Ukraine war’s impact dominates WEF meet at Davos

Davos: The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dominated a delayed and slimmed-down World Economic Forum this year but it took George Soros to articulate what many of those making the trip to the Swiss Alps had been thinking, Reuters reported this week.

Davos would not be Davos without a broadside from the 91-year-old philanthropist and former speculator, but the conflict in eastern Europe prompted his most apocalyptic warning yet.

“The invasion may have been the beginning of the third world war and our civilization may not survive it,” he said.

Others were voicing similarly dark thoughts – some publicly, some privately. So much so, that at times it felt as if the meeting was taking place not in May 2022 but in July 1914 or August 1939, times past when the world has stood on the brink of the precipice.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of Nato, was quoted as saying that the west’s military build-up in eastern Europe was designed to deter Vladimir Putin rather than provoke him, but even if Russia resists the temptation to push the nuclear button it has other ways to escalate the conflict.

There was no sense in Davos of the west easing its sanctions on Russia but fears over the health of the global economy reflected the fact that Putin has economic weapons at his disposal – energy and food – and has already shown a willingness to use both of them.

Higher gas and petrol prices since the start of the war three months ago have added to inflationary pressures in many countries, prompting central banks to raise interest rates.

But for those attending Davos – and there were fewer of them than usual – it was food not energy that was the more immediate threat. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Putin was “weaponising food” by seizing Ukraine’s grain and blockading Black Sea ports.

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said: “The price of food is going up, up, up, up. We can shrink our use of petrol when growth slows down but we have to eat every day.”

Image courtesy of (Daily Sabah)

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