opinion | How to stop Russia’s plan for global food chaos

About 25 million tons of grain is now in Ukrainian silos blocked by Russian ships. By disrupting global food and energy supplies, the Kremlin attempts to provoke a number of international crises, forcing the West to pressure Ukraine to negotiate. The US should scuttle Russia’s strategy by establishing a maritime corridor with a naval alliance wishing to ensure Ukrainian grain reaches foreign ports. This would ease the global food crisis while reducing a key element of Russian leverage over Ukraine and its allies.

From its initial military build-up,

Vladimir Putin

Aimed at subjugating Kyiv and the West without marshalling the forces needed to fully conquer Ukraine. Moscow has insisted on achieving objectives that are not geo-strategic in the usual sense of allowing an easy military victory for the Russian military, but could instead pressure Ukraine’s allies and surrender to President Volodymyr Zelensky. can force.

Mr Putin’s annual force build was intended to convince the West that a quick Russian victory was inevitable. Russia’s initial invasion—a multi-axis push After a nationwide missile barrage – the West had to believe it was useless to support Ukraine. Russia’s Donbass offensive, which is now targeting a small pocket around Severodnetsk, is designed to convince the West that Ukraine has no chance, even with more military aid. Along with, and must be interacted with or eaten by Russian bears.

The ground situation is contrary to the Kremlin’s narrative. Ukraine and Russia have both suffered brutal losses, but the former now has 700,000 men of arms and targets a million soldiers till 2023. Ukraine needs equipment, but has also kept it without significant heavy weapons, aggressively bleeding Russian Donbass, pushing back around Kharkiv, counterattacking near Kherson, and Moscow. depriving him of a decisive breakthrough. Over time, Russia would be short of men, shells and cannons.

The Kremlin has publicly implied that Russia is ready to fight a long war, but russia lack of war power To conquer Ukraine or to ban Western arms shipments. Instead, Mr. Putin is betting that the US and Ukraine’s European allies will break up before Russia. Given the scale and propaganda of Western support, Ukrainian morale and combat performance are so closely intertwined with the commitment of their allies that a change in Western policy could destroy Kyiv’s desire to resist.

The war’s disruption of the world economy has allowed Russia to exert additional pressure on the West and bring in new wealth. Rising oil and gas prices have made India and China an attractive side market for the Kremlin’s petrochemicals, while Europe still consumes Russian gas by necessity.

Russian disruption of Ukrainian food exports does something similar. Ukraine is a major producer of most commercial foodstuffs, especially wheat and vegetable oils. Russia has blocked almost all Ukrainian exports by mining the Black Sea and its occupation of Ukraine’s port cities of Mariupol, Berdyansk and Kherson, as well as deploying a significant naval force. Millions of tons of grain are stuck in Odessa. Only a small proportion of Ukrainian food items leave the country, almost exclusively by rail, traveling to Romanian and Bulgarian ports. But Ukraine uses Russian railway gauges, and those countries either do not require modification of Ukrainian railcars or take time to unload and reload goods.

Russia’s goal is partly to exert economic pressure on the West. By raising energy and food prices, the Kremlin could accelerate inflation in Europe and North America. This could force Western governments to push Kyiv for concessions or a deal with Moscow that unlocks Ukrainian grain in exchange for sanctions relief.

The Kremlin aims beyond price volatility; The Russian blockade could also lead to a worldwide foreign-policy crisis for the US and Europe. Moscow learned the lesson of Covid-19: Global shocks can lead to extreme, unpredictable political consequences. The pandemic derailed international supply chains and changed economic and energy-consumption patterns. It still impacts commerce – China has been in lockdown more than two years into the pandemic and foreigners are unlikely to come into the country until 2023.

By disrupting food and energy supplies, the Kremlin seeks to create global confusion and thereby provoke instability and crisis. The saying in the Sri Lanka coal mine is: The country has defaulted on its debt, and the unrest over inflation is widespread. Lebanon is in serious trouble, but is unlikely to receive international financial aid because of Hezbollah’s penetration into its government. The Middle East and Africa were in an accelerated inflationary spiral even before Russia invaded Ukraine. Ukraine is at war exacerbated This cycle. Food prices have begun to rise in Latin America, and there is potential for widespread inflation and economic instability.

A series of regional crises would increase pressure on the West to end the war. The significant African migratory influx, driven by dire economic conditions, would strengthen the Rusophilic Europeans far and wide. The migrant wave in the US will divert the attention of the Biden administration. The collapse of the state in Lebanon—say, would trigger territorial conflict, diverting Western attention.

With all this, Russia hopes to break the will of the West.

The obvious solution is to freeze Ukrainian grain exports, easing pressure on the global food supply and reducing inflation. This would require an extensive demining and escort mission to build a corridor from Odessa to the eastern Mediterranean. This would demand a substantial amount of naval force to stop the Russian blockade.

An escort mission operated under similar circumstances during the Iran–Iraq War under Operation Ernest Will. Iran and Iraq, like Russia and Ukraine, were settled in a protracted battle. Iraq lost its port access after the Iranian attacks. He turned to Kuwait to export Iraqi oil, but Iran attacked Kuwaiti ships. The US responded by deploying a major naval task force to rescue Kuwaiti oil tankers and holding a handful of displays of military might to keep up with Iranian pressure.

In the case of Ukraine, the US deployment should be more aggressive. A nuclear-armed Russia could attack escorting warships, with a clear incentive to prevent greater American involvement in the war. Washington could counter this possibility by deploying a heavy naval task force consisting of small and large surface fighters with submarine and air support. Russia will shy away from interfering.

The US should not conduct this mission through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. France, Italy and Germany would likely veto it. Instead the US should work with an ad hoc coalition—possibly Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and possibly the Baltic states, Sweden and Finland—to reduce NATO divisions.

Turkey is not required to actively participate. But he should allow this coalition force to operate in the Black Sea. That’s why it’s important that the Biden administration gets Turkey’s consent. Ideally Washington would offer to allow Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program and purchase of the F-16, the biggest point of tension between the US and Turkey and the best, low-cost way to ensure Turkey’s acceptance. is the way.

It may seem safe not to intervene, but the wider crisis that inflames Moscow will be far more dangerous. American and allied warships could disrupt Moscow’s strategy without firing a shot.

Mr. Cropsy is the founder and president of the Yorktown Institute. He served as a naval officer and Deputy Secretary of the Navy and is the author of “Mayday” and “Sieblindness”.

Journal Editorial Report: Paul Gigot interviews military analyst Seth Jones. Images: AP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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