Weekly Update: Biden Weaponises McDonald’s; UP Double Engine Slow Start; Punjab Politics Gets Crowdier
As Russia surrounds Ukraine with over 150,000 troops, heavy weapons, missiles on standby and jets revving up, Ukraine’s ally, the United States of America has sent a threatening message to Putin. ‘We will withdraw McDonalds!’ or something like that. Biden has threatened sanctions that will be the mother of all trade sanctions according to him. ‘Ya have seen nothn yet.’ So Biden retorted in barely audible decibels as if he didn’t mean it. If he does mean it then it must mean pulling back even McDonalds from Russia along with a few other things, such as helicopters and car parts.
The US imports a lot of oil and some platinum and bit of vodka from Russia among other things. Biden says he will stop importing these. Can this war be averted by threatening to stop McDonalds or similar things? Trade between Russia and USA is not eye popping anyway. In 2019 it was a mere $10.9 Billion exports to Russia whereas Russia exported $24 Billion of stuff to USA.
Russia already has huge foreign exchange reserves twice that of USA! It has 30% of world’s natural resources. And most of its trade is to neighbouring countries such as China, Ukraine, Poland, Kazakhstan etc. If it takes over large part of Ukraine, then that trade will be part of its domestic economy.
It’s difficult to see Putin having nightmares over United States threat on sanctions. Out of $551 Billion Russian annual exports, a loss of $24 billion seems miniscule. Ukraine will have to fight its own war. As usual, USA eternal friendship is finitely tied to its interests. Just as it ditched the Afghan democratic government which was relying on USA to protect it against Taliban, it is likely to dump Ukraine’s Zelensky when Putin sends the first tanks into Ukraine.
Sanctions will also mean that USA will force its allies such as EU and Britain to stop trading with Russia. The EU is a different story. As a block, EU is Russia’s largest trading partner exporting some $107 Billion worth goods to EU and importing about $88 Billion worth goods from EU. Sanctions will hit Russia and Putin may have to think hard.
But not so hard. A lot of import by EU is petroleum which is $75 billion worth, about 70% of imports. Rest is mainly minerals. It is difficult to see how EU is going to replace this amount of oil and gas. Germany has understandably long been reluctant to impose sanction on Russia as it relies heavily on petroleum from Russia.
If EU imposes sanctions, the price of oil will sky rocket, throwing many EU economies into possible recession. Just recovering from Covid lockdowns, the impact on European countries will be devastating as they import petroleum products from elsewhere. It will hit rest of world too.
Wily old Global Britain has already said it will not send forces if Russia attacks Ukraine. Little Englanders know they don’t stand a chance if Russia nukes Britain in anger and the current Brexit economy of Global Britain can’t afford another war, especially if Big Uncle Sam doesn’t relish sending any forces to aid Ukraine.
Putin has of course calculated all this. From his position, Ukraine has been a thorn in its security. Ukraine wants to join EU thus aiding its expansion to the borders of Russia. Ukraine could also give United States military bases. Russia has already compared this to the Cuba crises that faced USA in 1962 when the Soviet was planning to install missiles in Cuba on the doorsteps of United States.
Trouble with the West is that it has demonised Russia under Putin in its media and made a number of threatening statements warning Putin not to advance into Ukraine. This rhetoric could get in the way of finding a peaceful solution to the standoff between Russia and Ukraine although they, the West, have also been saying that sending forces against Russia is out of the question!
It should dawn on Ukraine that it is in the same position as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan which fell to the Taliban and has become the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan when USA decided it had enough of the friendship with Afghan democracy.
Although high level meetings to avoid war are between Putin and Biden, it will ultimately be up to Ukraine to either accept its fate peacefully or under force. Putin is neither bluffing nor eager for war. His terms for avoiding war are on the table. If Ukraine understands its position, it will let the West know that it will not join EU and will not invite US to set up bases in Ukraine. If not, then Putin is likely to unleash his forces and colossal firepower and take a significant part of Ukraine.
Unless of course Putin decides that he cannot do without a Big Mc in which case Biden’s threat of sanctions as retaliation for any war on Ukraine might just miraculously work. On the other hand, capitalist McDonalds may decide that it doesn’t want to forego profits in Russia and may call its burgers ‘Putin Burgers’ to get around sanctions. These wars are becoming multifaceted and complicated these days.
Double Engine But Slow To Start
Scurrying to save the BJP in Uttar Pradesh (UP) after retreat from farmers, PM Modiji has been trying his persuasive powers to win voters back to BJP. Farmer leader Tikait has dented the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the state with the largest number of MPs in the Centre. Currently, UP is under BJP ruled by the monk Yogi Adityanath with a mixture of anti-Muslim rhetoric and Hindu revivalism.
‘Double engine Government’ said Modiji, is good for UP and everybody. By double engine he means, BJP government in UP and BJP government at the national level. Modiji laid the foundation of a ₹36,250 crore Ganga Expressway which will be the longest in the state. One stone has been laid. When it will have the last stone is another matter. Characteristically he even threw in a soundbite. UP + Yogi = UPYOGI. Only in Hindi it is flattering.
Not impressed, Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Shrimati Mayawati said, “Now near election the double engine government, meaning after 10 years, the Ganga Expressway has been announced and that also in two phases” Laelo ji double engine.
Equally unimpressed, the Samajwadi Party leader, Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, “Hathras’ daughter, Lakhimpur farmers, Gorakhpur traders, unsafe women, unemployed youth, daily and backwards all are saying the present government is ‘unupyogi (useless)’ than up-yogi.”
Punjab’s Politics Gets Crowdier
Already with more political parties than districts in Punjab, the over-crowded political space of Punjab has been joined by yet another new party. Fresh from their victory, a group of farm leaders under Gurnam Singh Charuni, has announced the setting up of Sanyukt Sangharsh Party. Their agenda, ‘To clean Punjab politics!’
There are many things Punjabis can do, including forcing one of the most powerful political parties in modern India to take back laws. But cleaning Punjab politics is a task that even God may shy from attempting. Nevertheless, Gurnam Singh is going to take on this more than Herculean task by fighting all Vidhan Sabha seats and bringing in Left ideology. MSP for all, fresh from Kisan Morcha.
Maybe the impossible might be achieved, politics will become cleaner and Punjabis will stop migrating to Canada at the creak of an open door and find jobs at home instead. There are more IELT classes than jobs in Punjab these days. These could be replaced by more job opportunities. Singhu border comes to Punjab.