World leaders are sounding the alarm about Vladimir Putin’s food blockade in Ukraine threatening global shortages and political unrest, but so far they are doing too little. Credit to US General Christopher Cavoli for addressing the issue more openly than politicians have.
“The issue of exporting or not exporting grain from Ukraine is an important issue, not just for Ukraine but for the whole world,” Gen. Cavoli said last week during his confirmation hearing for the post of Supreme Allied Commander NATO. “The way we approach this would have to be a whole-of-government approach, which may or may not include a military component.”
Ukraine normally exports 10% of the world wheat and the wheat harvest starts at the end of June. Normally, about 90% of Ukraine’s grain and oilseed exports pass through Black Sea ports, but the Russian military has captured or blocked them and put pressure on Kyiv.
Europe is struggling to find ways to transport the harvest overland through Poland and then transport it to other destinations by train or perhaps using ports on the Baltic Sea. But the logistics are difficult to manage so quickly — especially with Russia continuing to bomb Ukrainian rail lines. Trucking is also risky, and the Journal reported on Thursday long lines of trucks waiting for hours at the Polish border.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi spoke to Mr Putin about the issue last week. The phone call – like every other recent conversation the Russian has had with a Western leader – didn’t yield much. Mr Putin blamed Western sanctions for the crisis during a phone call with the Austrian Chancellor.
Moscow’s food blockade will cause trouble far beyond Ukraine. Rising prices and shortages could lead to food riots and political unrest around the world. Gen Cavoli warned that terrorist groups like Islamic State “feed on weak governance, food insecurity, corruption and poverty”. Mr Putin’s post-election war has already sent millions of Ukrainian refugees to Europe, and a food crisis could drive millions more to the continent from the Middle East and Africa.
The general did not say if he would support the use of Western warships to escort merchant ships out of the Black Sea, and a Pentagon spokesman said: “There are no plans to use the United States military or any military sources or means to do so.” to help transport grain outside of Ukraine.” Why not?
The White House is understandably concerned about escalation, but this isn’t a no-fly zone where the US would shoot down Russian planes overflying Ukraine. This would be an escort operation in international waters that would take no action against Russian ships that allow merchant ships to sail unhindered.
If Mr. Putin does not give up his blockade, what is the better alternative? The answer should not be hunger and riots.
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8
Appeared in the print edition of June 3, 2022 as “Defeating Putin’s Food Blockade”.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/defeating-vladimir-putins-food-blockade-ukraine-russia-christopher-cavoli-military-11653686401 Defeating Russia’s Food Blockade – WSJ