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The Geopolitical Dance of Hunger, Hegemony, and Corporate Dominance
In March 2022, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, issued a warning regarding an impending crisis related to hunger and the global food system in the aftermath of the events in Ukraine.
Guterres highlighted the alarming escalation in prices for food, fuel, and fertilizers, along with disruptions in supply chains. He emphasized that this situation was disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable populations, which in turn was sowing the seeds of political instability and unrest on a global scale.
Contrary to this dire outlook, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems has assessed that there is currently an ample food supply, and there are no imminent concerns about a shortage in global food provision.
Although there is an evident abundance of food, prices are soaring. The core issue lies not in a scarcity of food, but rather in the speculative trading of food commodities and the manipulation of a fundamentally flawed global food system. This system appears to prioritize the interests of corporate agribusiness traders and input suppliers over the genuine needs and food security of the populace.
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The conflict in Ukraine is fundamentally a geopolitical struggle involving trade and energy dynamics. It largely revolves around the United States engaging in a proxy conflict with Russia and Europe. This engagement aims to isolate Europe from Russia and impose sanctions on Russia, ultimately impacting Europe and potentially fostering greater dependence on the United States.
Ultimately, the conflict is aimed at Europe, particularly Germany. The intent behind the imposed sanctions is to hinder Europe and other allied nations from expanding their trade and investments involving Russia and China.
The implementation of neoliberal policies since the 1980s has eroded the foundations of the US economy. With its productive capabilities significantly diminished, the only viable strategy for the US to sustain its dominant position is to weaken China and Russia while also undermining Europe.
Starting around two years ago, both President Biden and US neoconservatives embarked on efforts to obstruct the progress of Nord Stream 2 and all forms of energy trade with Russia, with the goal of exclusively controlling these ventures.
Despite the ongoing promotion of the “green agenda,” the United States continues to rely on energy derived from fossil fuels to exert its influence internationally. Even as Russia and China move away from the use of the dollar, the control, and valuation of oil and gas, along with the resulting indebtedness, denominated in dollars, remain crucial elements in the US's endeavors to maintain its dominant position.
The United States possessed advance knowledge of how the imposition of sanctions on Russia would unfold. The envisioned outcome was the division of the global landscape into two distinct blocs, fanning the flames of a new Cold War. On one side, there would be the United States and Europe, while on the opposing side, China and Russia would emerge as the primary players.
US policymakers understood Europe would be significantly affected by elevated energy and food costs, and countries in the Global South that depended on food imports would bear the brunt of escalating expenses.
This tactic of engineering substantial crises to preserve global hegemony and trigger spikes in crucial commodity prices, effectively ensnaring nations in reliance and indebtedness, is not unprecedented for the United States.
Back in 2009, Andrew Gavin Marshall recounted how, in 1973, shortly after disengaging from the gold standard, Henry Kissinger played a pivotal role in orchestrating events in the Middle East, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and the “energy crisis.” These actions aimed to perpetuate global dominance for the US, which had virtually drained its resources due to the Vietnam War and had encountered challenges from the economic ascendance of Germany and Japan.
Kissinger masterminded substantial increases in oil prices within OPEC, thus securing substantial profits for Anglo-American oil corporations that had overextended themselves in North Sea oil ventures. Furthermore, he established the petrodollar framework with Saudi Arabia, subsequently ensnaring African nations—engaged in oil-centric industrialization—in a cycle of dependence and debt due to the surge in oil prices.
A widely held belief is that the strategy of high-priced oil was strategically directed at causing harm to Europe, Japan, and developing nations.
In the present day, the United States is once again engaging in a campaign that adversely impacts vast populations, a tactic designed to foster reliance on both the US and the financial institutions it employs to cultivate dependence and indebtedness–namely, the World Bank and the IMF.
The repercussions of this approach mean that hundreds of millions are and will be plunged into poverty and hunger due to US policies. Curiously, these individuals–the very ones that the US and entities like Pfizer claimed to be deeply concerned about and sought to inoculate–are instead treated with disdain and seen as collateral damage within the broader geopolitical maneuvering.
