Ukraine grain deal, climate crisis, China report and RI summer recess
UKRAINE UPDATE: deal on grain shipments reached!
In the words of UN Secretary-General Guterres:
Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea. A beacon of hope (and) possibility… and relief in a world that needs it more than ever.
The deal is valid for an initial 120 days, but may be automatically renewed. Key provisions include:
- A coalition of Turkish, Ukrainian, Russian and UN staff at a joint coordination centre in Istanbul will monitor the loading of grain onto vessels in Ukrainian ports.
- The vessels will navigate a pre-planned route through the Black Sea, which has been heavily mined by Ukrainian forces.
- Ukrainian pilot vessels will guide the commercial vessels transporting the grain in order to navigate the mined areas around the coastline using a map of safe channels provided by Ukraine.
- There is also provision for inspection of the vessels in each direction to allay concerns that weapons supplies might also be onboard.
- Each side has pledged to withhold any attacks on commercial vessels engaged in this vital grain transport initiative.
Media reports also indicate that the agreement will:
pave the way for Russian food and fertilisers to reach world markets as well.
Although these vital necessities are not part of the sanctions against Russia, nervous businesses required additional American assurances. Enabling exports of Russian food and fertilizer was a key part of attempts by the United Nations and Turkish officials to broker a deal with Moscow.
Eduard Zernin, head of the Russian Union of Grain Exporters, described the US move as “an act of goodwill” and a “real step in the fight against world hunger.” He continued:
We sincerely hope that other countries involved will follow this example and issue the necessary clarifications and licenses in order to remove hidden sanctions that hinder the supply of grain to countries in need.
The Rideau Institute comments:
This agreement is crucial in terms of helping ease the catastrophic global food crisis. But it also demonstrates that diplomacy — with the right third-party facilitation — can yield positive outcomes between even the bitterest of adversaries.
UPDATE: Not reported until later, the UN’s International Maritime Organization, which regulates shipping, is also set to play a central role.
And there is a “side deal” between Russia and the UN to propel Russia’s food products and fertilizers back into commercial markets, to help achieve the “zero-hunger” Sustainable Development Goal, in respect of which Russia had been playing a key role prior to the invasion. More on this in our post-recess 26 Aug post.
Fighting militarism in the shadow of war
Joanna Frew, Outreach Coordinator for the UK-based Rethinking Security network, has written a thoughtful piece that grapples with the central issues and contradictions facing those who oppose militarism against the backdrop of the Ukraine war.
For many members and supporters of Rethinking Security across the country – who have been active in campaigns for peace, demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament in the last decades – this conflict is raising dilemmas about how to advocate for peace and security when it seems that Ukraine is faced with a threat to its very survival.
The difficult questions
With the focus almost exclusively on the continued supply of weapons to Ukraine, the challenge becomes
finding a practicable but ethical response [to helping Ukraine] as well as navigating conflicting feelings about what is ‘right’.
While peace activists would not deny Ukraine’s right to self-defence and do not see military aid as “black and white”, they nonetheless also agree that
Continuing to challenge further militarisation in Europe remains important for sustainable peace.
Frew underscores that it is necessary to be
honest about the complexities whilst continuing to challenge militarism… [and the] efficacy of war making things better rather than … destroy[ing] a country and risk[ing] a wider European war.
On the positive side, activists are finding that they are able to discuss war, peace and security more broadly, with new audiences. As with their engagement with the government, they have
not sought to minimise the complexity or dilemmas for those coming from a pacifist perspective, but [have aimed] to keep visible thinking and perspectives that are largely invisible in the mainstream discourse.
Stay active in challenging the war
Among the alternatives that have been identified are:
- building the idea of, and capacity for, nonviolent resistance and non-cooperation with occupiers,
- making sure elected officials hear that this war is opposed as are other violent conflicts across the world that are not getting the same attention as the Ukraine war, and
- spreading the message that “security is a shared and global effort”.
The article concludes:
With all the public interest now, we hope we can change the conversation so our own government, at least, will work towards sustainable peace rather than inflaming tensions.
For the full article, see Reflections on advocating for peace and security in Ukraine (Joanna Frew, rethinkingsecurity.org, 21 July 2022).
Dying ‘with honour’ versus living with hope
We end our Ukraine segment with this searing commentary entitled Ukraine has accepted the myth of believing it’s best to die fighting (thestar.com, 13 July 2022).
Canadian professor Calvin White writes:
Honour and dying for one’s country sound magnanimous, but they are only psychological constructs with extreme manipulative power. They are not real.
They are made up and only have validity when concrete results can validate them. Death is real. Widespread suffering is real. Material destruction is real.
When the war is over and all the losses and harms are tallied, who will say, “Oh yes, it was worth it because we lost it all with honour?”
Intelligence says compromise when you cannot win, choose life and well-being over territory, do not walk into suffering, instead keep living, keep the focus, and aim for new ways to bring about justice. [emphasis added]
He asks a telling question:
When it’s over, Russia will be named as the criminal and vicious player it has been, but how virtuous will the West’s role be viewed?
Will Zelenskyy and his leadership be held up as the heroes they have been cast as or as blunderers who succumbed to hubris and the egging of others to leave their nation in utter carnage with the same outcome that had been available without the massive suffering?
