Olivier Dupuis: War and Grain

2023-10-06 | Expert publications, Food security

The US policy of “strategic caution” towards Russia, as devised by the Biden administration, may be criticised for its implementation but the principle behind it is hard to contest. 1 However, the policy has had a deleterious side-effect: that of obscuring the global nature of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Emblematic of this is the recent controversy over the transit of Ukrainian grain through the European Union, and the subsequent explicit calls on Ukraine to show gratitude to the countries that are supporting it. That demand reflects a narrow and erroneous understanding of the meaning of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. It limits support for Ukraine to a question of solidarity, where the beneficiaries are asked to show their gratitude. Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, demonstrated this when he said that “it would be good for Ukraine to remember that it is receiving aid from us”, adding ominously that Poland was “also a transit country for Ukraine”. Robert Telus, Poland’s agriculture minister, brandished another threat: “Poland will block Ukraine’s accession to the EU if the issue of grain exports is not resolved.”

And yet however important the aid – military 2, political and economic – has been from the fifty or so states in the Ramstein coalition, those countries are all in the rear of the conflict, far from the action. It is Ukrainians and only Ukrainians at the front line. They are the ones in the trenches, in their bombed-out towns, resisting aggression. Only Ukrainians are victims of the unspeakable crimes against humanity and war crimes of Russian soldiery. This war is as much ours as theirs, and yet it is only the Ukrainians who are dealing with injuries, amputations, death.

In a new world war which dare not speak its name because of the risk of escalation, the outcome of this first phase will be a determining factor in the second episode to come: the war of aggression planned by the People’s Republic of China against Taiwan. Political, military and economic aid to Ukraine is therefore an imperative for the short, medium and long-term security of all democratic states.

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