Contrary to common assumptions, the US has not misjudged the outcomes of its imposed sanctions on Russia. The escalation of energy prices is benefiting American oil corporations and bolstering the US balance of payments by enhancing its role as an energy exporter. Furthermore, the rationale behind sanctioning Russia is to restrict its exports, including wheat and gas used for fertilizer production, thereby resulting in a rise in agricultural commodity prices. This development also serves the interests of the US as an agricultural exporter.
This strategy is how the United States aims to assert and sustain its dominance over other nations.
The prevailing policies are strategically devised to engineer a crisis involving both food and debt, particularly for less affluent nations. This crisis of indebtedness can then be leveraged by the US to coerce countries into persistently privatizing and divesting their public assets, all to meet the obligations arising from increased imports of oil and food.
This imperialistic approach is built upon the foundation of “COVID-19 relief” loans, which have been harnessed for a comparable agenda. In 2021, an evaluation by Oxfam concerning IMF COVID-19 loans exposed that 33 African nations were prompted to adopt austerity measures. In 2022, the world's most impoverished countries are slated to allocate $43 billion for debt repayments, an amount that could otherwise address the expenses of their food imports.
Oxfam and Development Finance International have additionally disclosed that out of 55 member states in the African Union, 43 are confronted with public spending reductions amounting to a cumulative $183 billion over the upcoming five years.
The global economic shutdown in March 2020 (referred to as “lockdown”) catalyzed an unparalleled wave of global indebtedness. Attached conditions mean that national governments are compelled to yield to the stipulations set forth by Western financial institutions. Predominantly denominated in dollars, these debts contribute to reinforcing the supremacy of the US dollar and enhancing US influence over countries.
The United States is constructing a fresh world order, necessitating the preservation of a significant portion of the Global South within its sphere of influence, as opposed to them aligning with Russia, particularly China and its Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at fostering economic prosperity.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the core objectives behind the conflict in Ukraine, sanctions imposed on Russia, and the orchestrated crises in food and energy become evident.
The US has effectively maintained sway over much of the Global South through agricultural pursuits and the manipulation of the food supply. The strategic lending tactics of the World Bank have transformed countries into regions dependent on food imports, steering them away from cultivating sustenance crops in favor of cash crops meant for export and plantations.
The oil sector and agribusiness have been intricately linked in line with the overarching geopolitical strategy of the United States.
The prevailing concept of “food security,” championed by major global agribusiness entities such as Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, and Louis Dreyfus, and endorsed by the World Bank, revolves around the capacity of individuals and nations to procure food through purchases. This notion is devoid of any emphasis on self-sufficiency and heavily focused on interconnected global markets and supply chains overseen by colossal agribusiness corporations.
Parallel to the oil industry, control over global agriculture has remained a cornerstone of US geopolitical tactics for several decades. The dissemination of the Green Revolution was facilitated by interests rooted in oil-rich domains, leading economically challenged nations to embrace the chemical- and oil-reliant agricultural model propelled by agri-capital. This model necessitated loans for inputs and associated infrastructure development.
This approach effectively ensnared nations within a worldwide food system reliant on monoculture export commodities to generate foreign currency, intricately linked to the repayment of sovereign debt in US dollars and the directives of the World Bank and IMF's “structural adjustment” policies. The outcome has been a profound transformation of multiple countries from states of food self-reliance to those grappling with food deficits.
This process has also entailed the countries being locked into cycles of commodity crop production. The need for foreign exchange (in US dollars) to secure oil and food supplies solidifies the imperative to augment the cultivation of cash crops destined for export.
The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) established by the World Trade Organization delineated the trade framework that underpins this form of corporate dependence, which is often masked as “global food security.”
This narrative is elucidated in a July 2022 report by Navdanya International titled “Sowing Hunger, Reaping Profits—A Food Crisis by Design.” The report underscores that international trade laws and the push for trade liberalization have notably favored significant agribusiness entities, perpetually leveraging the foundations laid by the Green Revolution.