The Rideau Institute comments:
As we intimated in the section on the grain deal reached between Ukraine and Russia, a negotiated end to the war is possible and must be facilitated.
For an extremely comprehensive analysis of the state of play — militarily, diplomatically, geopolitically — in the war on Ukraine, click on the latest NATO WATCH News Brief Update 21 (Ian Davis, 21 July 2022) available in PDF format here.
For a good analysis of diplomatic options that the US should pursue, see It’s time for the US to push to end the war in Ukraine (Mark Hannah, responsiblestatecraft.org, 18 July 2022).
MEANWHILE THE CLIMATE CRISIS DEEPENS
In an excellent CBC article outlining the extreme dangers we face if we do not do more to stem rising temperatures, there is also a focus on what is possible right now.
Caroline Brouillette, the national policy manager for the Climate Action Network Canada, told CBC News:
There is no such thing as too late when it comes to climate change. Every tenth of a degree matters.
There’s a difference between something being extremely hard and something being impossible. Limiting warming to 1.5 C is definitely a massive social and economic undertaking that we have to do. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks more bluntly:
We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.
For more on the situation in Canada, see Sweltering Cities – Why extreme heat is killing Canadians in major cities and how climate change will make things worse (Jaela Bernstien, cbc.ca, 13 July 2022).
For additional expert assessments of what can be done and how Canada measures up, check out the website of the Pembina Institute, a federally-registered charity based in Alberta, with a mission to
advance a prosperous clean energy future for Canada through credible policy solutions that support communities, the economy and a safe climate.
For a passionate argument against incrementalism and for thinking big, from one of the leading climate activists, see This heatwave has eviscerated the idea that small changes can tackle extreme weather (guardian.com, 18 July 2022).
George Monbiot writes:
Let’s stop lying to ourselves and others by pretending that small measures deliver major change. Let’s abandon the timidity and tokenism. Let’s stop bringing buckets of water when only fire engines will do.
Let’s build our campaign for systemic change towards the critical 25% threshold of public acceptance, beyond which, a range of scientific studies suggests, social tipping happens.
After issuing the above clarion call, Monbiot asks this terrifying question:
Given that we have left it so late, can we reach the social tipping point before we hit the environmental tipping point?
THREAT INFLATION AND THE CHINESE MILITARY
Threat inflation is a major [US] problem in evaluating China’s military capabilities and the military security-related intentions of China’s leadership.
The problems — in both authoritative and, especially, nonauthoritative analyses — include:
- inadequate, distorted, or incorrect evidence
- grossly hyperbolic language
- sloppy or illogical thinking.
In his view, the typical approach is to
rely on broad-brush assertions that seem to derive more from narrow political, ideological, or emotional impulses than from any objective search for truth.
Anyone following the public debate in Canada (if one can even call it a debate, given the one-sidedness of the coverage) will be familiar with these routine biases.
In Swaine’s view the “alarmist, worst-case” approach leads to very bad policy that:
- calls for massive U.S. counterforce as the only response
- undermines voices in China favouring moderation
- significantly raises the danger of Sino-American crisis and military conflict, and
- diverts huge amounts of U.S. resources away from desperately needed non-military uses.
His paper outlines a better approach, urging Washington to:
- reject inflated rhetoric and produce more balanced, fact-based assessments of China’s capabilities and intentions
- work to create a more stable and cooperative balance in the Western Pacific
- strive over the long-term — in conjunction with China — to create a more cooperative regional and global system including agreements to address specific common threats, including climate change, pandemics, financial instability, cyberattacks and WMD proliferation.
In Swaine’s view:
Regardless of the prospects for improving or at least stabilizing the security relationship with China, the United States is not going to build its way out of the current deepening military competition with China, nor develop a successful long-term China strategy based on inflated threats.
In short, the US needs to
accept the logic of balance over dominance in many areas, fashion credible strategies designed both to deter and reassure Beijing in both the regional and global arenas, and strengthen its capacities at home.
This will demand a fundamental reassessment of current American policies in the light of realistic assessments of both threats and opportunities, real capacities, and reasonable aspirations.
In the view of the Rideau Institute:
This enlightened, forward-looking analysis demonstrates what might be possible — and what is certainly worth striving for — in a world where Washington is not determined to confront China in a “largely zero-sum manner” which, in turn, reinforces the very behaviour it seeks to condemn.
This report should be mandatory reading not only for our Prime Minister’s lamentable National Security Advisor but also Canadian journalists in the mainstream media, not least at the Globe and Mail and the CBC.
See also a video interview with the author about his report, by clicking on the arrow below.
LAST BLOG POST BEFORE THE RI SUMMER BREAK
RI President Peggy Mason comments:
This is our last blog post before our summer break. It has been a brutal past several months on many fronts as the forces of militarism, intolerance and hyper-capitalism grow fat on the Ukraine war.
At the same time, the voices of moderation, of reason, of peacebuilding continue to offer a better way forward and we are proud to be part of that struggle.
Our next post will be Friday, 26 August. Enjoy the summer!
In peace, solidarity and hope,
President, Rideau Institute
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons