More political instability could see Russia and China gain influence
It is no secret that food prices are rising – and rising fast. As of today, the global wheat price stood at $1122 per bushel. That is around double what they were in 2020 and well ahead of the previous peak in early 2008.
Rapid food price inflation is a recipe for political instability, especially in the developing world. Last time we had high food prices we saw the Arab world descend into chaos. Commentators at the time were quick to point to the role food price inflation played in the Arab Spring uprisings.
Food price rises leading into political revolutions is a tale as old as time. The French Revolution, for example, was in part caused by grain and bread shortages. The Russian Revolution too was precipitated by persistent bread queues in St Petersburg. Hungry people have a marked tendency to revolt.
The Arab Spring revolutions were seized on by the Western powers to destabilise important strategic regions allied with our enemies. Most famously, they eventually led to the Syrian Civil War. Assad’s government in Syria was a close ally of Moscow and many hoped the civil war could be used to overthrow him and install a leader who would align with the West. President Putin’s military intervention on the side of Assad foiled that plan.
This time, however, there is reason to think that potential revolutions might work in Russia’s favour, not ours. And unlike when the Arab Spring kicked off, we are currently in a world where geopolitical realignment is already taking place, with Russia and China forming an alliance with the seeming intention to create a new world power bloc.
Already Peru has descended into chaos – with the government imposing curfews as protestors erect barricades in the cities. The country’s current president, Pedro Castillo, is widely cast as a centre-Leftist. This is no doubt true. But his party, Free Peru, are not remotely moderate. Free Peru is a radical Marxist party that supports “anti-imperialism”, meaning that they prefer Cuba and Venezuela to the United States and Europe.
Something similar is happening in Africa, with US-trained militaries engaged in a series of coups in its regions. The Wall Street Journal notes that many of these new governments threaten to give ‘Russia an opening to gain sway’.
The food price rises are in part due to the sanctions that we are imposing. I have long been pointing out that these sanctions hurt us more than they do Russia. Now that the rouble has returned to its pre-war levels, this point is being widely discussed. But with food price-induced revolutions threatening to take place, the sanctions threaten not just to hurt us economically, but to shake the world up in such a way that will allow the emerging Russia-China axis to add to its list of allies.