“Russia is doing everything to bring hunger to the world.” Interview with Timothy Snyder

Timothy Snyder is a professor at Yale University, historian, specializing in the history of Eastern Europe and in particular Ukraine.

“Most of us thought that Putin was rational, and therefore we found it hard to believe that he would start a full-scale war against Ukraine. For the same reason, it is difficult for us to imagine even darker consequences of this war, but they are quite real. This is a famine.”

With these words Professor Timothy Snyder began his lecture on the situation in Ukraine. According to Snyder, the blockade of Ukrainian ports, if not lifted, will lead to famine in North Africa, which is completely dependent on Ukrainian grain, and to a sharp increase in world grain prices – which, in turn, will lead to Chinese hegemony. The blockade of ports, as Snyder explains, is not only Putin’s main tool to destroy the Ukrainian economy, but also to change the economic and humanitarian situation in the world as a whole.

“Ukraine has been feeding most of the world for thousands of years – starting from ancient Athens. For Stalin, and then for Hitler, Ukraine was a fertile territory that should be subjugated and developed for their own purposes. One of the reasons for the Second World War was Hitler’s desire to seize fertile land Ukraine. And he considered it possible precisely because he saw how Stalin does it. What Putin is doing is pure colonialism. How did the European colonialists act for 500 years? They explained that this population is not a people, and this political formation is not a state. Putin constantly repeats the same thing about Ukraine. And hunger is a weapon of colonial war. Our mistake is that instead of looking at the map and at the routes along which Ukrainian grain goes to the rest of the world “we tried to focus on ideas and understand what’s in Putin’s head. But the Ukrainian grain is now blocked not by ideas, not by propaganda, but by ships. Therefore, we need to talk about ships. M We all need to know what Russian ships are now in the Black Sea,” Snyder said.

Professor Snyder, you said that the reality we are in now was formed in 1989 with the idea that the future would now evolve “automatically”. Is it possible that this is why the world until the last did not believe that Russia would unleash a full-scale war with Ukraine, and was not ready for this?

Yes, that’s exactly what I was talking about. In 1989, the West made its biggest mistake. I certainly do not mean the fall of the Berlin Wall. I mean Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” philosophy, or what Margaret Thatcher called “there are no alternatives.” The West believed that after the Cold War there was no other ideology left than liberal democracy. And that capitalism will automatically lead any country to this. This confidence has since been greatly shaken, but we have lost 20 years during which we could have prepared for what is happening now. But we were too sure that capitalism would do everything for us, and did not listen to other ideas.

If we take Russia, it quickly became clear that capitalism in Russia led not to democracy, but to the oligarchy. And Putin, whom everyone called a rational player, has his own ideas. Possibly bad, but ideas. And when we believe that the future is predetermined and there are no alternatives, we do not hear these other people’s ideas. Therefore, no matter what Putin said, we continued to consider him a rational technocrat, although everything pointed to the opposite.

You are leading the chain from the Holodomor to the Second World War and to the war that Russia unleashed against Ukraine. That is, in your opinion, just as Hitler was Stalin’s successor in relation to Ukraine, so Putin is Hitler’s successor in the same respect?

As I said, they are united by a colonialist view of Ukraine and an attitude towards Ukraine and its citizens as objects, not subjects. However, there are some parallels that are hard to ignore. During the Holodomor, Soviet propaganda blamed the victims themselves, the Ukrainians. And those journalists who wanted to write and talk about it were called Nazi accomplices.

Now Russia is already blaming the Ukrainians for the fact that hunger is creeping up on Africa and Asia. But the reason for the famine that may come is crystal clear – these are Russian ships in the Black Sea.

Russia is now trying to do what it has always done – to create a catastrophe, while blaming everyone else. First of all, your task, as journalists, is not to allow Putin to do this. The world should know that it is Russia that is doing everything to bring hunger to the world. And, I repeat, we must now know “by name” all Russian ships participating in the blockade of Ukrainian grain in the Black Sea.

What do you think Western leaders should do to prevent the scenario you described in your lecture? Famine in Africa and Asia, rising grain prices, Chinese hegemony?

First of all, to prevent this, the West cannot act on its own. I hope that it will not come to this and everything will be settled through diplomatic means, but if it comes to the fact that ships are sent to the Black Sea, then these should not be only NATO ships. This coalition should be much wider – with Egypt, Turkey, African and Asian countries.

Now Putin is trying to create a new International, trying to attract such countries as Brazil, for example. And when Russia starts losing the war, and it starts losing the war, I hope that these countries will not stand together with Russia. But since such a danger exists, the West needs to build a coalition with those directly affected by Russian aggression in Ukraine.

What do you think about the attempts of third countries, in particular Turkey and Israel, to take on the role of mediators in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia?

Any negotiations in which Kyiv does not take an active part seem futile to me. Ukraine should participate in this process, so the dialogue between Turkey and Russia seems unproductive to me.

As for Israel, in my opinion, your country is making a big mistake by not taking a clearer position on the war between Russia and Ukraine. Israel should be much more clearly identified with Ukraine and its fight against the aggressor. Israel must be determined to say, “Yes, this is a war of annihilation. And we will recognize its characteristics.”

By Editor

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