Kyiv Security Forum

Ukrainian grain, famine, and Putin’s "Plan B"

Serhiy Vysotsky, journalist, Member of Parliament of Ukraine, 8th convocation

Blockade of Ukrainian ports and maritime routes in the Black Sea by the Russian aggressors, including the mining of the Back sea waters poses the problem that affects not only Ukraine.

According to FAO definition (UN Food and Agricultural Organization), there are only several countries in the world, including Russia and Ukraine, capable of accelerating their foods production and suspending rampant development of global food crisis. Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, stated that the global food crisis can start already this July. Over 22 million tons of grain still remains in storages. Through the constant threat of Russian military aggression, andbecause of abundant mines in the Black sea waters Ukraine is incapable of directing the said amounts of grain onto globalmarkets. Hence, in the most near future we can witness the global disaster, namely, famine in many countries of Africa and the Middle East. Time runs out catastrophically fast to solve the problem of de-blocking Ukrainian ports, and any delay with the said problem resolution will trigger global migration consequences as well, and the latter ought to be discussed in greater detail.

In its countering the anti-Putin coalition, the Kremlin continues to raise the stakes and aims to destabilize further the global order to the purpose of igniting an even deeper recession, food and energy crises, and social tension. Food terrorism and exploiting famine as weapons of mass destruction becomes yet another long-lasting battle-field that Moscow designs and launches to counteract the Western powers. A number of countries in Africa and the Middle East are bound to become the main scene of tensions, as their political and social order are planned to be undermined through mass starvation. This will bring out an unprecedented migration tsunami, compared to which the European migration crisis of 2015 (the largest continental migration crisis after the World War II) may be described as a light overture to the most dramatic events potentially unfolding in less than a month before our very eyes.

It is common knowledge that the world food market experienced an impressive crisis well before the Russian attack on Ukraine. Currently, the Russians intend to attain yet another goal: through mass starvation and in a fast-track mode to uproot millions of people from different parts of the world and direct them to those countries that the Kremlin perceives as strategic opponents or enemies of Russia. The Russians expect that this new blow hits, first and foremost, social and financial institutes of the Western states on both sides of the Atlantic, and the massive, fast and concentrated flow of migrants from a great number of countries in Africa and the Middle East shakes national economies of the Western world, creates new powerful pressures upon infrastructure and management system, and further aggravates their internal political, social and economic problems.

To implement such a scenario, Russia uses its long-established schemes applicable through decades. To conduct illegitimate transportation of all needed commodities or persons at the right time and place, reliable criminal and semi-criminal schemes and channels were established by the Russian special services for decades. To this very purpose they systematically bought up officials in different countries, orchestrated respective lobbying, identified loopholes in border security of many countries, and bribed special services officials and politicians. This well-established and clandestine system was constantly upgraded and enhanced, and it is through this system that drugs, weapons, and illegal migrants are trafficked.  

It is a well-known fact that Russian special services are among the key players at the international drug-trade market. A notorious fact of such activities is cocaine smuggling case from the Russian Embassy in Argentina, when 12 suitcases containing 389 kilos of cocaine with the total cost of Euro 50 million were identified in the school building within the Russian Embassy premises in Buenos-Aires. According to a number of investigations, the said cargo was personally overseen by Nikolai Patrushev, the Russian Security Council Secretary, who ordered a charter flight to collect cocaine.

Since Russian special services also exercise control over an impressive share of Euro-Asian migration flows, they undoubtedly may employ international drug-dealing channels to organize and direct flows of illegal migrants from the countries affected by food and famine crises. Now, at the time of the consciously staged food crisis, this is Putin’s “Plan B”, namely, to try and hit hard the European Union undermining the EU situation at the backdrop of energy crisis and other problems. 

Until the world-wide famine triggers a massive migration wave as a blow to the European states, EU leaders and all allied states must immediately launch mechanisms allowing to free over 22 million tons of grain blocked by the Russian invasion to Ukraine. The de-blocked Ukrainian grain ought to get to global markets. To this purpose, the European Commission has formed the “Solidarity Routes” Initiative. The EU also needs to ensure closer cooperation with the United Nations Organization, the FARM Initiative (Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission), G7, and across other international formats.

European leaders ought to understand the threat clearly, and stop stretching the time with de-blocking Ukrainian ports filled with grain. They also need to quickly design and bring to life scenarios of unlocking Ukrainian ports and letting Ukrainian grain onto external markets. This problem, if unresolved, can soon turn into an unprecedented migration tsunami that the Kremlin plans to avalanche onto the European Union states. It is mandatory to act now!

*Opinion articles express the views of the authors, but not necessarily of the team of the Kyiv Security Forum.

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