On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres presented the first detailed policy brief issued by the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance (GCRG), which he set up to study the effects of the war in Ukraine on the world’s most vulnerable. Here is a summary of the findings, and some of your key questions answered, on what the Group aims to achieve.
Speaking at the launch of the brief, Mr. Guterres pointed out that, whilst most attention is focused on the effects of the war on Ukrainians, it is also having a global impact, in a world that was already witnessing increased poverty, hunger and social unrest.
“We are now facing a perfect storm that threatens to devastate the economies of developing countries”, said the UN chief.
What is the GCRG?
The Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance is a 32-member group, chaired by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, which includes heads of UN agencies, development banks and other international organizations.
It was launched by Mr. Guterres on 14 March, in response to concerns over the potential consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How will it help?
The group will ensure collaboration across governments, the multilateral system and a wide range of sectors, to help vulnerable countries avert large-scale crises.
This will be achieved through high-level coordination and partnerships, urgent action, and access to critical data, analysis and policy recommendations. The first policy brief was released on Wednesday.
Why is it important?
The Ukraine crisis risks tipping up to 1.7 billion people — over one-fifth of humanity — into poverty, destitution and hunger.
Ukraine and the Russian Federation provide 30 per cent of the world’s wheat and barley, one-fifth of its maize, and over half of its sunflower oil.
Together, their grain is an essential food source for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people, providing more than one-third of the wheat imported by 45 African and least-developed countries.
At the same time, Russia is the world’s top natural gas exporter, and second-largest oil exporter.
The war has compounded the challenges many developing countries are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as historic debt burdens and soaring inflation.
Since the start of 2022, wheat and maize prices have increased by 30 per cent, oil prices have gone up by more than 60 per cent over the last year, and natural gas and fertilizer prices have more than doubled.
At the same time, the UN’s humanitarian operations are facing a funding crunch: the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that it does not have enough resources to feed hungry people in desperate situations. The agency urgently needs $8 billion to support its operations in Yemen, Chad and Niger.
The report, said Mr. Guterres, “shows that there is a direct correlation between rising food prices and social and political instability. Our world cannot afford this. We need to act now”.
What does the first policy brief recommend?
The policy brief insists on the importance of global cooperation in tackling the crisis, which, it says, “will leave deep and long-lasting scars”. The report calls on all countries – as well as the private sector, NGOs and other actors – to recognize that “the very nature of increasingly common global shocks is such that countries are not individually responsible”, and that solutions need to be based on the global, rather than national, risk.
In light of the soaring cost of food, fuel and other commodities, all countries are urged to keep their markets open, resist hoarding and unnecessary export restrictions, and make reserves available to countries at the highest risk of hunger and famine.
The report calls on international financial institutions to release funding for the most vulnerable countries, help governments in developing countries to invest in the poorest and most vulnerable by increasing social protection, and work towards reforming the global financial system so that inequalities are reduced.
Humanitarian appeals, says the policy brief, must be fully funded, and major reform of the international financial system is needed to, in the words of the UN Secretary-General, “pull developing countries back from the financial brink”.
The crisis, depending on how the world responds, could also turn out to be an opportunity for the planet. The policy brief acknowledges that, in the short term, strategic reserves of fossil fuels need to be released in order to stabilize prices and ensure sufficient supplies.
However, a ramped-up deployment of renewable energy would help to ensure that the kinds of energy prices rises currently being seen are not repeated in the future, whilst hastening progress towards a cleaner, low carbon, energy future.
Assad-Xi Jinping meeting: China-Syria strategic partnership
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday jointly announced the establishment of a China-Syria strategic partnership, Chinese Xinhua Net informs.
The two presidents met in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, ahead of the opening of the 19th Asian Games.
Syria was one of the first Arab countries that established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and was one of the countries that co-sponsored the resolution to restore the lawful seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations, Xi said.
Over the 67 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the China-Syria relationship has stood the test of changes in the international situation, and their friendship has grown stronger over time, he said.
Xi noted that the establishment of the strategic partnership will be an important milestone in the history of bilateral ties.
