Putin Breaches Grain Deal, Is He Weaponizing Global Famine?
Once again, the grain works of Ukraine, a major player in the global food chain, is under attack. For the fourth consecutive day, Russian forces have targeted the country’s grain export facilities, intensifying a crisis that Western leaders are calling a strategy to trigger a worldwide food shortage as a means to escape sanctions. This unceasing bombardment, combined with Russia’s training to seize ships in the Black Sea, has resulted in significant collateral damage.
Echoing the fears of the international community, the United Nations has warned that these actions could spur a domino effect of rising food prices, putting millions at risk of hunger and starvation, especially those in poor nations. “Some will go hungry, some will starve, many may die as a result of these decisions,” remarked Martin Griffiths, the UN aid chief, in a meeting with the Security Council.
What’s happening in Ukraine is more than a regional conflict. It’s a struggle that could potentially destabilize global food security, particularly for vulnerable regions like Africa. Countries in the Horn of Africa, like Somalia and Ethiopia, are predicted to be the hardest hit if grain supply is cut off, leading to catastrophic consequences.
The UN has noted that a deal in place had succeeded in reducing global food prices by over 23% since March of the previous year. The disruption of this agreement is where the potential for a global crisis lies. Russia argues that inadequate Ukrainian grain has been reaching needy countries and that it is now negotiating directly with the nations most affected. Furthermore, Moscow insists it will not rejoin the deal unless there are better conditions for its food and fertilizer sales.
Russia has countered these accusations, blaming Ukraine for using the sea corridor for launching “terrorist attacks”. As a result, the Russian Black Sea fleet has started firing at “floating targets”, treating all ships bound for Ukrainian waters as potential weapons carriers. This escalating tension and the attacks on grain export infrastructure are causing benchmark Chicago wheat futures to soar, heading towards their biggest weekly gain since the invasion in February 2022.
In response to Russia’s actions, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine said in his nightly video address, “If someone in Russia hopes that they can somehow turn the Black Sea into an area of arbitrary action and terrorism, this will not work for them.” He added, “We know how to defend ourselves and we see around the world a readiness to work together further and more actively in order to guarantee calm for our region.”
The humanitarian catastrophe that Ukraine faces reverberates around the world. As Martin Griffiths, the U.N. humanitarian chief, explained, for many of the 362 million people requiring assistance, the interruption of crucial Ukrainian and Russian grain threatens the survival of their families. “Some will go hungry, some will starve, many may die as a result of these decisions,” he warned.
The world watches and waits as these events unfold, as decisions made in Eastern Europe could have far-reaching implications that affect people thousands of miles away. The need for swift and comprehensive solutions is paramount, not only to safeguard the people of Ukraine but to prevent a potential global crisis.
Last year as Ukraine’s grain exports were threatened, India abruptly ceased wheat exports. Bengali officials held a clandestine meeting with their Russian counterparts last week, seeking an emergency trade agreement to supplement their starved grain reserves. With over 60% of their annual 7 million tons of wheat usually imported from India, Bangladesh is on the precipice of a daunting food crisis. “Russia may offer us an urgent lifeline with 200,000 tons of wheat,” admitted an apprehensive official from Bangladesh’s food ministry, underlining the nation’s precarious circumstance.
Meanwhile, Somalia is reeling under the shadows of catastrophe, their vulnerability amplified with Russia’s interruption of Ukrainian wheat exports. The aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen food prices in Somalia virtually double, coupled with a shocking 300% increase in fertilizer costs. The nation is also grappling with acute water scarcity after four consecutive failed rainy seasons.
As Russian and Ukraine battle it out, millions teeter on the brink of severe hunger, with the UN warning that hundreds of thousands of children may not survive until the year’s end. “The specter of famine looms closer than ever, unless our response is significantly amplified,” warned Adam Abdelmoula, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Somalia.
One has to wonder, is this something that Putin wants? Is he purposely raising the stakes for the rest of the world to get leverage? Is he, indeed, weaponizing starvation to further his agenda?