Today's D Brief: Putin’s invasion could spread global unrest; ‘Cost of living crisis’ looms; ‘Strategic patience’ needed; Syria on the Hill; Treasure near Colombia?; And a bit more.
Russia’s Ukraine invasion is triggering food shortages—and could soon help spread social unrest around the globe, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which just released an updated and fairly gloomy forecast for the global economy on Wednesday. (The World Bank released a similarly downbeat forecast on Tuesday.)
BLUF: “Global GDP growth is now projected to slow sharply this year to 3%, around 1½ percentage points weaker than projected in the December 2021,” the authors warn. What’s more, “The effects of the war in Ukraine may be even greater than assumed, for example because of an abrupt Europe-wide interruption of flows of gas from Russia, further increases in commodity prices, or stronger disruptions to global supply chains.”
Big picture: “Growth is set to be markedly weaker than expected in almost all economies,” with many of the “hardest-hit” countries in the European Union, which is coping with an energy crisis and a refugee crisis at once. This will all likely mean “lower incomes and fewer job opportunities” for folks around the world, along with more expensive food and energy prices because of “worsening of supply-chain problems” ahead—all of which combine to suggest “consumer price inflation will peak later and at higher levels than previously foreseen.”
About the unrest: A “cost of living crisis” already looms for many of the world’s countries; but now, “With public budgets stretched by two years of the pandemic, these countries could struggle to provide food and energy at affordable rates to their populations, risking famine and social unrest,” according to the new report. (Those findings echo a recent warning from Oxford Economics, which noted in May, “We have already seen an increase in social unrest in South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, and Ghana, while the fear of unrest has guided policy in Nigeria and Egypt. We will undoubtedly see more unrest in some countries, the question is where and to what extent.”)
“The world is already paying the price for Russia’s aggression,” said OECD chief economist Laurence Boone in a lengthy statement. “If the war escalates or becomes more protracted, the outlook would worsen, particularly for low-income countries and Europe.”
Her advice? Accelerate efforts to cut off “Russia’s ability to finance the war, as is intended by an embargo on Russian oil exports.” (The Kremlin still receives a billion dollars every day from Europe for energy from Russia.) That’s “essential for speeding up an end to this devastating conflict,” said Boone, who also pointed to the urgency of adopting renewable energy sources amid pretty shocking changes to how Europe plans to coordinate its energy sources this winter.
And that all presents another series of challenges, since “clean energy requires inputs, minerals, and intermediate materials which come from all over the planet,” and worsening supply chains are unlikely to help. More broadly, however, “There will be no climate mitigation without open trade and resilient global value chains,” Boone warned. And that suggests we could all be here a while—or at least as long as Vladimir Putin persists with his invasion of Europe’s second-largest country (behind Russia, of course). Find her full statement at the top of OECD’s new report, here; or read over a summarizing page, here.
Says one retired general: “Strategic patience is needed in our support for Ukraine to defeat the Russian invasion.” That’s according to Mick Ryan, who composed a 24-tweet thread Tuesday assessing lessons 100 days into Putin’s Ukraine invasion. “Populations in democracies can be fickle. Opinions change often and attention spans can be short. But this is part of the to and fro, and open expression of views, that is so essential in democratic systems,” he writes.
“Asking citizens to remain patient as their costs of living escalate, and their attention to the war declines, is a tough ask for governments. It will probably not be popular,” Ryan admits. “Strategic patience is required because it is a demonstration that the democracies of the world have the resilience, unity, and perseverance to resist the coercion and aggression of all of this era’s techno-authoritarian regimes…The fight in Ukraine is as much about the kind of world we wish to live in as it is about defeating Russian aggression.” Read the rest, here.
- “Russian army base sees scramble for war supplies, locals and soldiers say,” via Reuters, reporting Wednesday;
- “Looming Global Food Crisis Related to Ukraine War Divides Biden Administration,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Tuesday evening on an unlikely plan to involve Belarusian rail lines as a way to export Ukrainian grain;
- “Inflation, Political Division Put U.S. in a Pessimistic Mood, Poll Finds,” also via the Journal, reporting Monday;
- “Economic Pessimism Growing in U.S.,” Gallup research showed in late May;
- And “Economy bigger priority than punishing Russia: AP-NORC poll,” via the Associated Press, reporting May 24.
From Defense One
In a Connected Era, We Talk Too Much About Individual Weapons // Travis Sharp, Chris Bassler, and Tyler Hacker: Instead, budgeteers and lawmakers should weigh “networked force packages” of arms and gear.
Sweden’s NATO Bid Is in Trouble // Elisabeth Braw: Domestic politics have elevated a Kurdish parliamentarian, and that worsens Stockholm’s Turkey woes.
Lawmakers Plan to Save Some of the 24 Ships the US Navy Wants to Cut // Jacqueline Feldscher: House seapower panel has consensus on five ships; full Armed Services Committee will debate others June 22.
Raytheon Technologies to Move HQ from Massachusetts to Northern Virginia // Marcus Weisgerber: The move means the five largest defense contractors will all call the D.C. region home.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day 50 years ago, nine-year-old South Vietnamese-born Phan Thị Kim Phúc was photographed running naked and yelling, “Nóng quá, nóng quá!” (“Too hot, too hot!”) after having just been severely burned in a South Vietnamese napalm strike. “I grew up detesting that photo,” she wrote in the New York Times on Monday. “As I got older, I feared that no one would ever love me.” She now lives in Canada, where she founded and runs an organization to help provide medical and psychological care to children all around the world who have been affected by war. The Pulitzer-winning photo snapped on this day “will always serve as a reminder of the unspeakable evil of which humanity is capable,” she wrote this week in the Times. “Still, I believe that peace, love, hope, and forgiveness will always be more powerful than any kind of weapon.”
U.S. policy in Syria is under the microscope this morning on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are taking up the issue with the Defense Department’s Dana Stroul and Barbara Leaf from the State Department. That one started at 10 a.m. ET; catch the livestream, here.
Background reading: Learn all about “The Shaky Legal Ground for the U.S. Operation in Syria,” via an essay the Crisis Group’s Brian Finucane penned five months ago in Foreign Affairs.
Related reading: “Kansas woman who led female ISIS battalion in Syria pleads guilty,” via CNN, reporting Wednesday off new charges unveiled by the Justice Department—charges which are additionally interesting if you read closely, as George Washington University’s Seamus Hughes did on Tuesday and shared a screengrab on Twitter.
The Taliban just unveiled new uniforms for their police force, Reuters reports from Kabul. “The main changes, observed on the new uniforms worn by some officers at the briefing, were in terms of colour, now dark blue instead of lighter grey-blue, and the replacing of Afghanistan's tri-coloured republican flag with the Taliban's Islamic Emirate flag on the sleeve.” Read and see more, here.
And lastly today: Underwater treasure found in South America? The Colombian military is sharing photos of a wrecked Spanish ship that was carrying at least two tons of gold, silver, and emeralds when it was sunk by the British navy off the coast of Colombia in 1708, Agence France-Presse reports.
For the record: The wreck was discovered in 2015 but the observation missions by the Colombian navy were carried out recently. The San Jose galleon shipwreck is resting at a depth of nearly 3,100 feet in the Caribbean, and has been untouched by “human intervention,” the Colombian military said. The missions, carried out by a remotely operated vehicle, also found two additional shipwrecks. Though the wreck is in Colombian waters, Spain and Bolivia also believe they have a claim to the treasure, according to AFP. Read on, here.