Until this week, the prospect of global famine had disappeared from the headlines, but earlier in Russia’s war against Ukraine, a sinister possibility had begun to take shape.
Ukraine is a breadbasket. Its produce feeds the world. And Russia, knowing this, had developed a plan to starve the world instead. Its soldiers would wreck Ukrainian farmland and kill its farmers. Russians would steal and sell all the Ukrainian grain it could. And the Black Sea – a vital artery through which most of Ukraine’s food exports travelled – would be blockaded by the Russian navy. Food shipments would not be let through. The world would starve, Ukraine’s economy would suffer, and – in Vladimir Putin’s mind – he would be the victor.
Understanding Turkey since the dissolution of the Ottoman empire has proven difficult for westerners. The decaying magnificence of the Ottoman years was a vivid adornment to past debate. Nineteenth century diplomatists like David Urquhart defended the Sublime Porte as a reasonable counterbalance to Russia, and publicity-minded moralists like Gladstone decried Ottoman atrocities, all while the empire became more visibly moribund and threadbare. Continue reading →
Libya’s civil war increasingly appears to have drawn in the world.
The war, whose new form took shape years after the defeat and death of Muammar Gaddafi, now features the following players. First, the Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli. It’s recognised by the United Nations, and in its defence, NATO’s secretary-general has recently suggested, the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty ought to stand ready to intervene.
In Idlib, in northern Syria, a ceasefire filled with disquiet has begun. After a difficult beginning, in which fighting continued across the front and marketplaces and hospitals continued to be bombed, aspects of civilian life have resumed. Continue reading →
With all of the foreign forces operating within Syria, it is not surprising that their soldiers occasionally meet – in times of coordination, or by chance on the road or battlefield. For nations whose policies have stood, at least nominally, in opposition to each other, these meeting might be expected to elicit reactions ranging from frosty to hostile. Continue reading →
Just as the UN aid mission to the rebel- and Islamist-held enclave around Idlib province in northern Syria was about to collapse, the movement of aid was reapproved – now in a reduced form. Continue reading →
In the last Syrian rebel-held province of Idlib, Turkey is more influential than the Syrian government. But Turkey’s position has never been entirely secure. Run by Syrian rebels and Islamists, Idlib is the last part of Syrian territory not run by a foreign state or President Bashar Assad. Idlib’s people are not happy with their present rulers and protest against them, but they fear the government and its allies. Continue reading →