"Harris Tells Americans They Will Have to Pay More for Gas To Punish Russia," proclaimed the New York Times headline recently. So spoke no less an authority on economics than the Vice President of the United States. Harris was on a visit to Poland to reassure a nervous NATO member and to egg on the war in Ukraine at the cost of ever more Ukrainian and Russian lives and higher inflation in the US and the world.
Inflation, Already Bad, is Worsened by the War in Ukraine and US Sanctions
The Times’s report on Harris’s declaration, however, concluded with this sobering reminder:
"The sanctions could also complicate the political situation back in the U.S., where Americans have for months grappled with growing inflation, which has driven down the approval ratings of the Biden presidency.
"The Consumer Price Index rose by 7.9 percent through February, the fastest pace of inflation in 40 years. The average price for a gallon of gas was $4.32 on Thursday, according to AAA. Economists say because of those record gas prices, inflation is expected to climb even more."
To be clear the extraordinary 7.9% inflation increase predates the crisis in Ukraine although Joe Biden has attempted to blame it all on the thoroughly demonized Putin. But unless cause can come after effect, Joe has a tough argument to make there. However, it is clear that the war and the sanctions that go with it are accelerating inflation. (Today as this is written, the March figures for inflation were released showing consumer prices jumping to 8.5%, a 40 year high.)
And it is also clear from every poll that inflation (and the pandemic) are very much on the minds of Americans. Political analysts tell us that the 2022 Congressional elections and probably the 2024 elections will turn in large part on the issue of inflation.
A grassroots approach to stopping the war in Ukraine
It is clear that the public is very likely to oppose US sanctions on Russia and US involvement in Ukraine IF either proves to drive up gas prices, food prices and other items in an accelerated inflationary spiral.
Our strategy should be to link the inflation with prolonging a war in a faraway land which has little to do with US security and risks a nuclear confrontation with Russia.
We should have rallies opposing ALL US involvement in Ukraine by tying them to gas prices, food prices, rents and other items.
Let us have demonstrations, not at the US Congress and not at military bases, but at gas stations and supermarkets. Especially highly visible gas stations; there is surely one near you.
Let us hold up placards with a simple message:
- Biden’s arms to Ukraine = Longer War.
- Longer War = Higher Gas Prices.
- Ukraine is not our biz.
- Come Home, America.
Ukraine as US proxy war against Russia to be fought to the last Ukrainian
The war in Ukraine is a US war with Russia, with Ukraine as a US proxy. So we in the US can stop it by getting one of the parties, the US, to end its involvement. That is the right and moral responsibility of those in the US. And it is the action that we as citizens are best positioned to do. The effective action.
If, in the face of facts, one believes that this is not a US proxy war but a war between the Russia and Ukraine, then it is none of our business. But the course of action is the same. We should still call for an end to sending weapons, materiel and "advisors" to Ukraine and its environs. We should stay out of it and avoid foreign entanglements in European disputes – the very thing that the Founders warned us about. That course is anti-interventionism as opposed to pursuing imperial or dubious ideological agendas.
Finally, the influx of more weapons and materiel prolongs the war and causes more death and suffering for both Ukrainians and Russians. The moral course is to stop that influx. Let Ukraine and Russia negotiate a peace.
The best way to stop escalation of the war is to take the offensive
The Biden administration is getting a lot of credit for refusing to be part of a no-fly zone and turning thumbs down on US troops on the ground in Ukraine. But as time goes by, pressure is building for escalation. At a recent press briefing we saw a number of reporters from the White House press core badgering Jen Psaki and inquiringly petulantly why the President has not done more. And on top of that we have Biden embarrassing himself by making statements contrary to his own policy – either out of confusion or as a way of telling people what the real policy is. Dangerous escalation is waiting just around the corner.
The best way to stop this vehicle from careening onward is to apply the brakes, put it in reverse and leave the question of escalation in the rearview mirror. Let us make de-escalation not escalation the question of the day. Let us push escalation off the table altogether.
Let’s go out to our local gas station or supermarket to stop the war in its tracks and not only avoid escalation but save countless lives. As I finish here, I just heard Max Blumenthal on the Jimmy Dore show suggest something along the same lines, signage at gas stations linking the war and inflation. Let’s try it.
No weapons to Ukraine. No sanctions on the world. End the war and stop the inflation.
John V. Walsh, until recently a professor of physiology and neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, has written on issues of peace and health care for Asia Times, San Francisco Chronicle, EastBayTimes/San Jose Mercury News, LA Progressive, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch, and others.