Tom Stevenson

Tom Stevenson’s pieces for the LRB will be published in a book by Verso next year.

From The Blog
24 May 2022

On 18 May, Finland and Sweden applied to join Nato. There are very few countries in the world that can plausibly claim to have tried to conduct a principled form of foreign policy. Two of them are now seeking to join a military alliance composed of states with long histories of aggression and war crimes. If completed, the Nordic expansion of Nato would leave only three states of any size – Ireland, Austria and Switzerland – to keep up the tradition of European neutrality.

Not War Alone: The Price of Wheat

Tom Stevenson, 12 May 2022

National grain supplies are an emotive subject: they are a test of the basic competence of the administrative state. An empty central granary once meant imminent political collapse. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and US sanctions on Russia have severely disrupted grain exports from both countries. Between them, Ukraine and Russia produce about 15 per cent of the world’s wheat. The International Fund for Agricultural Development estimates that the area around the Black Sea is the source of 12 per cent of globally traded caloric intake. In addition, modern industrial farming is heavily reliant on hydrocarbons. As energy prices have risen so has the cost of fertiliser. The result has been a steep rise around the world in the price of all major staples except rice. Suddenly investment bank analysts are consulting soil fertility tables. Political commentators are paying attention to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s food price index. It has been climbing since the summer of 2020, but April saw the third major jump in succession.

There is​ a striking asymmetry in the global economy. In terms of trade and GDP the world has three poles: the United States, the EU and China. But in the international financial system a single state has overwhelming power. The vast majority of transnational payments are routed through US banks. US treasury bonds are the de facto reserve asset around the world. The Fed is the global...

Things fall from the sky

Tom Stevenson, 7 April 2022

In Lviv the curfew was still in effect, but I found a driver with a car that was not quite falling apart who was out in the dead of night regardless. He took me through the empty streets at speed until he got lost, stopped, and got out of the car to hold an ancient map of the city in front of one of the headlights. By six in the morning Lviv’s central train station was surrounded by lines of people moving in all directions. Large numbers of the displaced have come to the relative safety of the western cities. Here, too, people were sitting around fires, but they had wood and cardboard to burn. A woman holding a printout of the Norwegian flag above her head was leading people towards the coach stand. A group of American evangelicals turned up and were getting on the buses and shouting about God. ‘We came all the way from America to tell you Jesus loves you,’ one teenage girl said as her friend translated into Russian. There were thousands of people in the station building but only one train. The few station workers and volunteers were overwhelmed.

A Tiny Sun: Getting the Bomb

Tom Stevenson, 24 February 2022

The Non-Proliferation Treaty had been in force since 1970, to discourage non-nuclear states from acquiring nuclear weapons, but the existing powers had only paid lip service to disarmament. Now the US could focus on non-proliferation as a tool of power politics. It often failed. The Clinton administration sought to prevent North Korea getting the bomb, and with the 1994 Agreed Framework succeeded in temporarily hindering its weapons programme. But after the US refused to finance civilian reactors for North Korea under international safeguards the agreement came under strain, and the George W. Bush administration pulled out of the deal entirely. Pyongyang acquired its first nuclear weapon in 2006. Advocating non-proliferation is a common hobby for retired American officials with time on their hands and a less than clean conscience. Were the US actually committed to limiting nuclear weapons, it would at the very least have to declare a ‘no first use’ policy for its own nuclear arsenal. The Soviet Union, China and India have all made such a pledge in the past (Britain and France have not).

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