Russia Sets Conditions to Ease Black Sea Blockade
Kyle Anzalone and Will Porter / The Libertarian Institute
(May 20, 2022) — Russia has offered to relax its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, but only in exchange for sanctions relief from the West, amid fears that the war raging in Eastern Europe is driving a major international food crisis.
The Russian Foreign Ministry made the proposal on Thursday, after United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Moscow was to blame for global food shortages, insisting it “must permit the safe and secure export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports.”
“There is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by Russia and Belarus, into world markets – despite the war,” he added.
Both Russia and Ukraine are major grain suppliers, with Turkey, Iran, Bangladesh and Egypt buying the majority of their wheat from the two countries. Poorer nations in the Middle East and North Africa also heavily depend on such imports, including Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Lebanon and Tunisia.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko later responded, arguing his country is not solely responsible for the burgeoning food emergency while pointing to Western sanctions blocking the export of grain and fertilizers.
“You have to not only appeal to the Russian Federation but also look deeply at the whole complex of reasons that caused the current food crisis,” he said, slamming US and European sanctions which “interfere with normal free trade, encompassing food products including wheat, fertilizers and others.”
The UN chief also urged for an end to sanctions targeting Moscow’s agricultural sector, saying “Russian food and fertilizers must have unrestricted access to world markets without indirect impediments.”
Moscow’s call for sanctions relief has yet to receive a public response from Washington or Brussels, but it coincided with reports that the White House is now looking to provide advanced anti-ship missiles to the Ukrainian military to break the blockade by force, as well as the passage of a new $40 billion aid package, the largest of its kind since Russia’s invasion kicked off in late February.
The Joe Biden administration has favored heavy sanctions and arms shipments over diplomatic outreach throughout the conflict, and appears unlikely to entertain the Russian offer.
US Has Plans To Sink Russian Black Sea Fleet
Kyle Anzalone / AntiWar.com
(May 20, 2022) — Shortly after Reuters published an exclusive story that the White House was looking to move advanced anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, an official in Kiev said that the US is making a plan to sink Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs adviser Anton Gerashchenko tweeted, “The US is preparing a plan to destroy the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet. The effective work of the Ukrainians on [Russian] warships convinced [the US] to prepare a plan to unblock the [Ukrainian] ports. Deliveries of powerful anti-ship weapons are being discussed.”
Gerashchenko cited the Reuters report on Washington’s effort to ship Harpoon and Naval Strike Missiles to Ukraine. The missiles have a range of up to 300 km and cost $1.5 million each.
Three US officials and two Congressional sources told the outlet the White House was still working out the details for sending the advanced weapons to Ukraine. Logistical issues and the possibility the US would have to remove a launcher from one of its ships to send to Ukraine are current obstacles to completing the transfer.
Responding to a question from Newsweek, the State Department did not deny it was working on a plan to take out the Russian fleet. “As the conflict is changing, so too is our military assistance to deliver the critical capabilities Ukraine needs for today’s fight as Russia’s forces engage in a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine,” a spokesperson said.
However, the Department of Defense issued a sharp denial of the claims made by the Ukrainians official. “I can tell you definitively that that’s not true,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday afternoon. The Pentagon denial applied only to the Ukrainian official’s assertion the US was helping sink the Black Sea fleet, and did not refer to the proposed anti-ship weapons transfer.
Gerashchenko said the attack would help to open up Ukraine’s ports. Russia currently controls the Black Sea and maintains a blockade. The UN has called for an easing of restrictions in the sea to allow food exports from Ukraine to help alleviate global food shortages.
Moscow has offered a diplomatic solution to the Black Sea standoff. On Thursday, the Kremlin proposed lifting the blockage in exchange for sanctions relief. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the problem goes beyond the blockade and includes Western sanctions restricting fertilizer exports.
“You have to not only appeal to the Russian Federation but also look deeply at the whole complex of reasons that caused the current food crisis. [Sanctions] interfere with normal free trade, encompassing food products including wheat, fertilizers and others,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said.
Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of Antiwar.com, news editor of the Libertarian Institute, and co-host of Conflicts of Interest.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.