Sunday, June 12, 2022

Russia's Hunger Plan

 This Timothy Snyder (historian specializing in genocide) thread is unnerving:

"Russia has a hunger plan. Vladimir Putin is preparing to starve much of the developing world as the next stage in his war in Europe. In normal times, Ukraine is a leading exporter of foodstuffs. A Russian naval blockade now prevents Ukraine from exporting grain. If the Russian blockade continues, tens of millions of tons of food will rot in silos, and tens of millions of people in Africa and Asia will starve. The horror of Putin's hunger pan is so great that we have a hard time apprehending it. We also tend to forget how central food is to politics. Some historical examples can help.

The idea that controlling Ukrainian grain can change the world is not new. Both Stalin and Hitler wished to do so. For Stalin, Ukraine's black earth was to be exploited to build an industrial economy for the USSR. In fact, collectivized agriculture killed about four million Ukrainians. Notably, as people began to die in large numbers, Stalin blamed the Ukrainians themselves. Soviet propaganda called those who drew attention to the famine 'Nazis.' Actual Nazis had related ideas. They liked the idea of controlling Ukrainian agriculture. This was in fact Hitler's central war aim. Hitler wished to redirect Ukrainian grain from the Soviet Union to Germany, in the hope of starving millions of Soviet citizens. The Second World War was fought for Ukraine and in considerable measure in Ukraine, between dictators who wanted to control food supplies. 

Russian memory politics prepared the way for a 21st-century hunger plan. Russians are told that Stalin's famine was an accident and that Ukrainians are Nazis. This makes theft and blockade seem acceptable. Putin's hunger plan is, I believe, meant to work on three levels. First, it is part of a large attempt to destroy the Ukrainian state by cutting off its exports. Putin's hunger plan is also meant to generate refugees from North Africa and the Middle East, areas usually fed by Ukraine. This would generate instability in the EU. Finally, and more horribly, a world famine is a necessary backdrop for a Russian propaganda campaign against Ukraine. Actual mass death is needed as the backdrop for a propaganda contest. 

When the food riots begin, and as starvation spreads, Russian propaganda will blame Ukraine, and call for Russia's territorial gains in Ukraine to be recognized, and for all sanctions to be lifted. Russia is planning to starve Asians and Africans in order to win its war in Europe. This is a new level of colonialism, and the latest chapter of hunger politics." 

Millions starved during the Holodomor. Russia is bombing fields and storage facilities as Ukrainians are scrambling to save some of their crops. Some commenters suggest that the Ukraine just produces about 10% of the world's grain, so no big deal, we'll all just reroute a bit to help other area, but 10% is huge. In some areas, the smallest drop in access will cost lives. And re-routing a little extra from all other grain-producing areas is a huge undertaking both in terms of changing policies and in terms of will. How much will Canada be willing to export grain to new buyers? And this missing 10% will raise costs here as well, affecting far too many who are just barely scraping by as it is. The war has been bumped out of the new cycle by everything else going on, but it might surpass it all in the effect it has on our immediate future. 


Owen Gray said...

This is medieval warfare, Marie. Putin believes in one thing -- brute and ugly force.

lungta said...

I hate it when people argue in bad faith .
Given the information from this site
Russia contributes 12% to world production of wheat
and the Ukraine about 3.5%
The world won't starve by loosing a portion of the Ukraine's 3.5% (not 10 )
but it might from western sanctions on Russia's 12%
So who is the villain?
Again the war is a straw dog and rich people on both sides will make their own rich people richer and the poor will eat the sound bites and believe the propaganda.

With statements like
" The horror of Putin's hunger pan is so great that we have a hard time apprehending it."
" Timothy Snyder (historian specializing in genocide) " seems barely literate