Russia: About those Ukrainian grain shipments…

Source: Hot Air

Back when Turkey helped broker a deal between Russia and Ukraine that would allow grain shipments out of the Black Sea to resume, I expressed skepticism as to how sincere Vladimir Putin was in his efforts to “feed the world.” Now, after nearly 90 ships have set sail carrying more than two million tons of grain, Putin is calling for the negotiations to be reopened and threatening to end the agreement. He claims that the original arrangement was intended to send food to poorer countries, particularly in Africa where many nations are facing severe food shortages, but very little grain has gone to those destinations. We might understandably question these charitable concerns suddenly being expressed by the Madman of Moscow, particularly in light of all of the war crimes he is responsible for in Ukraine. But as we’ll see in a moment, it turns out that Putin is actually correct. (Reuters)

President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he wanted to discuss reopening a U.N.-brokered deal that allows Ukraine to export its grain via the Black Sea after accusing Kyiv and the West of using it to deceive developing countries and Russia.

Putin’s criticism, which alleged that the deal was delivering grain, fertilizer and other foodstuffs to the European Union and Turkey at the expense of poor countries, is likely to raise fears that the pact could unravel if it cannot be successfully renegotiated.

Ukraine, whose ports had been blockaded by Russia since it invaded in February, said the terms of the agreement were being strictly observed and there were no grounds to renegotiate it.

At first glance, these developments carry a threat that many people were worrying over when the initial negotiations were taking place. The only reason the Ukrainian ships are able to make these journies is that the mines have been cleared from the Black Sea shipping lanes. But now that the passages are safe once again, Russian warships will be able to take the same passage in the other direction and attack Ukraine. We haven’t seen evidence of that yet, but it’s not hard to imagine that this was Putin’s plan all along.

And yet, as I mentioned above, Vladimir Putin actually has the facts on his side for once. Everyone who followed the news of those negotiations will remember that one of the loudest cries coming from the western alliance had less to do with helping Ukraine by bringing its grain to market and far more to do with easing the hunger of poorer, primarily African nations that are currently experiencing famine conditions.

But of the 88 ships that have left port carrying grain thus far, shipping records indicate that only two of them were destined for World Food Program destinations in Africa. They carried just 60,000 tons of grain, amounting to only 3% of the total volume that’s been shipped. Almost all of the rest went to Turkey, where they were redirected to other destinations. The majority of the grain has wound up going to European Union members, though other shipments were sent to China, India, Iran, and Egypt.

So Vladimir Putin turns out to be 100% correct in his accusation regarding the destination for all of this grain. But it’s not clear that Africa being the primary destination was actually spelled out in the agreement. That idea mostly showed up in speeches and press releases urging the completion of the deal. Also, Putin likely has another motivation to want to blow this arrangement up. As long as the grain was going to Africa he gets to look like the good guy. But most of it is going to feed the people of the coalition that is currently engaged in economic warfare against Russia.

Don’t be terribly surprised if some Russian warships show up in those shipping lanes quickly and the grain shipments become more “complicated.” And we should be equally on the lookout for any of those ships showing up near Ukrainian ports and shelling Ukraine’s military assets from the sea. I hope I’m wrong, but Putin has a well-established record of coloring outside the lines.