ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

American Opinion: The West must bridge the global divide over Ukraine

Summary: Resources aren’t infinite, but supporting closer cooperation with the developing world would be money well spent. Whether it’s weaning countries off Russian weapons, improving food security for the planet’s poorest people, or promoting efforts to address climate change, the benefits would be huge. The Global South’s unnerving tolerance of Putin’s crimes marks a failure on the part of the U.S. and its friends. It needs urgent attention.

Mourners attend the funeral of Ukrainian soldier Valentyn Zvyryk, who was killed fighting the Russian invasion in the Kharkiv region, on June 2, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Mourners attend the funeral of Ukrainian soldier Valentyn Zvyryk, who was killed fighting the Russian invasion in the Kharkiv region, on June 2, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images/TNS)
We are part of The Trust Project.

One aspect of the war in Ukraine demands much closer attention — the failure of the U.S. and its rich-country friends to build strong partnerships with the developing world. Many governments in Africa, Latin America and Asia have distanced themselves from the allies’ response to Russia’s aggression. This is helping Moscow and does nothing to discourage other regimes with expansionist ambitions. The neglect that allowed it to happen was a serious error, and putting it right should be a high priority.

When the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to condemn the invasion shortly after it started, 35 countries abstained. It wasn’t just China and fellow dictatorships such as Cuba and Nicaragua, but also India, South Africa and Senegal. Others, including Ethiopia and Morocco, didn’t vote at all. A combination of Russian arms supplies, Chinese investment and American inattention persuaded too many governments that their interests weren’t served by aligning with the U.S.

ADVERTISEMENT

American Opinion
American Opinion


It’s part of a wider pattern. The Summit of the Americas, taking place this week in Los Angeles, was seen partly as a way to atone for Donald Trump’s refusal to attend the event in 2018. It’s instead become another source of friction, with the region’s leaders balking at U.S. efforts to manage the guest list. President Joe Biden’s administration has little goodwill to fall back on and continues to struggle with basics like appointing ambassadors. Obstructionist senators are partly to blame for that — but the White House doesn’t disguise the fact that it has other priorities.

In May, a U.S.-ASEAN summit in Washington fizzled, ending with just $150 million of new initiatives for Southeast Asia. The Biden administration is now talking up its Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity — an initiative notable for its lack of ambition, which left many of America’s would-be partners distinctly unimpressed. Last year’s promise of a summit with Africa’s leaders to counter China’s triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation gathering has gone nowhere.

Meanwhile, China’s policy banks have provided more than $130 billion in loan commitments for Latin America and the Caribbean alone between 2009 and 2019. Beijing supplied COVID-19 vaccines to many desperate nations. Russia is a crucial seller of weapons to India and much of Africa, and a main supplier of grain and fertilizer. Neither Moscow nor Beijing asks too many questions about free elections and human rights.

To win better support from developing countries, on Russia and other matters as well, Western governments should, for a start, be less quick to admonish. Appeals to liberal values tend to fall flat with people who remember less principled Western interventions. Also, many see the war in Ukraine as a proxy fight between Moscow and Washington — one where they have little at stake. The remedy is to frame the conflict not as punishing Russia and its autocratic leader, but as aiding Ukraine’s fight for self-determination. A powerful nation started this war by scorning sovereign borders: That’s a threat all can recognize.

Here’s another. A prolonged war will keep food, energy and fertilizer prices elevated, and this puts poor countries, with fewer resources to buffer the impact, in particular danger. It makes sense for the allies to say so, but their warning will get a better response if combined with prompt and generous support for the countries worst affected and most in need. Looking farther ahead, new efforts to address deeper economic vulnerabilities — for instance, by supporting African agriculture and logistics — would serve the diplomatic purpose and help deliver longer-term prosperity.

Resources aren’t infinite, but supporting closer cooperation with the developing world would be money well spent. Whether it’s weaning countries off Russian weapons, improving food security for the planet’s poorest people, or promoting efforts to address climate change, the benefits would be huge. The Global South’s unnerving tolerance of Putin’s crimes marks a failure on the part of the U.S. and its friends. It needs urgent attention.

This American Opinion editorial is the opinion of the editorial board of Bloomberg Opinion.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com/opinion. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

ADVERTISEMENT

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

More editorials:
Recent editorials of other newspapers published in the West Central Tribune.
From the editorial: The days of magnanimity and bipartisan compromise are over. Some people want war and seem determined to provoke it.

What To Read Next
From the editorial: The White House is refusing — as it should — to negotiate with this fiscal gun to its head. Negotiating with terrorists is never wise.
From the editorial: (This is another step away from true government transparency, similar to the Kandiyohi County Board's public notice decision in January to eliminate its public notice distribution to nearly 70% of the county's households. County board chair Roger Ibdieke says the county's public notices are available on its website. A Tribune reader commented on Wednesday, "My understanding is that public notices are available on the kcmn.us website. However, I was unable to find them.")
From the editorial: The man the voters elected bears little resemblance to the disgraced and diminished figure who now puts on a brave face.
From the editorial: To everyone who went through the process this year, and for everyone about to go through it, we offer a grateful “welcome.”