Moscow, while losing the war it launched against Ukraine, seeks to artificially create a global food crisis and blame it on the European Union.
The Kremlin regime is seeking not just to set off a global famine in Africa and Asia, but blame the potential crisis on the West, because, as it claims, EU sanctions have made Russia cut off from international food supply chains, thus dooming millions to starvation … This could be considered the beginning of the initial phase of Russia’s undeclared war on Europe, aimed to divert attention from the war in Ukraine and give a boost to pro-Russian activities in the EU.
Insidious, double-bottomed plot
It makes no bones that it is Russia who is responsible for the worsening food crisis that is currently growing and expanding across the globe. In early April, Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev did not hesitate to call grain exports “a quiet but powerful weapon, as food security in a number of countries depends on Russian supplies.” This maniacal will to make human food needs into a weapon is helpful in Russia’s ambition to expand its presence in new markets – Russia is currently exporting its grain to more than 90 countries. Beyond that, the aggressor country, while waging its war in Ukraine, is deliberately and systematically destroying not only critical infrastructures, but agricultural lands and grain terminals; it is blocking wheat export from Ukraine, and, in May, attacked and destroyed even the Seed Bank in Kharkiv.
According to estimates by the UN World Food Program, in Ukrainian ports alone, almost 4.5 million tons of export-destined grain remain blocked due to the war. Part of the grain Russia seized in Berdyansk, Mariupol and Kherson was taken to mainland Russia and occupied Sevastopol, Crimea. The Russians then send the stolen Ukrainian grain, using forged documents, for export, specifically to Syria.
Thus Russia, in its attempt to muscle Ukraine out of global markets for food, most especially wheat, seeks not just to damage Ukraine economically and set off a chaos in Africa and the Middle East. The aggressor country aims to monopolize trade in wheat as the a global food crisis is looming over the world. In this situation, a global food shortage is almost inevitable, and Russia will try to shift the blame onto Europe.
Witold Repetowicz, a highly reputed Polish analyst believes this to be an attempt by the Kremlin to exert an influence on the governments of wheat-importing countries facing famine and on food-related social unrest events. The consequences of dependence on wheat exports from Russia (including the wheat stolen from Ukraine) will be similar to those already seen in gas and energy supplies, one such being that Moscow will exert pressure on the importers of this highly valued commodity.
Russia wants a global support from wheat-import dependent governments in order to pressurize the West into lifting the sanctions crippling the Russian economy. Another intent is to introduce into the global agenda the narrative that focus should be on the lifting of sanctions enforced on Russia, rather than on the reasons that caused them – that is Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine and Moscow’s neo-imperialist policies… This narrative, it should be noted, is already working, as the media in Africa and the Middle East are often more critical of the West and NATO than they are critical of Russia and its war in Ukraine.
Hunger riots and refugees are allies for Moscow
Setting off social unrest in countries at risk of famine is the first move in this Russian plot. The global narrative — that it is the responsibility of the West to resolve the crisis and provide humanitarian assistance — will be shared not only by the governments of the grain-importing countries friendly to Moscow, but by local societies and the media. This all will fit well into Russia’s plans to exploit the demographic or migratory weapons in countering the West by instigating instability and a new influx of refugees into the EU.
For your information: According to the UN, some 60 percent the world’s malnourished population reside in conflict-affected areas. Last year, 140 million people suffered from acute hunger worldwide, primarily in countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. According to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the war in Ukraine threatens hunger and poverty for 1.7 billion people worldwide, which is 20% of the world’s population. And, according to EurasiaGroup, about 1.9 billion people would have faced food insecurity by November 2022.
That is, Russia can easily gain support from grain-import dependent countries to stimulate migration to Europe, turn a blind eye to, or even encourage the export of jihadism, terrorism, and illegal goods, including weapons and narcotic drugs.
A new wave of migration bound for Europe from the south (from Africa through the Mediterranean to Southern Europe), the southeast (through Turkey to Greece and the Balkans), the east (through Belarus and Russia to Poland and the Baltic States), and northeast (through Russia to Scandinavia), can send many European countries to political crises. This scenario is fully in line with the Kremlin’s plans.
Experts judge that the Russian paradigm of demographic attack will encompass a powerful information and psychological operation that would be targeted primarily at the extreme right and left-liberal circles and aimed to incite fear and foster intolerance towards migrants. This is supposed to send Europe into a political crisis, in which anti-immigration groups who are often more inclined to cooperating with Russia will create alternatives to the governments unable to cope with illegal migration.
The resulting crisis will be exacerbated futher by terrorist attacks, racist incidents, and information chaos. At the same time, pro-Russian media will provide a distorted version of events, with emphasis on growing expenditures, rising prices, and deteriorating financial status for Europeans. As a result, societies most prone to the negative effects of migration will be increasingly less interested in the situation in Ukraine. Nor will they link the migration crisis to the aggressor, Russia, but will even see its capabilities as a solution.
Experts share the view that this scenario is aimed to help Russia win both military and strategic victories in Ukraine and thus pave the ground for further expansion. And this is the last resort measure Moscow is likely to employ to achieve a U-turn in the current trend.
