On 7 July 2022, while virtually inaugurating the new building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, “I think it is justified to retreat from the act of punishing one country which is hurting the people of the whole world.” She has mentioned that the US-led sanctions were tantamount to violation of human rights as it has been depriving the people of the world from their basic rights. The entire globe, including the developed country, is affected by the sanctions.
The Prime Minister has also said that the imposition of sanctions by the USA and EU has made it difficult the availability of items those are imported by Bangladesh to meet its requirements. Particularly mentioning the production of food, she has said, “But to boost the food production we need fertilizer, diesel and other related materials. We are not getting the inputs.” In addition, she raised the problems faced in transportation of goods from one country to another due to the sanctions. She urged the USA to understand the situation and do the needful so that the people of the world are no longer affected by the restrictions. She reminded that the Russia-Ukraine war and the subsequent sanctions have hit Bangladesh at a time when the country was just recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
The sanctions have already started contributing to disruptions in global supply chains, higher global commodity prices and a slowdown in global economic growth. The IMF forecasts that global economic growth will slow from 6.1 percent in 2021 to 3.6 percent in 2022. Even within the coalition imposing the sanctions, the EU is facing potential economic disruption as the whole Europe remains heavily dependent on energy imports from Russia, especially natural gas. One should not be surprised that some members of the EU might oppose a full energy embargo considering their economic downfall.
We can see the sanctions, aimed at punishing Russia economically, failed to deter Mr. Putin from his Ukraine invasion. In fact, the Western imposition of sanctions has had little impact on Russia’s war effort. On the other hand, the soaring prices of gasoline, diesel and natural gas in the USA, have fueled runaway inflation. In this situation, the American energy producers might not wait to take the opportunity to profit more from the skyrocketing global prices by selling their products to the highest bidders in international markets. The profit bonanza for the US exporters of crude oil, gas and refined petroleum products might make these products costly for American consumers. It is learnt that people there are also facing disruption in power supply.
As the sanctions on Russia are multilateral but not global, the situation might create the option for Russia to seek deeper economic relationships with countries (outside the US-led coalition), like Brazil, China, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, among others. However, it also depends on those countries’ relations with US, EU countries and others in the sanctions-coalition as well as those countries’ strength to stand against the sanctions, particularly the countries dependent on financial helps from US or EU countries. It’s really a difficult time, while the entire globe is passing amidst more than two-year’s corona miseries.
Anyway, the people of the world do not expect that due to the sanctions, agricultural trade is hampered. The war has already disrupted global grain and fertilizer markets, increasing concerns about global food insecurity. Countries like Bangladesh would be the most sufferers if they fail to produce required food for their people. The prices of food products have, by this time, reached at an alarming level. Higher global commodity prices will ultimately cause accelerated and prolonged high inflation in many countries. Higher commodity prices can also weaken economic growth.
If the war continues and simultaneously the sanctions remain there, undoubtedly the commodity prices will go further up, disruption of supply chains for some commodities will increase and the stress on the global financial markets will be deepened. The situation will ultimately be the source of threats to people’s livelihood and political stability of a number of countries. So, the questions about the continuation of globalization and about the ability of any country to act against the wishes of the powerful nations could not be erased.
Our Prime Minister has rightly urged the nations of the US-led group to rethink about the sanctions and it is expected that they will find out the way so that the sanctions will not disrupt the normal living of the people, including the people of Bangladesh, blocking the smooth running of their economic activities and growth. They should not also forget that while the world is coming out of the severity of the Covid-19, at that time there should not be anything to impose that would bring more miseries to people’s lives. Obviously, it is a human concern and one has the right to express and respect that.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary