The West’s solutions spell price rises for ordinary people—and the threat of war between Russia and Nato
By Sophie Squire
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Monday 28 February 2022
Hard sanctions against Russia will hit ordinary people and are driving the ferment of war. The US and its Western allies have agreed to impose curbs on the Russian central bank, stopping it from using its reserves of foreign currencies. This has led to massive inflationary pressures in Russia.
And the West has removed a group of the country’s lenders from the Swift messaging system—which is crucial for global payments.
A White House press briefing on Monday, attributable only to a “senior administration officials”, brought home the planned nature of the moves.
The officials said, “Our sanctioning of the Russian Central Bank, which we’re taking with Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Canada, the European Union, and others—with the culmination of months for planning and preparation across our respective governments; across technical, diplomatic, and political channels, including at the highest levels. No country is sanctions-proof when we act together.”
They added, “The rouble is in freefall, and soon you’ll see inflation spike and economic activity contract.” This is a form of punishment against ordinary Russians.
The West believes that this will build a movement against Vladimir Putin. But it6 could equally rally support behind him and make it easier for him to slur brave anti-war protesters as stooges of a vengeful Nato.
Yet almost all of the criticism of the sanctions is that they don’t go far enough. We don’t need more “effective” sanctions against Russia’s population—that are never applied against the West for its imperial wars.
Oil and gas prices are likely to soar if the conflict continues. Germany blocked approval for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline last week. This caused benchmark gas prices in Europe to shoot up by as much as 13 percent. This is likely to see retaliation.
Gideon Rachman, writing in the Financial Times, says, “If Russia cuts off gas supplies to Europe, then consumers and industry will suffer badly….the whole of the Western world could be tipped into recession and inflation”.
And the disruption to world trade will hit some of the poorest people in the world. The price of food has already risen sharply in the last two years because of the pandemic.
Between April 2020 and December 2021, the price of wheat increased 80 percent, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. That was on a par with rising costs for corn and higher than increases for soybeans or coffee.
With the conflict food prices are set to soar even further. As World Trade Organisation director general Ngozi Okonjo‑Iweala said, “There will be a big impact with respect to wheat prices and prices of bread for ordinary people.”
Together Ukraine and Russia produce about a quarter of the world’s wheat. About 12 percent of wheat and 13 percent of corn production comes from Ukraine. Exports of grain from Russia will likely be on hold or face delays, according to the Russian Union of Grain Exporters. The delay will greatly impact large buyers of grain from the Black Sea. This primarily includes countries in the Middle East and Africa.
The Tunisian government is already beginning to look into importing wheat from elsewhere. And in Egypt, which imports 50 percent of its wheat from Russia and 30 percent from Ukraine, delays could see ordinary people go hungry.
‘No fly zone’ is a recipe for a bigger war
Some Tories have demanded a “no-fly zone” to prevent Russian military aircraft operating over Ukraine. It sounds like an alternative to war, but it’s a precursor to a wider conflict.
Former cabinet minister David Davis said, “It is far too late to get boots on the ground but it is not too late to provide air support to the Ukrainian army.”
And the chair of the Commons Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood, said “We’ve now got to assist Ukraine militarily, and look to see how that can be done.
“Whether it be with our weapon systems, a no-fly zone, we need to be far more front-footed on this.” Such statements underline that no-fly zones, blockades and similar manoeuvres lead inevitably to armed confrontation and wider war.
The establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya in 2011 was the first step in a much wider war. The only exception is where the opponent is very weak compared to the Western forces—such as when Britain, the US and France imposed them over Iraq from 1991 to 2003.
These led to over 1,000 Iraqi civilian deaths from bombing and prepared the ground for disastrous future invasion. British government officials privately admitted the West used the zones to weaken Iraq’s air defence systems instead of the stated aim of defending ordinary people.
But in the case of Ukraine a no-fly zone would have to be imposed on a massive Russian force, and would lead swiftly to fighting. Even British defence Secretary Ben Wallace admitted it would mean putting “British fighter jets directly against Russian fighter jets,” and “Nato would have to effectively declare war on Russia because that’s what you would do.” Nobody on the left should be pulled behind such ideas.