Lenin said that ‘there are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks were decades happen’. Putin’s actions in the Ukraine may well see the fate of future decades of global warming decided in a matter of weeks.
If Vladimir Putin attempts to annex the Ukraine he will be fastening our eco-systems death sentence to maximise returns on two investments – lebensraum and agriculture to the east of Russia and to the west, the testing of Liberal Democracies.
The Paris Agreements, signed by 196 states, have committed the planet towards staying well below two degrees of global warming. At two degrees 400 more people would suffer from water scarcity. 3 degrees would lead to flooding in Miami, Shanghai, Hong Kong and hundreds of other cities. Southern Europe would be in permanent drought. The number of wildfires in Europe would double. They would sextuple in the United States. At four degrees river flooding damage would increase sixty fold in the United States and the world would be in a permanent food deficit.
Two degrees of global warming has been labelled an ecological tipping point, after which we don’t know how the planet’s ecosystems will behave. Mike Berner’s Lee illustrates this phenomenon describing how the ‘‘Anthropocene’ has been like a PH titration experiment. In the lab, the acid might be dripped into a flask of alkali solution. For ages there is no colour change at all because the alkali still dominates, then suddenly, one more drip and the balance shifts. The flask turns acidic, the indicator turns from blue to red and the world inside the flask becomes an entirely different place’.
Theoretically, Russia is one of the few nations on the planet that will profit from the climate crises Putin intends to use this to improve the nations geopolitical standing. While Chatham House suggests that Russia will be one of the worst effected countries from severe droughts, affecting between 50-60% of cropland, The New York Times writes that the ‘vast majority’ of Russian land, previously ‘impossible to farm’, may become farmable as a result of global warming. Research from Tchebovka suggests that ‘if humans continue to emit carbon dioxide at high rates, roughly half of Siberia – more than 2 million square miles – could become available for farming by 2080’. This means that through ecological breakdown, through the floods, the fires, the droughts, they will gain farming land approximately ten times the size of the United Kingdom. Moreover, the melting of the Arctic ‘would cut transit times from South East Asia to Europe by up to 40% and also shorten travel times to the United States, positioning Russia to profit by controlling this route between China and the West’.
The New York Times converts this equation into geopolitical terms writing that ‘the scarcer food and other resources become on a global level, the more the ability to produce food domestically becomes a tool of power. And the more nations can keep themselves afloat in this changing world, the more they stand to profit just by watching others sink… all of that makes the flow of people – whether you call them climate refugees or human capital – an inseverable part of the geopolitical power struggle driven by climate’. Peter Frankopan writes that it is ‘perhaps an ominous sign that President Putin’s PhD dissertation was concerned with the strategic planning and the uses of Russian mineral resources’.
Thus we have a situation where the greater the levels of global warming the greater the availability of Russian land and the greater the Russian control of the trade routes and the food supply. They hope to use the climate crises to be at the top of the food chain.
War in the Ukraine will be of great detriment towards the environment.
Army’s are some of the greatest polluters on the planet. The US army is the is the ‘single biggest institutional consumer of hydrocarbons on the planet’. Moreover, the process of making war creates extraordinary levels of carbon emission.
Professor Crawford provides an explanation of the forms of carbon emission created through warfare:
- Military emissions for installations and non-war operations.
- War-related emissions by the military in operations.
- Emissions caused by the military industry – for instance, for production of weapons and ammunition.
- Emissions caused by the direct targeting of petroleum, namely the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties.
- Energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.
- Emissions from other sources, such as fire suppression and extinguishing chemicals and from explosions and fires due to the destruction of non-petroleum targets in warzones.
Russia’s army and air force has 280,000 military personnel, 2,840 battle tanks, 5,220 fighting vehicles, 4,682 artillery pieces, 1,520 air defence surface to air batteries and 150 ballistic missiles. They would be fighting the Ukrainian army of 145,000 army personnel, 858 battle tanks, 1,184 fighting vehicles, 1,818 artillery pieces, 75+ air defence surface to air batteries and 90 ballistic missiles. The Russian airforce contains 4,509 aircraft vehicles.
A Russian invasion will feature fighter jets, air strikes, tanks, mortars, missiles, heavy artillery and machine guns on both sides and hundreds of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian troops. The site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is in the Ukraine. Ukraine hosts 15 nuclear sites all of which would be vulnerable in the event of war. Therefore the consequences of war will be of great detriment towards the limitation of carbon emissions.