The document highlights that the leadership of US lobbying efforts and trade negotiations was entrusted to Dan Amstutz, former CEO of Cargill Investors Service and a former executive at Goldman Sachs. Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 as the chief negotiator for the Uruguay round of GATT, Amstutz played a pivotal role in enshrining the interests of US agribusiness into the newly established regulations governing global commodity trade, thereby facilitating subsequent waves of expansion in industrial agriculture.
The Agreement on Agriculture essentially stripped away protective measures for farmers in the face of global market prices and fluctuations. Coincidingly, allowances were made for the US and the EU to persist in subsidizing their agriculture, thereby conferring an advantage to prominent agribusiness enterprises.
Navdanya's report underscores:
“With the elimination of state tariff protections and subsidies, small-scale farmers were left in dire straits. This has translated into a significant disparity between farmers' earnings for their produce and the prices consumers pay, as agribusiness intermediaries seize the lion's share.”
The pursuit of “food security” has contributed to the erosion of food sovereignty and self-sufficiency, all in favor of the integration of global markets and the amplification of corporate dominance.
A vivid illustration of these dynamics unfolds in India. The now-repealed recent agricultural legislation in India was orchestrated to subject the nation to the “shock therapy” of neoliberalism, reminiscent of what other countries have endured.
This wave of “liberalizing” legislation had a dual purpose: to serve the interests of US agribusiness while ensnaring India in a state of food insecurity. This scheme aimed to compel the nation to dismantle its vital food buffer stocks—crucial for national food security—and instead engage in competitive bidding on the volatile global food market, using its foreign reserves to procure food from agribusiness traders.
The Indian government's pursuit of this trajectory was thwarted solely due to the monumental, year-long protest led by farmers.
The ongoing crisis is further stoked by speculation. Navdanya highlights an investigation by Lighthouse Reports and The Wire, revealing how investment firms, banks, and hedge funds exploit the surge in food prices through speculative ventures in agricultural commodities. The pricing of commodity futures has severed its link to real market supply and demand, being now dictated solely by speculation.
Giant players like Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus, and investment funds including Black Rock and Vanguard continue to reap astronomical financial gains, resulting in the cost of basic necessities like bread nearly doubling in some economically challenged nations.
The callous “solution” propagated by global agribusiness in response to the prevailing food crisis revolves around urging farmers to amplify production and strive for higher yields, as if the crisis can be attributed to insufficient output. This recommendation promotes the use of more chemical inputs, genetic engineering techniques, and similar measures, exacerbating farmer indebtedness and perpetuating reliance.
This narrative mirrors the long-standing falsehood perpetuated by the industry—that the world would perish without its products and, consequently, needs more of them. The reality is that the world grapples with hunger and escalating food prices because of the framework that major agribusiness corporations have established.
It's a recurring tale—pushing novel technologies even without a pressing issue and subsequently leveraging crises to justify their implementation, all while sidestepping the underlying causes behind these crises.
Navdanya outlines potential remedies to the current predicament, centered on agroecological practices, streamlined supply chains, food sovereignty, and economic democracy. These approaches align with principles frequently expounded upon in various articles and official reports throughout the years.
In the realm of countering the assault on the well-being of ordinary individuals, a groundswell of support is emerging within the labor movement, particularly in locales like the UK. Mick Lynch, leader of a rail union, advocates for a working-class movement rooted in solidarity and class awareness. This movement endeavors to confront a billionaire class acutely attuned to its own class interests.
For an extensive duration, the concept of “class” has been notably absent from mainstream political discourse. It is solely through organized, unified protest that everyday people stand a chance of achieving significant influence against the emerging global order of authoritarianism and the pervasive onslaught on the rights, livelihoods, and living standards of ordinary citizens. As we bear witness to these dire circumstances, the imperative to unite and resist grows ever more compelling.
The true power to shape this world has always lain in your hands. Choose well!
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