Commentaries | May 08,2021
Jun 4 , 2022
By Christian Tesfaye
When President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine, few would have anticipated the sheer pain this was going to cause everybody else. At the outset, we were treated to awe at the unprecedented levels of American and European sanctions against Russia, and reminded well of how severely a country can be damaged without having to put a single soldier on its soil. Such a mesmerising show of economic power, it was said, will remind Russia that it is just one big gas station armed with nuclear weapons. It seemed true.
Initially, I did believe that the world’s 11th largest economy can be deprived with little to no consequence to everyone else. It is actually an even smaller economy than Italy.
What could possibly go wrong?
The problem is that GDP measures could be misleading. Sure, Russia is a much smaller economy than its political and military capability would suggest, and it is over-dependent on its economy on energy exports. But, with Ukraine, it is also the breadbasket of the world as well as one of the central sources for the minerals the world needs to power civilisation. A country that exports iPhones and services probably has a higher GDP than one that exports wheat and edible oil, but it is the latter that has far greater significance to world food security.
Consider this. If economic activity suddenly ceased in Addis Abeba, it would be disastrous for the country’s GDP. If the same happened to the main breadbasket of the country, the direct impact on GDP may be lower but millions of people in Ethiopia would feel the effects much more adversely. This is what is happening with the Russia-Ukraine crisis. They are small economies but they help feed much of the world.
Whatever the debates about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), it was unacceptable for Putin to have invaded Ukraine. War never solves anything but makes the political crises worse. Had that decision never been made, the rise in prices of fuel, wheat, edible oil, fertilisers and metals would be much less severe.
It is why US President Biden is trying to make, “Putin’s price hikes,” stick. The argument is that sanctioning Russia, and thus cutting all the energy and food the country could supply to the rest of the world, was something that the US has been forced to do. “Putin is making us exasperate the food and energy crisis,” Biden seems to be saying.
For some countries, in the aftermath of COVID-19, the Russia-Ukraine crisis is proving to be the last straw. Sri Lanka is the most talked about as rolling crises have resulted in a debt default. Bakeries have closed shop; fuel and power are being rationed; newspapers have stopped publication and national exams postponed due to paper shortages; and some overseas consulates are shut down.
The consensus is that several countries will follow Sri Lanka. Debt defaults will rise, millions will fall into poverty and hunger and starvation will increase. It is a sad scenario but few in the developed world seem to be as concerned. It is only once the economic crisis boils over into socio-political calamity, or conflict, that foreign correspondents will be parachuted in to cover the “juicy” stories of widespread suffering. The very "lucky" ones may even get to see Nima Elbagir of CNNfame in the flesh.
For the sake of the dozens of countries under high debt stress and in poor economic situations, world leaders need to bring the crisis in Europe to an end, by any means possible. If this is negotiation, so be it. Every other country at war is harangued by the US to cease fire and negotiate, including Ethiopia.
Why is it so taboo to consider a negotiated settlement in the case of Russia and Ukraine? Would the outcome make some parties unhappy? Of course, but that is what happens in every negotiation.
Too often, we are told that Putin is the second coming of Hitler and should be stopped by any means possible. But this assumes that the West is in the right in the same way Britain and the US were in World War II and that Russia is in the wrong in the same way Nazi Germany was back then. If anything, the parallels are much closer to the Cold War; it is a struggle for global hegemony where what is “right” is not the priority.
It helps to remember that there are dozens of countries that want nothing to do with this but are likely to pay the steepest price. What is the price of making Putin pay? Five Sri Lankas? 20? 30? How million more people pushed into poverty? 10 million? 100 million? Half a billion? What level of starvation and malnourished children? 40 million? 80 million?
Answering these should help get some moral clarity.
PUBLISHED ON Jun 04,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1153]
Commentaries | May 08,2021
Verbatim | Mar 16,2019
Sunday with Eden | Oct 03,2020
Radar | Mar 27,2021
Viewpoints | Jul 09,2022
View From Arada | Feb 26,2022
Viewpoints | Apr 02,2022
Radar | Dec 10,2022
Editorial | Aug 17,2019
Verbatim | Nov 16,2019
Photo Gallery | 83062 Views | May 06,2019
Photo Gallery | 75219 Views | Apr 26,2019
Fineline | 58730 Views | Oct 03,2020
Fortune News | 58495 Views | Jul 18,2020
Commentaries | Dec 02,2023
Life Matters |
My Opinion | Dec 02,2023
Sunday with Eden | Dec 02,2023
Agenda | Dec 02,2023
Editorial | Dec 02,2023
Dec 24 , 2022
Biniam Mikru heads the department of cabinet affairs under Mayor Adanech Abiebie. But...
Jul 2 , 2022 . By RUTH TAYE
On a rainy afternoon last week, a coffee processing facility in the capital's Akaki-Qality District was abuzz with activ...
Nov 27 , 2021
Against my will, I have witnessed the most terrible defeat of reason and the most sa...
Nov 13 , 2021
Plans and reality do not always gel. They rarely do in a fast-moving world. Every act...
Leaders of the National Election Board are in a charm offensive mood, of a sort. Last week, they organised a rare tour for members of the me...
When the country's most senior diplomats and envoys return back to their posts after two-week debriefings, they leave behind a point or two...
Dec 2 , 2023
The symphony of traffic noise in Addis Abeba is not just a sign of life, but a siren...
Nov 25 , 2023
Ethiopia's quest to develop a functioning capital market is a demanding yet not unach...
Nov 18 , 2023
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has made a fervent call for landlocked Ethiopia to ga...
Nov 11 , 2023
In November last year, a ray of hope pierced the gloomy skies of Ethiopia as the Pret...
I have a love-hate relationship with my phone. It is my go to source for information. I enjoy interacting with text messages and browsing t...
Over the weekend, I attended a wedding where my husband was one of the protocols. Despite the typical joy...
Dec 2 , 2023 . By MUNIR SHEMSU
Mamo Mihretu, the governor of the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE), has outlined a com...
Dec 2 , 2023 . By AKSAH ITALO
BGI Ethiopia, one of the largest brewing companies, is in the throes of a major trans...
Minister of Agriculture, Girma Amentie (PhD), is leading a charge to overhaul the fer...
Dec 2 , 2023 . By AKSAH ITALO
Amidst accession to a cross-regional trade, one of the oldest industries is strugglin...
Or see contact page