Black Sea Grain Deal Fuels Russia-Ukraine Conflict

( – The world’s food system is in crisis following a recent decision by Russia to pull out of a large grain deal. The deal in question was the Black Sea Grain Initiative in which Russia agreed to lift its blockade of Ukrainian wheat and export crops from reaching the Middle East and Africa in return for allowing some of Russia’s own agricultural exports to go without sanctions and without being blocked by NATO and the West.

Russia pulled out of the deal on Monday, July 17, but says it is potentially willing to come back to the negotiating table, something Western diplomats hope China can help with. As a major beneficiary of grain and staple crops as well as a Russian ally, China potentially has the power to get Russia to back down and allow Ukrainian grains and goods to once again reach vulnerable and drought-stricken nations. There is still a significant chance this will not be smoothly resolved, however, as Russia believes, Western sanctions have unfairly crimped their global export capacity even before the February, 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Russian officials reject the claim that the war is the reason they are being limited on the world market.

Wheat prices have already risen sharply in the wake of Russia’s exit from the deal and the reimposition of pre-deal blockade measures. Turkey and the UN agreed to the deal last year to try to allow Ukraine’s vital exports to continue flowing despite Russia’s invasion. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Russia’s recent move “unconscionable” and said that it will hurt the poorest countries the most, including nations in the Middle East and Africa which are experiencing serious drought and famine conditions and desperately need Ukrainian staple crops shipped in. At the same time, this move will also position Russia as an even more vital economic supplier to large areas of the Middle East and Africa with Russian grains. The Biden administration has also credited the deal with having “stabilized” world food prices despite the war between Russia and Ukraine.

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