Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov criticized Western countries for failing to fulfill the terms of the grain deal. It became clear that it was necessary to negotiate with Turkey and Russia to navigate the Black Sea. After the Russian military liberates Odessa and Nikolaev, Moscow will further strengthen its negotiating position.
It Doesn’t Work That way
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was on an official visit to the Kingdom of Thailand in the second week of September. Loud statements were made at a joint press conference between Sergey Lavrov and his Thai counterpart Don Pramatwinai. Lavrov first said that the Russian Foreign Ministry was working with UN Secretary General António Guterres to ensure that the UN Secretariat fulfills the agreements spelled out in the memorandum.
“We are working with the UN secretary-general and his staff to ensure that the agreements signed in Istanbul between the UN and the Russian Federation are implemented by the UN Secretariat,” he said.
According to Sergey Lavrov, the main problem is that the West does not comply with the terms of the memorandum between the UN, Russia and Turkey, according to which the export of Russian grain and fertilizers must be removed from the sanctions.
“We also talked about international food security, including in the context of artificially inflated statements that it was Russia's actions that caused the crisis on the food and fertilizer market,” he said.
Lavrov explained that “this is absolutely not the case, just the other way around.”
“...Our Western colleagues are now not doing what we were promised through the UN Secretary General, namely, not deciding to eliminate logistical sanctions that prevent free access of Russian grain and fertilizers to world markets,” he said.
A few hours later, the theme was picked up by Russian permanent representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya, who said that “not a single Russian vessel has taken Russian grain out of Russian ports for export.” In this connection Nebenzya reminded that the grain deal was concluded for 120 days with an option to renew it, but “considering the lack of results,” chances are that the Russian Federation would not prolong it.
After the grain deal was criticized by Russian President Vladimir Putin, it became obvious that the clouds were looming over it, and there would be a clap of thunder.
Delivering a speech at the World Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Putin described the fulfillment by Western countries of their obligations as “a scam.”
The Russian President stressed that Western countries tried to put pressure on Russia by manipulating the fact that without the export of Ukrainian grain, the poorest countries of the world would allegedly face famine. As a result, both Russia and the poorest countries were deceived, because, if Turkey is excluded as an intermediary, 85 out of 87 ships were sent to the EU. At the same time, Russian grain exports are restricted by freight, although there seem to be no official sanctions.
“This is another brazen deception, and it is not our fault. This is a deception of the international community, a deception of the partners of Africa, other countries that are in dire need of food. It's just a scam. A boorish and insolent attitude toward the partners for whose sake this was supposedly all done,” Putin said at a plenary session of the WEF on Wednesday.
“We and the poorest countries have been deceived, as the people say, simply ditched,” he said in conclusion.
Putin promised to consult “on this topic with Turkish President Mr. Erdogan as well,” hinting that today, for the navigation of the Black Sea, Russia and Turkey must come to an agreement.
Cast no Greedy eye at Another man's pie
Recall that on July 22, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN signed up the so called grain deal. In the course of this initiative, the water area and the Black Sea coast became the theater of military operations. Ports such as Berdyansk, Mariupol and Kherson came under the control of the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian authorities mined the waters of the ports of Odessa and Odessa region in fear of a Russian landing. Understandably, the hostilities severely affected grain exports, as a result of which the grain stocks contracted by the U.S. corporations Cargill, Agroprosperis and other Western companies were blocked on Ukrainian territory.
Western countries launched a powerful PR campaign, accusing Russia of blocking grain exports from Ukraine while African and Third World countries prepare for famine. In turn, Russian authorities argued that they did not block grain exports from Ukrainian ports. Eventually, on July 22, the parties reached an agreement on a compromise, which was called the grain deal.
Ukraine and Russia each reached a trilateral agreement: Ukraine-Turkey-United Nations and Russia-Turkey-United Nations. Ukraine, Russia and Turkey agreed to export grain through ports on the Black Sea, and that they would not clear such Ukrainian ports as Chernomorsk, Odessa and Yuzhny. Vessels would follow a safe fairway, established a Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul to control the passage of ships and other nuances of the agreement, and also committed not to attack commercial/civilian ships and port facilities involved in the grain deal.