China is willing to work with Syria to enrich their relationship and continuously advance the China-Syria strategic partnership, Xi said.
Xi emphasized that China will continue to work with Syria to firmly support each other on issues concerning the two sides’ respective core interests and major concerns, safeguard the common interests of both countries and other developing countries, and uphold international fairness and justice.
China supports Syria in opposing foreign interference, rejecting unilateralism and bullying, and safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said.
China supports Syria in conducting reconstruction, enhancing counter-terrorism capacity building, and promoting a political settlement of the Syrian issue following the “Syrian-led, Syrian-owned” principle, Xi said.
China also supports Syria in improving its relations with other Arab countries and playing a greater role in international and regional affairs, he added.
China is willing to strengthen Belt and Road cooperation with Syria, increase the import of high-quality agricultural products from Syria, and jointly implement the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative to make active contributions to regional and global peace and development.
Assad said that in international affairs, China has always aligned itself with international fairness and justice, and upheld international law and humanitarianism, playing an important and constructive role.
Syria highly appreciates and firmly supports the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, and will actively participate in them, Assad added.
The Syrian side thanks the Chinese government for its invaluable support to the Syrian people, firmly opposes any act of interference in China’s internal affairs, and is willing to be China’s long-term and staunch friend and partner, he said.
Assad said Syria will take the establishment of the Syria-China strategic partnership as an opportunity to strengthen bilateral friendly cooperation and step up their communication and coordination in international and regional affairs.
After the talks, the two heads of state witnessed the signing of bilateral cooperation documents in areas including Belt and Road cooperation, and economic and technological cooperation.
Seymour Hersh: “Zelensky’s army no longer has any chance of a victory”
Next Tuesday will be the anniversary of the Biden administration’s destruction of three of the four pipelines of Nord Stream 1 and 2. There is more I have to say about it, but it will have to wait. Why? Because the war between Russia and Ukraine, with the White House continuing to reject any talk of a ceasefire, is at a turning point, writes Seymour Hersh, a famous American investigative journalist.
There are significant elements in the American intelligence community, relying on field reports and technical intelligence, who believe that the demoralized Ukraine army has given up on the possibility of overcoming the heavily mined three-tier Russian defense lines and taking the war to Crimea and the four oblasts seized and annexed by Russia.
The reality is that Volodymyr Zelensky’s battered army no longer has any chance of a victory.
The war continues, I have been told by an official with access to current intelligence, because Zelensky insists that it must. There is no discussion in his headquarters or in the Biden White House of a ceasefire and no interest in talks that could lead to an end to the slaughter. “It’s all lies,” the official said, speaking of the Ukrainian claims of incremental progress in the offensive that has suffered staggering losses, while gaining ground in a few scattered areas that the Ukrainian military measures in meters per week.
“There were some early Ukrainian penetrations in the opening days of the June offensive,” the official said, “at or near” the heavily trapped first of Russia’s three formidable concrete barriers of defense, “and the Russians retreated to sucker them in. And they all got killed.” After weeks of high casualties and little progress, along with horrific losses to tanks and armored vehicles, he said, major elements of the Ukrainian army, without declaring so, virtually canceled the offensive. The two villages that the Ukrainian army recently claimed as captured “are so tiny that they couldn’t fit between two Burma-Shave signs” — referring to billboards that seemed to be on every American highway after World War II.
Zelensky’s message this week to the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York offered little new and, the Washington Post reported, he received the obligatory “warm welcome” from those in attendance. But, the Post noted, “he delivered his address to a half-full house, with many delegations declining to appear and listen to what he had to say.” Leaders of some developing nations, the report added, were “frustrated” that the multiple billions being spent without serious accountability by the Biden administration to finance the Ukraine war was diminishing support for their own struggles to deal with “a warming world, confronting poverty and ensuring a more secure life for their citizens.”
President Biden, in his earlier speech to the General Assembly, did not deal with Ukraine’s perilous position in the war with Russia but renewed his resounding support for Ukraine.