The consequences of invasion are as of equal concern towards ecological breakdown. As a Ukrainian refugee crises combined with images of Russian power may advantage the Far-Right throughout Europe.
There is a strong correlation between the 2014 Syrian migrant crises of 5 million people and the anti-immigration policies and the rise of the European Far Right. In France in 2017 Marine Le Pen and the Front National, a party who couldn’t even secure funding from French banks because of ties with anti-semitism, received 33.90% of the vote after prioritising the issue of migration. 4 years before she had received 17.9% of the vote. In Italy, the countries right wing populist leader reached the position of Deputy Prime Minister in 2018, his support a result of anti-immigration policies following a ‘big influx of sub-Saharan migrants from North Africa in 2016’. In 2017, two years after Merkel offered asylum to a million refugees, the country who has done more than anyone else to remember the legacy of totalitarianism, gave 12.6% of votes to the AfD who won 94 seats. In Spain in 2019 Vox won 52 seats. Prior to 2019, ‘just a single seat had been won by a far-right candidate’ since the death of dictator Francisco Franco. This was in 1979. In Austria in 2017 The Freedom Party became the only far right party in power, just like Italy, France, Germany and Spain, immigration and the migrant crises were voters greatest concern.
The US estimates that the invasion of the Ukraine will lead to a migration crises of 5 million people moving towards NATO and European Union countries. The 2022 French presidential election demonstrates the continuing sensitivity of continental politics towards the subject of immigration. All of the four major candidates are right wing and two represent the far-right. Everyone of these candidates is focussing on the subject of migration. The reaction towards 5 million Ukrainian migrants would serve to drive the support for the anti-climate change anti-EU far-right throughout Europe.
Soviet Historian Anne Applebaum makes it clear that Putin is seeking the destruction of the European Union and America writing that Putin’s geopolitical goals are to ‘destroy the European Union. Remove American influence from Europe and everywhere else, forever’. Putin has offered constant support to far-right movements that seek to undermine the European Union and actively sought to attack the strongest Western Liberal movements. Timothy Snyder’s book The Road to Unfreedom details the brutal cyber campaign’s on Germany with cyberattacks on the German parliament and German security institutions in 2014 and 2015, possibly an explanation for Germany’s initial failure to engage with the subject of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine, and then America with the Russian Internet Research Agency working to ‘move Trump into the Oval Office’, strategies of foreign interference included the leaking of 150,000 emails from the Hilary Clinton campaign and vast cyber campaign’s attempting to generate support for the Trump campaign and discourage voters from supporting Hilary Clinton.
Snyder’s analysis on Putin’s meddling in the Syrian Refugee crises suggests that Putin may use a Ukrainian invasion to encourage the destruction of the European Union. Snyder writes that Putin used bombing campaigns in Syria intentionally to worsen the Refugee crises in order to encourage support for the Anti-European Union far-right. Therefore, Snyder suggests that Putin is conscious of the consequence of refugee crises’ on European Liberal Democracies and may, in part, create refugee crises’ to help destroy centrist politics within the European Union.
Images of a successful Russian invasion of the Ukraine may have great consequence for the support of the parties that support Putin. We have not seen a war in Europe since 1945. We have not seen a successful military annexation of an entire European nation state since the seizure of Berlin in May 1945. Margaret Thatcher’s 1982 reclaiming of the Falklands was of great significance to her political success and re-election in 1983. Even in democracies the electorate respect military strength, thus images of Putin’s power and American weakness may traumatise citizens into submission to the pro Putin far-right.
Like Donald Trump, the German far-right reject the Paris Agreements efforts to limit global warming to 2 degrees. The Guardian writes that the AfD ‘rails against the supposed “eco madness” and reward climate deniers’… ‘strategically, the AfD is using climate politics as a key way to distinguish itself from the established parties. It’s leader, Alexander Gauland, sees climate as the ‘third big issue for the AfD’ after the Euro and the refugee crises’. Therefore, through the creation of a refugee crises of 5 million people, Putin will serve to hurt the European Union, weaken global liberal democracy, and create support for the politician’s that will march the planet towards four degrees of warming and give Russia access to 2 million acres of farm land.
At 69 Putin may not live much longer. Putin is seeking to experience his vision of the future before he is dead. Putin aims to accelerate global warming, burning and drowning nations at the same time as Russia strengthens its position in the food chain.