarlitsky, Russian iron was another raw material or intermediate product required by the British industry. The scientists of the time, on the other hand, drew attention to the fact that the U.K. could no longer sustain its industry in the 18th century without iron shipments from Russia. Overtaking the U.K., France, and Sweden in the 18th century, Russia became a global pioneer in metal production. Today, Russia ranks No. 1—not only as a grain supplier but also as a global fuel and gas supplier.

Speaking of which, in his book published in 2021 by Oxford University and titled, “The War Lords and The Gallipoli Disaster,” British historian Dr. Nicholas A. Lambert explains how globalized trade drove the U.K. to the worst defeat in World War I. Dependence on imported foods had become the British Empire’s “Achilles heel.” 

Wheat prices soared so rapidly in early 1915 that the U.K., the world’s biggest wheat importer, feared bread riots. Russia, on the other hand, the world’s biggest wheat exporter, and the U.K.’s ally, faced financial collapse due to the interruption of its supply chains. According to Dr. Lambert, British warlords decided to launch the Gallipoli operation to drop grain prices on the global market and support Russia’s war financing. The military operation, which ended in disaster as the result of a legendary defense, was launched as a resort to opening the Istanbul and Dardanelles straits to allow the flow of Russian (Ukrainian) wheat. 

Similar to the past, today we continue to witness the bloody scenes of the unscrupulous “great power struggle.” Hopefully, this war will end at once and in peace. If it doesn’t, grave times await our world. 

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