ITUC warns of devasting impacts of Putin’s war beyond the borders of Ukraine and Russia

photo: AFP

The ITUC condemns Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and calls for peace, democracy and dialogue.

The war is causing untold human suffering and destruction. More than 3.5 million people have fled the country in less than a month, bringing the total number of refugees in the world to nearly 25 million.

The ITUC salutes the humanitarian work of its Ukrainian affiliates and the work of unions in neighbouring countries to welcome refugees and help meet their needs.

The priority must be an immediate Russian ceasefire and withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine with the negotiation of a just and durable peace. The needs of the people of Ukraine and the reconstruction of the country will be enormous.

Global impacts

Beyond Russia and Ukraine, Putin’s invasion is having global geopolitical and economic consequences and has exposed weaknesses in the multilateral system. The ITUC is emphasising the following global impacts as a result of the invasion that require urgent action:

  • A worsening global jobs’ crisis: Dependence on Russian oil and gas exports means that energy costs around the world will increase even further and scarcity of some other products will impact global supply chains in a range of areas, putting jobs at risk. Employment levels have still not returned even to pre-pandemic levels – in 2021 there were 13 million fewer women in formal employment compared to 2019.
  • Squeeze on households: Both Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of grain. Various countries are heavily dependent on their exports of wheat, maize, other crops and cooking oil. The rising cost of energy and food, with a cost-of-living crisis already existing in many countries prior to the invasion, will intensify as global supply chain disruption in these and other commodities from the region add to the pressure on households already struggling because of low wages.
  • Rising insecurity: The new war in Europe and the failure to keep peace in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East have exposed the need for an effective global framework for common security.
  • Diversion of finance: An increase in global military expenditure, currently around US$2 trillion a year, will divert vital finance away from crucial economic and social needs and the funding of climate action.
  • Corporate greed: Just four commodity trading companies, which control most of the world’s trade in grain, made record profits last year as economies began to open up during the COVID-19 pandemic. With profiteering by energy companies as well, corporate greed must be not be allowed to cause even more insecurity and poverty.
  • A growing global refugee crisis: Refugee numbers in the world are increasing, with the total number nearing 25 million and tens of millions more displaced within their own countries.

“Governments need to act to stop profit-gouging from this crisis and, with the international financial Institutions, take urgent steps to extend social protection to the millions upon millions of people around the world who face hunger, even starvation, unaffordable energy prices and shortages of key supplies such as fertilizer.

“There are also growing concerns that much-needed aid to Ukraine will be at least partly taken from official development assistance intended for some of the world’s least wealthy countries.

“Putin’s invasion is a nightmare for those who face the daily reality of bullets, bombs and rockets, and it will have extremely damaging consequences worldwide, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable.

“Urgent action is needed and lessons about fossil fuel dependency, diversity in global supply chains and the other fault lines revealed by this war, including the absence of a multilateral framework for common security, must be learned and applied.

“Many governments implemented emergency measures at the start of the pandemic, which helped keep many out of poverty and kept economies afloat. Now, with the global impact of Putin’s was and with inflation increasing, protecting workers’ wages will be vital, as will be the creation of decent jobs.

“Governments will need to consider pricing policies and responses to the economic impacts of this war will need to focus particularly on those most in need,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.