The political, economic, financial and security repercussions that have been mainly analysed so far with regard to the ... Russian / Ukrainian conflict (the dots are intended to allow readers to choose the adjective deemed most appropriate), which by the time this editorial comes out will have well exceeded 4 months in duration, are inherent to the European area. What geographical configuration can the Ukrainian state assume? It seems difficult to imagine a return to the borders of 2014. How effective will the sanctions decided by the EU be against Moscow? Especially after the energy sector is, albeit only partially, included. What are the foreseeable consequences of the announced imminent accession to NATO of historically “neutralist” countries, such as Sweden and Finland? And the list could still get longer.

This focus is justified by the observation that it is precisely the "Old Continent" (once more one must unfortunately add) that becomes the negative protagonist of a tragic war event and, consequently, that is most directly affected by its harmful effects. By widening the field of observation to other "major players", the United States remains faithful to the traditional role of "majority partner" of the Atlantic Alliance. Without doubting the sincerity of their intentions to see full Ukrainian sovereignty over the disputed territories reaffirmed, they are at the same time committed, one might say in parallel, to the achievement of a second objective, from their equally vital point of view, namely a “structural” weakening (intended as irreversible) of the historical Russian rival / enemy.

As far as China is concerned, it draws significant benefits from bilateral cooperation with Moscow, sealed by the agreement signed by Presidents XI Jinping and Putin on the very eve of the Russian attack in Kiev. In this phase, the Kremlin has, so to speak, "condemned itself" to an uncomfortable position of dependence on the Chinese market, which has totally substituted relations with the Western world, no longer complementary as until a few weeks earlier, but now frozen by embargo. The fact that the Russian Federation risks paying a very high price already in the medium term, and not only in the economic field, due to this excessive alignment with Beijing, is a discourse only hinted at here and deserves more in-depth analysis elsewhere.

Against this background as a whole is the more recent phenomenon that government circles, media and international public opinion have begun to record the existence of devastating repercussions on a global level caused by the "European war". Such repercussions are the result of a hardly justifiable oblivion furthermore connected to the absence of prospects for a "reasonable" solution to the conflict.

These consequences take on a profile of authentic drama in the food sector, since Ukraine and the Russian Federation in a normal situation are jointly responsible for 30 per cent of exports of wheat and corn. A large percentage of the needs of the poorest markets depend on these supplies, above all those in Africa, traditional buyers of food from the ex-Soviet territory. According to reliable sources, the quantity of grain blocked in Ukrainian ports, in particular in Odessa, Mariupol (or what remains of it) and Kherson, currently amounts to approximately 25 million tons. This already massive volume is set to double once the new harvests are completed, stored in the warehouses and, as a final step, loaded onto the freight ships.

Senegalese Macky Sall, President-in-Office of the African Union, recently met his counterpart Putin in Sochi to express widespread concerns among member countries without being able to obtain little more than general reassurance on an operational level. Two-thirds of the 700 million people directly exposed to what UN circles have already described as "food genocide" live in Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, while extending the survey to areas with a lower degree of exposure, the number of people at risk due to a shortage in wheat and other cereals is estimated to double (1.5 billion).

Until navigation can resume safely (a mine clearance will be necessary in the Black Sea as well as an agreement with Russia on the identification of "safe routes") dire consequences in terms of human lives appear inevitable. The alternative solutions proposed so far, in particular rail transport through Poland with the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda as the final destination, together with river solutions, are not, and will not be able, should they be strengthened in the future, to solve the problem, considering the much smaller quantities of foodstuffs that may be transferred in such ways from Ukraine to consumer countries.

Returning to the current conflict, the absolute priority, is to reach a cease-fire with the utmost urgency. There is little doubt that central aspects of the future negotiation such as (in no particular order) the fate of the Donbass, the status of Ukraine with regard to both the European Union and NATO, or the re-examination of the series of sanctions in relation to Russia, will take months (and perhaps years) before finding a shared solution.

The potential victims of famine certainly do not have much time. In relation to this, the West is notoriously unwilling to deal with the resumption of massive migratory flows and the strengthening of political movements that pursue destabilization, both internally and internationally. Both find, moreover, easy escape from the devastating legacy left in the last two years by a pandemic which, beyond the millions of victims, has brutally accentuated the inequalities inside and among countries (a topic on which our Foundation has recently dedicated a Seminar, which will be referred to in the next issues of the publication).

Consequently, it is essential that the "question of bread", in the simple but effective definition coined by Pope Francis, is placed on the fast track, and as such should be removed from the risk of political / military negotiators. One would hope that the United Nations, also thanks to its wide network of specialized agencies, would be able to carry out this task in a coordinated and effective way, finding once more, at least part of the credibility within its world membership which was seriously compromised after 24 February. From this point of view, Turkey for geographical and legal reasons (functions of control of the straits) will inevitably be destined to play a prominent role in harmony with the well-known personal ambitions of President Erdogan.

Rapid action is also required in order to avoid - so that injury is not added to insult - the Russian Federation becoming the promoter of a "pseudo humanitarian" initiative. On closer inspection, the African continent, with just under half (22 out of 55) of the States which abstained in New York from condemning the invasion of Ukraine, and a not very different number of loyal customers of their military supplies, represents a geographic area decidedly less hostile than others for Moscow. As such, it would be justified as the potential recipient of some kind of gesture of "goodwill". If this should actually happen, the obligatory reference is to Bucha and other places in Ukraine that are the scene of the horrors of mass graves should there be the need to dispel any form of doubt regarding the Kremlin’s absolute lack of value in safeguarding human lives.


Reggente Marco Marsilli, Foundation President

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