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Hans Petter Midttun’s assessment
Russia is in the process of turning Sievierodonetsk into a new Mariupol and is intensifying its indiscriminate bombing of civilians. Ukrainians are being exposed to rape, murder, torture, and deportation. More than 6,6 million have become refugees while more than 8 million persons are internally displaced. Over 1.4 million Ukrainians have been forcibly deported to Russia from occupied territories in Ukraine, including 240,000 children. More than 670 children have been killed or wounded. The UN has verified more than 8,500 civilian casualties, with the real numbers expected to be many times higher.
Ukraine is being destroyed as we watch, having suffered more than $1 trillion in damages. At least 12 civilian airports, 295 bridges and bridge crossings, 591 kindergartens, 574 healthcare institutions, 108 religious and 179 cultural buildings, 169 warehouses, and 19 shopping malls have been destroyed. 38,6 million square meters of residential buildings have been damaged or destroyed.
The world is on the brink of recession as a consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The World Bank last month had already cut its global growth forecast for 2022 by nearly a full percentage point, to 3.2% from 4.1%, due to the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The food crisis fuels fears of protectionism compounding shortages. Some Western officials warned that unless the port of Odesa was opened soon, there was a threat of famine in some countries and political unrest in others, in what could be the gravest global repercussion yet of Russia’s assault on its neighbor. More than 276 million people are food insecure.
European leaders have been advised to create energy contingency plans in case of a harsh winter as we cannot exclude the risk of gas rationing. Before the invasion of Ukraine – and 8 years after the war started – Russia provided nearly 40 percent of the European Union’s gas supply and 55 percent of Germany’s.
Gas prices are soaring, leading to higher food prices for European consumers. The war in Ukraine brought a major shock to global food markets. The World Bank’s Food Commodity Price Index, which reached a record high in nominal terms during March-April 2022, is up 15% over the previous two months and more than 80% higher than two years ago.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that the war in Ukraine will exacerbate already high shipping costs this year and could keep them – and their inflationary effects – higher for longer. The cost of shipping a container on the world’s transoceanic trade routes increased seven-fold in the 18 months following March 2020, while the cost of shipping bulk commodities spiked even more.
These are not my statements and not my numbers. These are the realities and predictions of some of the institutions the world has established to detect and present trends crucial to our stability and well-being.
It is up to our political leaders to act upon the information given. Having watched this unfold for more than 8 years, I still fail to see a credible strategy in place that will help alleviate the multiple consequences of the Russian invasion. The West is not providing Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defeat and evict the Russian forces or break the maritime blockade. The international community has so far only helped enable it to fight the ground battle effectively, recognizing the limitations posed by the lack of efficient air defense. The West has still failed to provide combat aircraft, air defense (of substance), long-range weapons, or maritime assets.
In my humble opinion, the present strategy help ensures that a more than 8-year-long protracted war remains just that: protracted. While the US “lend-lease agreement” and the $40 billion support bill will help bring more high-end weapon systems into theatre in the future, the time needed to qualify the Ukrainian Armed Forces to use them effectively indicates that this might not happen before 2023.
We need, therefore, to challenge our political leaders to outline their strategy to help end the war and reduce the multiple ripple effects of the Russian aggression in Ukraine and beyond.
We know Ukraine will fight as long as it takes. We know Russia will fight as long as we allow them. We don’t know how long the West will stay focused, committed, and united. We suspect, however, that it is not that long.
A month before the invasion, Edvard Lucas wrote that “ignorance, apathy, guilt, cynicism, arrogance, greed, and cowardice. Those, not troops, tanks, warplanes, and missiles, are the Kremlin’s most potent weapons in its war on the West.” His assessment has recently been proven right. Again.