JEFFREY D. SACHS is a world-renowned economics professor, bestselling author, innovative educator, and global leader in sustainable development. He is University Professor at Columbia University, is Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, and President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He has served as an adviser to three UN Secretaries-General and currently serves as an SDG Advocate under Secretary-General António Guterres. He was twice named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders. He is widely recognized for bold and effective strategies to address complex challenges including the escape from extreme poverty, the global battle against human-induced climate change, international debt and financial crises, national economic reforms, and the control of pandemic and epidemic diseases.
Mero Tribune talks with Sachs on the Ukraine war and how it should end-
In your opinion, what is the path out of this war in Ukraine?
The only solution to this war is negotiation. Neither side will defeat the other. If they continue fighting, both Russia and Ukraine will lose, and the entire world will suffer. The rest of the world should call for intensive peace negotiations under the aegis of the UN Security Council. The US and Russia need to negotiate directly as well, to sort out intense and heated differences between them, such as the question of the enlargement of NATO to Ukraine (a bad idea that has provoked intense animosity by Russia).
Sanctions are being imposed on Russia over Ukraine’s invasion. Do you think this strategy works to end this war?
The sanctions are weakening the Russian economy, but will not stop Russia’s war-making capacity or its policies. On many occasions, the US has imposed harsh sanctions (e.g., on Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan) but these sanctions have not had the results that the US has sought. The same shortcoming will occur here. Unfortunately, the entire world is feeling the brunt of the sanctions in the form of higher food and energy prices, and the disruption of supply chains.
What are the chances that the current war in Ukraine could turn into a nuclear war?
The chances are real, through miscalculation, accident, madness, or even imminent defeat of Russia in Ukraine if that were to arise. We should not play with such deadly fire. It is horrendously dangerous for the whole world, a point that we should remember on the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In that crisis, the world nearly ended in nuclear annihilation. The crisis was ended through negotiation and compromise, not a victory by one side over another.
If the war continues, are we in danger of global recession, and surging public debts?
Yes, the world will likely have a hard landing if this war continues. The world is already suffering from stagflation as the result of the pandemic and the policy response to the pandemic (especially a vast increase of money supplies in the US and other major economies). This situation is very hard to handle, and the war and the sanctions regime are making the situation vastly more difficult.
Do you think the US should now negotiate the end of the war in Ukraine?
The US should negotiate directly with Russia over pending issues. The US should also support peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. The US should accept the idea of non-NATO enlargement and Ukraine’s neutrality guaranteed by the UN Security Council. So far, the US has not shown diplomatic flexibility on any of these key points.
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Jeffrey D. Sachs is a University Professor at Columbia University. He is Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, and President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He has served as an adviser to three UN Secretaries-General and currently serves as an SDG Advocate under Secretary-General António Guterres. Sachs has authored and edited numerous books, including three New York Times bestsellers: The End of Poverty (2005), Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (2008), and The Price of Civilization (2011).