Putin Indicates Willingness to Export Ukrainian Grain Through Belarusian Ports – The Organization for World Peace

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On Monday, May 30, 2022, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said he was ready to facilitate the transport of grain through Ukrainian ports in collaboration with Turkey. However, on Friday, June 3, that proposed plan changed, with President Putin now suggesting that the best solution would be to export Ukrainian grain through Belarusian ports. These statements were made amid a worsening global food crisis caused by the Russian government’s decision to invade Ukraine. In response, dozens of Western states sanctioned Russian products in retaliation.

Putin and President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey discussed plans for a possible agreement negotiated between Moscow, Kyiv and the UN. Erdogan spoke of his wish for Turkey to act as an “observation mechanism” to ensure that Russian aggression does not affect the export of grain through Ukrainian ports. The Kremlin appeared to support Erdogan’s intentions, saying: “When discussing the situation in Ukraine, the emphasis was on ensuring safe navigation in the Black Seas and Azov and eliminating the threat of mines in their waters”, and “Vladimir Putin noted the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate unhindered maritime transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners. This also applies to the export of grain from ports Ukrainians Erdogan appealed to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from Ukraine, stating that Turkey “especially appreciates the project of creating a safe sea route for the export of Ukrainian agricultural products”.

Since June 3, it appears that Putin has abandoned the plan to allow the export of grain through Ukrainian ports in favor of an attempt to use the global food crisis as leverage to lift Western sanctions against Belarus. Putin used Ukraine’s self-defense mechanisms, such as placing mines in the Black Sea, as an excuse for the Kremlin’s refusal to allow exports through Ukraine. Putin said he has “…already told all our colleagues many times: let them clear mines and let ships loaded with grain leave the ports. We guarantee their peaceful passage through international waters without any problems. Additionally, Putin met with President Macky Sall of Senegal, who is also the current head of the African Union. Their discussion focused on food exports to African countries from Russia, both of which have suffered from the supply chain lockdown. Sall tweeted after they met, stating that: President Putin has told us of his desire to facilitate the export of Ukrainian cereals.

The repercussions of Russian aggression in Ukraine are now being felt globally due to the global economic and food crisis generated by the blockage of grain exports from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Russia and Ukraine generate 29% of world wheat exports and 80% of sunflower oil exports. Belarus exports tons of potash, a potash fertilizer used for cultivation. US-based military analyst Glen Howard postulated that Ukrainian crops have a limited life cycle and would begin to rot in July. Therefore, the export situation should be resolved in the coming weeks to preserve crop viability.

Given the history of Putin reneging on his promises of non-aggression and other global agreements, Western nations should not lift sanctions against Belarus. The shift in Russian rhetoric regarding crop exports in the past week alone shows that Putin is a fickle player who will manipulate circumstances as needed to produce the best possible outcome for the Russian state. Instead, Western actors and the UN should consider meeting Putin in the middle. Exports through Ukrainian ports could be facilitated by UN peacekeepers and Turkey if Russia agrees to show a period of non-aggression. Otherwise, Western countries should look for other alternatives to Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian food products.

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