Since then, it has become clear that Putin is probably not a cold fish. He is rather a blinded or religious dictator with no remorse pursuing the dream of a great empire of Slavic peoples under Russian leadership. This is evidenced by his threat to use nuclear weapons now that he has proven to be unable to quickly take the cities of Kharkov and Kyiv to oust the government of Ukraine. Whether he is suicidal or a great strategist, time will tell. Let's hope his nuclear threat is the opening of a new cold war and let's fear the dirty war causing human suffering in a long guerrilla on Ukrainian territory he has started.
The response by Europe's NATO countries is clear by now. They are more united than ever since the Maastricht Treaty (1992) that made EU member states more economically unified but made them drift apart more than towards each other in an administrative way. On Sunday, February 27, Germany decided to invest the unprecedented sum of 100 billion euros in defence. EU countries offered arms and support to Ukraine, realising again that under Putin there is a hard and dangerous eastern border to the Union. A more dangerous border perhaps than in the days of the Cold War, when old men in the Kremlin guarded the balance of power with the West.
It is also clear that Putin, provided he knows how to behave cleverly tactically, has not only the EU but possibly the whole world, pretty much by the balls. Those who try to set down the image of his work as a rational construct are tempted to see in it an almost brilliantly executed strategy.
After 2014, his annexation of Crimea, Putin built an internal economy that allowed Russia to become self sufficient with regard to its food consumption after the collapse of the old Soviet production under Boris Yeltsin. In the big cash crops, Putin is king. If he can annex Ukraine, his agricultural empire will account for 80% of the world market for sunflower oil, 25% for wheat and 20% for corn. That's the reason why he wants Ukraine and the Crimea and Black Sea ports.
War will take Ukraine's share out of the market, while Putin will earn even more as a result of the price increases that will then occur. In such a scenario, both his enemies and friends will finance his war. It's no coincidence China already has opened its doors for Russian grain and will pay a trifle less attention to the high phytosanitary requirements it imposes under business as usual circumstances.
We are discovering that we want to be less dependent on foreign leaders for food and energy. Now that everything is getting more expensive, that's easierThe world will fund Putin's war
The EU is phasing out the use of fossil and nuclear energy and still does not have sustainable energy supplies. Putin, meanwhile, made us dependent on his gas and oil. His country is a major food exporter in the world and has the fertile Chernozem soils, the famous "black earth”, within its sphere of (military) influence. Putin's eastern neighbour Xi Jinping, the president of China, would like to feed his people from the black earth soils, as its wealth is rapidly growing and because his country is dependent on food imports. Xi also needs Russian gas and oil to provide in his energy needs more cleanly than with his current dirty coal-fired power plants.
China and the EU need Russia. Other areas of the world cannot supply the necessary energy because - with the prospect of renewable energy - there has been too little exploration of new fossil extraction opportunities. Energy prices will therefore remain high in the coming years. Although one Western energy company after another is currently parting ways with Russia, the world still needs Putin's fossil energy. In the foreseeable future, the symbolic parting of Western oil companies will be restored in some way. The Wall Street Journal already demonstrated Shell couldn't resist the bargain of Russian oil at a lower price. The Anglo-Dutch company testifies to the needs of Putin's enemies that eventually will lead to Western countries continued financing of his war against what he considers a derailed value system, either for real or because he needed an argument to go to war.
Putin seems to have prepared his war perfectly and forged an alliance with China to play his game extra strongly. However, he did misjudge the resistance of the Ukrainians. Their resistance could ruin his seemingly clever game. The NATO countries are now hot on his heels. Possibly the Russians themselves will also turn against him when they see dead soldiers coming home in body bags. Because Putin failed to see that the Ukrainians would see him not as a liberator but as an occupier of his own people, he has already lost the war, according to Yuval Harari, even if a long guerrilla war is to follow.
Bread in Egypt
The Guardian signals unrest in Africa and especially in Egypt, because bread could soon become too expensive for people to buy. That could lead to a new North African Arab Spring, a notion that stands for food riots and revolution. In 2011, Egypt's president fell. Now, 11 years later, what are the consequences of a "cancelled" Russia for Africa's largest grain importer?
