(NewsNation) — Russia is taking its war from the battlefield to the wheat field, in a struggle that is creating global hunger and inflation.
Since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, grain has been sitting in Ukraine’s ports. Some 22 million tons of grain are stuck in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, leaving a large portion of the world without food and fueling high inflation.
Russia ships more than 18% of the world’s grain supply, followed by the U.S (16%), Canada (14%), France (10%) and Ukraine (7%). The World Food Program buys half of its grain to feed the world’s needy.
With help from Turkey, the UN brokered a deal Friday to move grain out of Ukraine’s ports. But already, that deal is in jeopardy.
Less than 24 hours after that deal, Russian forces bombed Ukraine’s largest port in Odesa. Russia says they hit ‘military portions’ of the port, not where grain is stored. Despite the attack, Ukrainian officials say their first ships filled with grain, should leave this week.
“We expect that the first ships may move within a few days.”
The UN leaders say the deal is still intact, and that Ukraine will be able to move grain out of its ports through the Black Sea. But after Saturday’s bombing of the Odesa port, many wonder if ships filled with grain will be safe.
“This is just the consistent pattern of Vladimir Putin … this policy of atrocity, where we have, in this instance, an agreement and then the next day, Russia goes about undermining it, or at least trying to demonstrate that it’s not going to abide by it,” said Joel Rubin, former deputy assistant secretary of state Joel Rubin.
“We saw this … early in the conflict with Ukraine where Russia would make an agreement with Ukraine to allow civilians to exit certain parts of the country, and then we begin to bomb those parts. So this is a bad faith negotiation by Russia.”
The international community is cautiously optimistic, knowing Putin agreed to Ukraine export grain again, but never promising to make it easy.
“Despite these attacks, we do understand that the parties are continuing preparations to open Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for food and fertilizer exports. We are clear-eyed going forward, but we also continue to expect that the Black Sea agreement will be implemented.”
The deal is good for four months. Once the backlog of grain is moved out, the true test of Ukraine’s ability to move around their war-torn country will begin. Moving gas to farmers and transport trucks and dealing with labor shortages are all hurdles the Ukrainian government must overcome to deliver the grain.
Meanwhile, as Ukraine gets ready to move food out of its ports, Russia is on a diplomacy mission to reassure it can deliver its grain to buying countries and to fix its international image.
The Russian foreign minister is in Africa, attacking the U.S. and other western countries for recent involvement in the Russia-Ukraine war.
“There’s a lot of irony here. Let’s just call it hypocrisy by Russia … going to countries and denouncing the United States as in imperialist power, as it is engaging in imperialism against Ukraine, right now, militarily,” Rubin said.
“As to those grain shipments and if they’ll be safe once they leave Ukrainian ports, Russia entered this agreement with more than just Ukraine. It is internationally monitored and includes Turkey. So, if Putin interferes with the shipments, he is breaking an agreement with many countries, which could bring more pressure to him. After all, (what’s) on the line is getting food to starving people.”