War in Ukraine Causing a Global Food Crisis

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Isana Raja

The war in Ukraine has caused more than just a rise in gas prices—it’s actively contributing to a global food shortage. Ukraine and Russia account for a crucial portion of the world’s wheat, barley, corn, and sunflower oil exports; by some measures up to 12% of global caloric trade. Sanctions against Russia combined with Ukraine’s inability to export during the war has meant that large supplies of food have become trapped in supply chain limbo. 

For countries across the Middle East and Africa, which are highly dependent on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia, famine and starvation are imminent. Eleven countries, including Armenia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Eritrea import 70% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia; Thirty equatorial and Global South countries import 30% or greater, while the region of East Africa imports 90%. This comes as these countries are already facing food insecurity and famine from the pandemic, droughts, and ongoing conflict. 

Sanctions placed on Russian fertilizer are further compounding the crisis. Russia exports around 17% of the global fertilizer supply. As a result, many farmers in countries such as Mongolia and Serbia—who import more than 50% of their fertilizer from Russia—are unable to yield sufficient crops and livestock. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that the number of hungry people across the world could balloon to between 8 million and 13 million as a result of the war in Ukraine. Those dependent on humanitarian aid, such as the people of Yemen and Afghanistan, will be hit the hardest. Additionally, the World Food Program has resorted to cutting daily rations for 3.8 million people in order to provide a degree of assistance to as many people as possible—essentially “taking food from the hungry to give to the starving.

Sweden and Finland Consider Joining NATO Alliance

Photo Credit: FinnishGovernment

By Hezekiah Crawford
Contributing Writer

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Sweden and Finland to reconsider their national security and foreign policy priorities. In the past few days, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish Prime Minster Sanna Marin have publicly stated that a decision regarding NATO accession tops this list of priorities. Nordic states have historically remained neutral during international conflict, but the proximity and volatility of the war in Ukraine have begun to shift sentiments, with Finnish and Swedish leaders pledging to react swiftly to the changing global landscape. 

Their Nordic neighbor Norway is a founding member of NATO, although it has refused to permit “NATO bases and nuclear weapons on their territories.” Their membership within the alliance guarantees them protection under NATO’s Article 5, however, which states that “an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.” Unlike Norway, neither Sweden nor Finland—the latter of which shares a border with Russia—enjoys such a protection clause. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently expressed that if Finland were to seek NATO membership, they would be “warmly welcome.” In addition to the fact that Sweden and Finland are currently in compliance with many of the political and economic requirements for NATO accession, NATO is eager to expand its list of partners on its eastern flank. When combined, these factors indicate that accession of the remaining Nordic countries could likely be carried out with relative expediency. 

Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, claimed that if Finland and Sweden were to join NATO, Russia would retaliate in order to “rebalance the scales.” What this means exactly is unclear, although it likely alludes to the reinforcement of Russia’s western front and further diplomatic recalcitrance.

Russian Airstrike On Holocaust Memorial Babyn Yar: The Silencing of the Ukrainian Jewish Community

Photo Credit: Timon91

By Irelan Fletcher 
Staff Writer

On Tuesday, March 1st, Ukrainian officials and the State Emergency Service confirmed that five people were killed after a Russian airstrike hit Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. The projectile was aimed at the main radio and television tower in Kyiv, close to the Babyn Yar Memorial—a Holocaust memorial placed at Babyn Yar to commemorate the murder of Jews at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Babyn Yar is one of the largest Holocaust memorials in the world, holding great significance to the Jewish community in Ukraine. It was reported that no damage had been done to the memorial or to the large menorah—a newly built synagogue. However, the message of the airstrike is clear, the intentional erasure of the Jewish community of Ukraine. 

The airstrike, which was as proximate as 1,000 feet to the Holocaust memorial, is consistent with efforts by Russian leader Vladimir Putin to erase Ukraine’s historical connection to the Holocaust. Putin has employed the “denazification” of Ukraine as a justification for his invasion and subsequent war. Putin went as far as to call Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, “a neo-Nazi”. Quite the opposite however, there exists a robust Jewish community in Ukraine, including President Zelensky himself, with family members who died in the Holocaust. The airstrike is reminiscent of Soviet Union dreams of an Empire—the same dreams now being revived by Putin—which hold a shadow effect of devastating wars of the past. The chair of the Babyn Yar’s advisory board, Natan Sharansky, believes Putin wants to “distort and manipulate the Holocaust to justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign democratic country.”

President Zelensky remarked on Twitter, “What is the point of saying ‘never again’ for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating…”. President Zelensky’s remarks reflects a growing sentiment among Jewish communities globally that the airstrike was an intentional and deliberate attack. The intention being to stir fear within the Jewish community in Ukraine. Additionally, President Zelensky’s words illustrate the importance of Babyn Yar to members of the Jewish community both in Ukraine and throughout the world.  

The bombing of Babyn Yar has drawn international attention. In a show of support for the people of Ukraine, Jewish communities and institutions around the world have publicly condemned the bombing, including the Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, and the U.S. Holocaust Museum. The Yad Vashem Memorial issued a statement calling on the international community to “safeguard civilian lives as well as these historical sites because of their irreplaceable value.” At the same time the U.S. Holocaust Museum expressed outrage at “the damage inflicted on the Babyn Yar memorial by Russia’s attack today.” 

Babyn Yar holds precious significance, as thousands turn to it to honor the estimated 70,000 to 100,000 Jews who were killed at the site during World War II under Hitler’s Third Reich. The attack signifies an attempt to dismiss the horrific events that occurred at the location of the most prominent Nazi massacre. In addition, the attack further contributes to the erasure of the Ukrainian Jewish community and their history. At the onset of the invasion, there were an estimated 43,000 Jews living in Ukraine. Fearing persecution, many of them have fled from their homes to seek refuge in other countries. As the conflict in Ukraine unfolds, there remains hope that the international community will come together to provide protections for those fleeing and to combat the fear and fighting meant to silence them.