The climate issue will remain an issue, as the IPCC made poignantly clear last week. According to the former Dutch General Tom Middendorp and the Red Cross, climate change is a de facto military security issue. Deep down, Putin's war may be interpreted as a malicious food and energy war based on climate change combined with his hunger for power.
The world will have to prepare for climate change and adaptation, not just for moral reasons but more importantly, for reasons of survival, for geopolitical and military ones. Clean energy is and will remain scarce - at least for now.
We will have to live differently, more frugally and be less wasteful with food and energy. We are discovering that we want to be less dependent on foreign leaders for food and energy. With everything becoming more expensive, this is easier. High energy and food prices make it easier to become more sustainable. If world leaders want to become more sustainable, this is the moment, because of the serious threat to world peace. They will have to organize it, though, and look beyond the war.
The Kremlin has announced its demands for ending the war in Ukraine:— Patrick Reevell (@Reevellp) March 7, 2022
-Ukraine must change its constitution to guarantee it won't join any "blocs", i.e. NATO + EU.
-Must recognise Crimea as part of Russia.
-Must recognise the eastern separatist regions as independent.
Putin's war over Ukraine may be the unifying factor that coerces the world to avoid the climate wars predicted by Middendorp. In the wake of Russia's negotiations with Ukraine and NATO, let's hope his war will transform into a new cold war. Let's indeed hope today's warnings on blood shed as demonstrated now in Ukraine, soaring prices of gas and oil, Europe's painful dependency on Putin's energy supplies and Africa's dependency on Russian wheat will turn out to be the antidote for a real war.
What will China do if Russia fails in a war that turns out very differently for Putin than he imagined?Green Deal, Africa and New Alliances
Under the Green Deal, the EU is scaling down its food production. It'll result in less food exports to the world market, where low-wage countries are major global buyers. High energy prices limit the production of artificial fertilizer, that would be the enabler for a significant number of these countries to achieve food sovereignty. This applies in particular to the large continent of Africa. If Africa receives less food from elsewhere and does not get its own production going, then migrations of even larger numbers of people to the EU will start than those already feared by Italy, Spain, and France.
However, contrary to common knowledge, Africa has an important but still untapped export potential for food. Helped to do so, Africa can take over the role of the EU and serve itself better so that old Europe and rejuvenated prosperous Africa can formulate a better relationship. The EU has a strong interest in providing that help. The moment the EU really starts working on that, China and Israel will prove to be its competitors in the race to help Africa develop into a food exporter. Both countries have created serious projects in Africa.
Russia needs imported technology to produce the crucial staple foods and energy its relevance and power are based on. Will China or the EU provide it? These are questions we need to consider from now onWhat will China do if Russia fails in a war that turns out differently for Putin than he imagined? China has announced it won't let Russia down, although it will make sure Putin won't behave as an international terrorist. As long as Putin behaves as such, China's influence over him will grow. However, President Xi Jinping will not want to miss the imports of food and energy from Eurasia. Will the EU partner with the Chinese to avoid a global war over the world's food barn? And what does that mean for China's interest in Africa and our relationship with that big continent? Russia needs imported technology to produce the crucial staple foods and energy its relevance and power are based on. Will China or the EU provide it? Will the EU finally partner with African countries? They may offer more potential than China and are home to many rare earth metals modern technology needs. So why not go African? These are questions the EU needs to consider as from now. Putin has set the stage and the agenda to ask for answers the world cannot avoid anymore. EU-president Ursula von der Leyen announced earlier that food supply is again a priority of the EU, due to the war over Ukraine.
Foodlog will be addressing these questions in co-operation with agricultural journalist Lourens Gengler. We will do this on the basis of analyses of food production and available volumes in the world. We will try to gain insight into the possible worlds that will be created by Putin's war. Later on, we will also discuss the sustainable energy question. According to some, we can go green, but it will take some time. According to others, energy competes with agriculture. If the latter is true, which continents have the best starting positions and what does it mean for war, peace, and global alliances to prevent war?