Russian propaganda at the UN Security Council: economic dimension

Russian propaganda at the UN Security Council: economic dimension

11 August 2023
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The pro-Kremlin neo-Marxist economist and propagandist, Mikhail Khazin, was supposed to brief the UN Security Council about the economic impact of Russia terminating the Ukrainian grain shipments. Instead, he emphasised to the UN audience that Russian wheat output shortfalls were a greater threat and that Western sanctions on Russia could dangerously reduce world wheat export trade. While declarations like these were expected, the question is – why does the UNSC remain a platform for Russian propaganda?

An unusual event occurred at the UN Security Council meeting on the 21st July 2023. The neo-Marxist Russian economist Mikhail Khazin addressed one of the Western institutions he has criticised and condemned for the past two decades (as early as 2003 he wrote a book about the end of “dollar empire” and “Pax Americana”).  

His six-minute video conference briefing was surprisingly inserted into the Security Council debate on Russia’s withdrawal from the ‘Grain Deal’ facilitated by Ukraine, Turkey and the UN a year ago. In line with Russian propaganda, Khazin denied any significant impact of excluding Ukrainian grain from the international market and claimed that the bigger threat are sanctions which hamper Russian wheat exports. These sanctions include Rosselkhozbank’s (Russian agricultural bank) disconnection from the SWIFT international payment system, the ban on the supply of Western agricultural machinery and spares, and suspension of the Togliatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline (the demand to restart the ammonia pipeline while Russia attacks Odesa with missiles looks especially bizarre). 

Note that exports of Russian grain (which included stolen Ukrainian grain) and fertiliser were not sanctioned, and a special Russia-UN memorandum signed within the grain deal stated that the UN would facilitate these supplies. This has not prevented Russia resorting to ‘hunger blackmail’ with warnings of food shortages. In fact, during his ‘objective briefing’ Khazin repeated Russia’s threat to starve millions of people in the poorest countries if sanctions are not lifted (this is also indirect evidence that sanctions work and should be strengthened). The “economist” noted that Russia substantially increased wheat exports last year from 35 million tonnes to 58 million and that the country accounts for over a third of world grain exports. This implies that Russia could, if it wished, selectively discontinue all grain shipments to so-called “unfriendly” countries allied with the West. Conversely, favouritism could be shown to “friendly” countries as in the recent promise of free grain to six African countries.

The economist who gave the briefing, Mikhail Khazin, is a well-known but controversial propagandist in the Russian pro-government media. He has no official status other than as head of a small private macroeconomic research group that provides weekly economic reviews for its subscribers and publishes occasional books. But his main “job” seems to be daily production of quite long podcasts for “ordinary Russians” that promote the official political agenda but from a radical neo-Marxist standpoint that appeals to nostalgists of the Soviet era. His podcasts (that attract 200,000 to 400,000 views each on YouTube alone) focus on criticising Western economies and the politics of the West. They promote the idea that the capitalist western world is economically doomed and will be replaced by a new global political and economic order in which Russia will play a key role. It is noteworthy that the Russian economy is run by conventional liberal economists such as the CBR head Elvira Nabiullina and the minister of finance Anton Siluanov, who have been the constant targets of Khazin’s criticisms. 

In his podcast on 24 July 2023 shortly after his UN briefing, Khazin painted apocalyptic consequences of the ‘Grain Deal’s’ termination: famine in eastern Europe engineered by the West, collapse of the Western economies, and a full US withdrawal from Europe and even the Middle East. As the core “Old Europe” countries could afterwards only muster an army of 300,000 to protect themselves against Russia, the European Union abandoned by the US would have to retreat militarily to a defensive line “from the Baltics to the Alps”, roughly to its Cold War eastern border. This would mean, in his view, transforming Eastern Europe into a lawless “no-man’s” land where private armies and terrorists would be active and where Russian and even Chinese military bases could be stationed. However wild they are, these fantasies reflect Russia’s and China’s aspirations for the new world order, and therefore should be taken seriously.

The appearance of Khazin in the UN Security Council debate is another sign that in Russia economic considerations are secondary to its political agenda. Russia is ready to sacrifice not only international trade but also its own economy for its political ambitions of “ruling the world” or “returning to Cold War greatness”. Thus, not only the developed countries but also the Global South, which will primarily suffer from de-globalization, should aim at defending the world’s existing rules-based order. Today that is possible only with Russia’s decisive military defeat. To speed up this defeat, companies and governments should exit the Russian market and stop helping Russia to produce weapons and to finance its weapons production.

Authors
  • George Witherington, Formerly of the Russian team at the BBC Monitoring Service and Visiting Lecturer in Economics and Finance, University of Westminster (2007-2013)

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The author doesn`t work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations