Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the grocery store…
The Russian invasion changed all that.
But that’s only half of the equation. The other half is that boycotts and sanctions on Russian food exports further exacerbate the problem.
Whether artificial or actual, a decrease in supply drives up prices elsewhere even if we aren’t getting our oil from the Russian pipelines where the spigot is now closed. This is because the consumers that used the supply that has dried up now have to compete for oil from different sources. This competition for a limited supply increases prices.
In three years of fighting, the Union army failed to reach the Confederate capital of Richmond with frontal assaults. Ultimately, the Confederacy was starved into submission by a strategy that began with a naval blockade of its ports. The Yankees bisected the Confederacy by driving down the Mississippi River. General Sherman drove through Georgia and South Carolina destroying crops and railroads. Both food crops and cotton, the South’s main source of cash, were destroyed along with the transportation infrastructure of the day that took crops to market and supplied troops at the fronts. The North didn’t destroy the South’s will to fight, but it did destroy its ability to resist.
That seems to be the Russian goal. In a war of attrition, Russia has much greater manpower reserves to draw upon and, although Russia’s economy is sanctioned, it isn’t being physically destroyed like that of Ukraine.
As the war bogs down, it is also disappearing from the front pages amid mass shootings, elections, and the Outrage Du Jour. The world may not remember why the sanctions are being imposed, but Ukrainians are still fighting and dying against the invaders. They have little choice in the matter.
The war would look very different without world aid to Ukraine. Weapons and relief supplies have enabled the country to hang on and actually beat back the invaders in places. Without NATO’s help, the war might well have ended according to Putin’s original plan.
At this point, Ukraine’s best hope is that Russia’s economy and will to fight peter out before Ukraine’s own ability to resist crumbles. Getting to that point is going to mean continued pain for many other countries around the world. Famines and economic upheaval may even spark unrest elsewhere, but the cost of keeping the pressure applied to Putin will probably be less than the cost of removing sanctions in the long term.That doesn’t mean that opposition parties like the Republicans won’t make gains by capitalizing upon voter concerns and laying every problem at President Biden’s feet with an #OldManBad message. And Republican control of Congress might well be what Vladimir Putin needs to break the sanctions on Russia and continue his war of aggression.