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Hal Brands

Food May Be the Ultimate Weapon in the 21st Century

The strangling of Ukraine shows how agricultural insecurity can be used to foment geopolitical chaos.

Wheat and war.

Wheat and war.

Photographer: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

President Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly rewriting its National Security Strategy, which the White House is required to send to Congress annually, to account for the lessons of the war in Ukraine. One issue that this document will have to grapple with outside its traditional focus on statecraft and diplomacy: food.

The conflict in Ukraine has put the geopolitics of food in the headlines, because Russian President Vladimir Putin has used hunger as a weapon against Kyiv and much of the world. Putin is giving an object lesson in how geopolitical insecurity can cause food insecurity — which can then make a whole raft of problems worse across the globe.