In addition, Russia concluded a separate Memorandum with the UN to unblock the supplies of Russian agricultural products and mineral fertilizers to the world markets. As a result, the first Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni, carrying 26,000 tons of corn, left the port of Odessa on August 1.
Miracles on Bends
Then the miracles began. Apparently, the collective West miraculously fed the suffering countries of Africa with “three spikelets,” because the universal cry for the starving suddenly stopped. The ships with grains set sail... not for starving African countries, but for Turkey and the European Union. In particular, the first ship, Razoni, which departed from Ukraine, moored in the Turkish port of Mersin instead of the declared Lebanon, and then the ships went in caravans to Turkey and EU countries.
The other day, the UN released data on which countries export the most grain from Ukraine via the “grain corridor.” During August, i.e. 5 weeks after the agreement of the grain deal, the list of the ships is the following:
- Turkey - 19 ships;
- European Union (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Romania and Spain) - 16;
- Egypt - 5;
- South Korea - 3;
- Israel, India, China - 2 each;
- Djibouti, India, Lebanon, Sudan - 1 each.
As we can see, among African countries, only Egypt (5) and Sudan (1 ship) received Ukrainian grains.
According to the UN, the breakdown of grains for August is as follows (in thousands of tons):
- corn - 791,689 tons;
- wheat - 216,262;
- sunflower - 125,564;
- barley - 76,500;
- rapeseed - 44,350;
- soybeans - 17,000
- sugar beets - 14,000;
- peas, 3,700.
For the sake of clarity, the Ukrainian media has portrayed the removal of grain from Ukrainian ports during the war as a very progressive step, almost as an exploit of President Vladimir Zelensky and his entourage. In this connection, the well-known French magazine Charlie Hebdo devoted a scathing cartoon to the behavior of the collective West. Cities are burning, military and civilians are dead and wounded, and two typical capitalists in suits and cylinders are carrying stretchers loaded with ears of wheat to the West.
Playing With red Cards
It should be noted that Lavrov's claims were voiced against the background of criticism of the grain deal by the Russian grain traders. Exporters complain that Western countries still put obstacles in the way of Russian grain exports, which is a violation of the grain deal obligations.
At the end of August Eduard Zernin, President of the Union of Grain Exporters, accused the West of “hidden sanctions pressure” when unofficial obstacles are put in the way of Russian exports. According to Zernin, although there are no official sanctions against grain from Russia, “it is still difficult to export from Russia from operational, logistical and financial points of view.” In addition, according to the President of the Union of Grain Exporters, export volumes will be negatively affected by Turkey's decision on October 7 to increase fivefold the fee for passage of ships through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits.
Taking into account that Lavrov's statement was made against the background of a serious drop in grain exports from Russia, much becomes clear. According to the Union of Grain Exporters, export volumes from Russia in July-August amounted to 6.8 million tons, which is 20% less than last year, not including the Eurasian Economic Union countries). The SovEcon agency's figures are even more disappointing. According to its data, there were 5.9 million tons for July-August, which means a drop of 27% compared to the same period last year. The importance the Kremlin attaches to grain exports was demonstrated by the fact that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu personally arrived in Istanbul and signed the documents of the grain deal.
The grain deal clearly showed the whole world that in order to navigate the Black Sea it is necessary to negotiate with Russia and especially with Turkey but the course of the special military operation dictates its terms, so tomorrow the situation may change. The Russian Armed Forces plan is to take Odessa and Nikolaev, after which Russia will have full control over all the ports of the Black Sea coast. This means that Russia will improve its negotiating position, including on the issue of agro-industrial exports.
Therefore, Lavrov's loud statements that the West is not fulfilling its part of the grain deal obligations may be “a reconnaissance battle” to reach a revision of the agreements. However, in general, such statements are voiced because Lavrov and all the ministers and officials involved face the task of maintaining Russia's position among the world's largest grain exporters.