Amid the carnage in Ukraine, it’s time for world leaders to rethink their priorities
by Derek Royden
According to a study by a number of organizations called Ceres 2020, which was backed by the government of Germany, world hunger could mostly be ended by 2030 for $330 billion. This is a very large number, it’s true, but when we look at what the United States spends on its military budget each year, now in excess of $800 billion, it’s obvious that it’s skewed priorities, especially in richer countries that result in so much unnecessary hunger and suffering, especially south of the equator.
Besides this massive military budget, just a few weeks ago on May 19th, the US Senate approved an aid package for Ukraine with a price tag of $40 billion. With just $3.4 billion of this set aside for food aid, it’s clear the lion’s share of this assistance will go to Raytheon, General Dynamics and other companies that profit from providing the means for mass slaughter, filling the pockets of their shareholders and executives with blood-soaked banknotes in the process.
The war in Ukraine has turned out to be an even greater disaster for those already suffering from hunger around the world in that, combined, Russia and Ukraine produce a little more than a quarter of the world’s wheat, a staple food in almost every country.
Ignoring this reality, the usual suspects in Western media, think tanks and among the political class argue not for negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian leaders to bring the conflict to an end but further escalation, with the most unhinged calling early on for a NATO enforced no fly zone that would almost certainly widen the war, and bring it to the brink of nuclear apocalypse.
This is not to lay blame for the actual conflict anywhere but where it belongs, at the feet of the leadership of the Russian Federation, whose war of aggression is a crime of monstrous proportions that has led to thousands of casualties and millions of refugees. Still, it’s worrying to hear people like US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin argue that this war should be allowed to continue for years to “weaken” Russia rather than calling for diplomacy to save as many lives as possible.
When Noam Chomsky and Henry Kissinger agree on the foolishness of something like this, it’s wise to at least consider it.
The two main solutions to almost every war are a decisive victory or a negotiated settlement. Even when the former appears to be the case as we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan (twice), this doesn’t end the conflict but often just changes its form.
It’s true that diplomacy can fail. The war in Ukraine is also the result of Russian claims that Ukraine has failed to honor the Minsk Accords of 2014 that were intended to end the low intensity conflict in the Donbas region. The problem with this is that Russia itself has also repeatedly violated the agreement.
Regardless, another eight years without widespread conflict would be better for Ukrainians than the current carnage and would allow regional and international bodies to concentrate on other things, whether it’s helping to end other conflicts or working to realize the goal of ending world hunger.
Neither side will be happy with such a result but keeping politicians and diplomats happy is not worth one single human life.
It should shock us that at least 10 percent of the world’s people are going hungry while the media indulges war fever over Ukraine and highlights other stories that are even less consequential. With climate change already here and putting the food supply at ever greater risk, we need our governments and mass media to change their priorities.
Lending all support and incentives to ending the war in Ukraine would be a good place to start.
Derek Royden is a freelance reporter based in Montreal.
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