Russia is currently losing the war strategically; its ability to achieve military victory remains in question. The West’s turning away from Ukraine, as it is hoped by the Kremlin, would allow Russia to buy time it needs to revive its capabilities and reverse the situation to win. According to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, “Putin aims to divide the world with a ‘grain war’”.
Thus, the need to counter the Russian campaign of spreading misinformation and distrust in the governments of democratic countries is once again coming to the fore. Not only does Russia threaten the democratic world with weapons, but remains a major security challenge.
A key to preventing this Kremlin’s scenario from coming into reality is the understanding that it will no longer be enough to just circumvent the Russian blockade on Ukrainian grain or reduce illegal migration simply by way of reinforcing Europe’s borders.
After all, a Russian attack using migration as a weapon, according to the classics of this genre, will begin in the countries of the migrants’ origin, as a result of their governments being won over to Russia’s side. A pressing need therefore arises to adopt (at the level of a multinational anti-Russian coalition consisting of a majority of NATO and EU countries, as well as some other countries in the Free World) a comprehensive strategy to disable this Russian plan.
Against this backdrop, Ukraine has warned that there should be no easing of pressure on Russia, and the civilized world’s unity to counter the aggressor country should never be compromised.
One of the key measures that would help foil Russia’s plan to destabilize the EU should be to unblock Ukrainian Black Sea ports as soon as possible and resume grain exports, and the more so because Ukraine has enough stocks for export, and its grain terminals must be emptied for storing fresh harvest of 2022.
The Executive Director of the UN’s World Food Program (WFP), David Beasley, said that Top United Nations officials are leading negotiations on a package deal to ensure that Ukraine can export stalled shipments of grain through the Black Sea. The WFP feeds some 125 million people across the globe, and buys 50% of its grain from Ukraine. Ukraine grows enough food to feed 400 million people around the planet. Beasley appealed, on behalf of the United Nations, to Russian President Vladimir Putin to open the Ukrainian ports, but to no avail. The Kremlin has said that Moscow is ready to look for ways to ship grain stuck in Ukrainian ports but has demanded the West lift sanctions.
According to a UN report for 2021, Ukraine was the world’s sixth largest food supplier with a market share of 10% for wheat and 16% for corn, having exported 20 million tons of wheat and rye, 24 million tons of corn, more than 15-20% of barley, and more than 55% of sunflower seed oil (5.1 million tons).
Among the regions of the world that depend most on Ukrainian food supplies are Africa and the Middle East. Ukrainian wheat exports account for more than 10% of annual wheat consumption in 15 countries.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Russia must be compelled to create corridors so that food and other vital supplies can safely leave Ukraine by land or sea. “There are an estimated 22 million tons of grain sitting in silos in Ukraine right now. Food that could immediately go toward helping those in need if it can simply get out of the country,” Blinken said.
As the all-out war goes on, Ukraine continues to export its agricultural produce through railway, highways, and rivers. Without supplies from Ukraine, the amount of grain available for sale in the world market is decreasing, causing prices to rise. Depending on the type of grain, discontinued grain exports from Ukraine could cause global food prices to increase by 25%, as many countries rely on its exports. That must not happen.
Ukrainian ports must be re-opened
All the countries bordering Ukraine have responded to the problem of grain exports from Ukraine and have either significantly simplified the procedures for registration of freight, or are actively working on it. In particular, liberal conditions for Ukrainian carriers have been introduced by Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, as well as Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, Georgia, Denmark, Greece and, more recently, Austria. A new intermodal route connecting Ukrainian transport hubs to the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta has become one of the main transit hubs for Ukrainian grain exports. This route, however, has been currently suspended due to Russian missile attacks.
Thus, despite the use of all available alternative ways enabling food grain exports from Ukraine, they are not sufficient to ensure a speedy transit of large amounts of grain. It is, therefore, an urgent need to unblock Ukrainian ports and let grain exports out as soon as possible, and especially so because transportation by sea will help bring food prices down.
A good solution would be to join hands across the UN, EU and NATO to raise pressure on Russia to end its war in Ukraine, allow grain shipments by sea and river transport, and de-mine transportation routes among other things. Given the strategic importance of unblocking Ukrainian grain exports, Ukraine is working with international partners to create a United Nations-backed mission to restore Black Sea shipping routes and export Ukrainian farm produce. The mission would be conducted with naval support from a number of the world’s leading countries and involve security measures such as providing air defenses over Ukrainian ports and sea areas, de-mining fairways and port waters, and warships escorting freight ships in transit.
Another way to compel the aggressor to retreat from its plans to destabilize Europe is to defeat it militarily. The destruction of targets by Ukrainian missile strikes on Snake/Zmiiny Island and on militarized gas production platforms in the Black Sea, which have been modified by the aggressor for reconnaissance and surveillance roles, can be considered the first decisive and successful step towards unblocking Ukrainian ports. The recipe for doing this is well known – Ukraine needs more support in its fair fight against the Russian aggressor and the soonest possible transfer of heavy weapons, especially medium and long-range air defense systems, as well as strike systems that will enable a speedy liberation of Ukrainian areas currently occupied by Russia and would allow Ukraine to resume production and export of key food produce to the global market.
Volodymyr Zablocky, Defense Express for Ukrinform