Biden, with the support of Secretary Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan — but diminishing support elsewhere in America — has turned his unrelenting financial and moral support for the Ukraine war into a do-or-die issue for his re-election.
The American intelligence official I spoke with spent the early years of his career working against Soviet aggression and spying has respect for Putin’s intellect but contempt for his decision to go to war with Ukraine and to initiate the death and destruction that war brings. But, as he told me, “The war is over. Russia has won. There is no Ukrainian offensive anymore, but the White House and the American media have to keep the lie going. The truth is if the Ukrainian army is ordered to continue the offensive, the army would mutiny. The soldiers aren’t willing to die any more, but this doesn’t fit the B.S. that is being authored by the Biden White House,” Seymour Hersh concludes.
Biden UN speech: no Ukraine compromise, negotiation
President Joe Biden gave an address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 20th. The speech was a disaster, stresses Stephen Bryen at Asia Times. Putting aside Biden’s slurred words, the message from Biden is there will be no compromise at all when it comes to Ukraine.
By saying that the US will “not allow Ukraine to be carved up” Biden is claiming that there can be no territorial compromise in respect to Ukraine.
Virtually every peace plan put forward by numerous parties has foreseen territorial compromise as the only way a solution can be found. Even the Minsk Agreements, which Ukraine signed in 2014 and again in 2015, allowed for compromise on territory.
Ruling out territorial compromise is a message that already is understood in Russia. Russia is fighting the Ukraine war because, in its view, it wants to (a) protect the Russian speaking population of Ukraine and (b) to keep NATO out.
NATO’s presence in Ukraine is a Russian red line.
In respect to the first, protecting the Russian speaking population, this applies to the recently returned to Russia parts of Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaphorize and Kherson. Previously Russia returned Crimea as its historic part and held a plebiscite.
As a practical matter, there is no chance that Ukraine has any ability to retake any significant part of these annexed areas. Almost all the fighting along the contact line, especially since the start of Ukraine’s counter-offensive, has been about a Ukrainian attempt to break Russia’s first line of defense protecting these territories. Today there is a consensus that the counter-offensive has failed to achieve any meaningful results other than to kill tens of thousands of Ukrainians and chew up billions of dollars of western military assistance.
Biden had nothing to say about NATO and Ukrainian membership, even though for Russia this has been a red line from the start, and it was NATO’s buildup of Ukrainian forces that triggered the Russian special military operation in the first place. The Russians declared many warnings to the United States and NATO about NATO’s presence in Ukraine, as late as more than a month before Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory. The US and NATO refused to have any discussion with Russia on the subject.
Biden did not discuss any peace process other than saying that Russia can do what Zelensky has demanded, namely leave Ukrainian territory and accept punishment of its military and civilian leaders for alleged war crimes.
Meanwhile the US and its allies have been working overtime to destabilize Russia by promoting attacks from Ukraine on Russian territory, assassinations and bombings in Russia, and sabotage inside Russian territory. These measures have triggered calls in Russia for the use of nuclear weapons as a way of terminating the Ukraine war and erasing Ukraine from the map.
Russia continues its military buildup, including enlarging its army and producing more weapons and ammunition. NATO and the United States’ massive support for Ukraine has changed the strategic landscape in Europe. From Russia’s point of view, it is involved in a war against NATO with Ukraine as the proxy. There is, unfortunately, a point where the proxy fails and where the war’s backers decide to put their own troops on the front line. There already are NATO “advisers” in Ukraine, as US “advisers” once were in Vietnam before the US sent in the Marines and the Army.
If Biden is reelected, it is almost a certainty he will send in US troops to try and “save” Ukraine. In turn that will mean war in Europe.
One of the questions is how long Russia can accept attacks on its territory. The US wants to step up these attacks, as Victoria Nuland has made clear. Such measures are not going to tame the Russians. To the contrary, the Russians will put even more pressure on Ukraine, and may start to strike US and NATO assets elsewhere.
Unfortunately Biden’s speech was a disaster from the point of view of finding a peaceful solution for Ukraine. Probably the speech was intended to help his reelection, notes Asia Times.
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