Sec. Austin on new weapons: “Everyone here understands the stakes of this war, and they stretch far beyond Europe. Russia’s aggression is an affront to the rules-based international order and a challenge to free people everywhere.”
Day 89 of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The food crisis is almost upon us as Russia denies the passage of grains through Odesa’s port.
The UN’s World Food Programme blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for putting the world on the brink of a food catastrophe.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis explained why the only way to access the grain is through the port.
More Weapons for Ukraine
Defense Secretary Llyod Austin confirmed that 20 nations are sending new weapons to Ukraine:
At a news conference with Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Austin said that the new munitions would include U.S.-made Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles and a launcher, which will be provided by Denmark for coastal defense.
The Czech Republic will send attack helicopters, tanks and “rocket systems,” and additional howitzers and artillery ammunition will come from Italy, Greece, Norway and Poland, he added.
Mr. Austin made the announcement after a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a group of dozens of countries formed last month to support Ukraine with military aid.
“Everyone here understands the stakes of this war, and they stretch far beyond Europe,” Mr. Austin said. “Russia’s aggression is an affront to the rules-based international order and a challenge to free people everywhere.”
General Milley said that 47 nations had participated in the virtual meeting of the group on Monday morning, however a list of participants provided to reporters before the news conference listed only 40 nations, along with the European Union and NATO.
UN: People “Marching to Starvation”
David Beasley, the head of the UN’s World Food Program, warned the world that millions are “marching to starvation“:
David Beasley condemned Russia for “a declaration of war on global food security” after it blocked Ukrainian grain exports, and said that 325m people are at risk of going hungry as a result. Around 43m most in danger are already “knocking on starvation’s door”, he said.
Ukraine is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wheat, fourth-largest exporter of corn and top exporter of sunflower oil, with most of its crop going to poor countries in the developing world.
Mr Putin has prevented shipments from leaving Ukrainian ports, while Western officials say his army has deliberately destroyed agricultural equipment and harvest stores.
Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Beasley described the impending disaster as “the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two”, with a massive wave of migration into Europe likely to follow as hunger rises.
He said: “What do you think is going to happen when you take a nation that normally grows enough food to feed 400m people and you sideline that?
“You add fuel costs, food costs, shipping costs – it is devastating.”
Grain and Odesa
Landsbergis argued in The Hill the world should help Ukraine avoid a food crisis because the country is a major world provider of wheat, corn, sunflower and rapeseed oil, and other fats.
“From last year’s harvest, Ukraine still has in its silos close to 30 million tons of grain,” Landsbergis wrote. “Despite the war, bombing, and labor shortages — and many fields inaccessible or contaminated with unexploded ordinance and the debris of battle — this year’s harvest could bring in millions more.”
The West might not feel the pain except at the grocery store. The lack of grain means it will not reach places in Africa, the Middle East, and southeast Asia. Those countries depend on food imports.
Plus, the UN World Food Program received half of its grain from Ukraine.
Ukraine needs its ports to transport goods. Landsbergis explains why:
Rail traffic to Poland looks like a viable option, but, due to technical decisions from czarist times, the railway gauge in Ukraine differs from that in neighboring Poland and Romania and much of the European Union. That means that in order to export anything by rail, each carriage needs to change its gauge or be unloaded/reloaded. That is costly and takes a lot of time. This also means only a very limited amount of grain could reach a Lithuanian port by rail, for example, because the gauge change would need to happen twice, once on the Ukrainian-Polish border and again at the Polish-Lithuanian border.
No gauge change is needed to transit through Belarus to Baltic ports, but to get less than a third of Ukraine’s grain to market, it’s hard to know if the concessions demanded by President Alexander Lukashenko — who has made his country a participant to the war by allowing Russian troops to stage and attack Ukraine partly from Belarus — would be worth the risk of giving him leverage over the world’s food supply.
Transit by truck cannot begin to match the need, even with special transit permissions that are being considered. It is costly, and there are already diesel shortages in Ukraine.
Russia took Crimea in 2014. The country captured Mariupol.
That leaves Ukraine with Odesa but Russia has started to encroach on the port city:
The only way to get Ukrainian food fully back into the global food supply is to allow Ukraine to use the port of Odesa for agricultural exports. Odesa’s port is made to handle the volume, and get it out to the world. Now, it remains under threat of Russian attack, it is cut off by Russian blockade, and it is rendered unusable. This situation has to shift. There is no other way to feed the world.
The countries who consider the looming global food crisis a serious challenge — and who neither believe that Russia should have the right to cut off Ukraine nor that Russia should profit from increased prices on its own grain exports to fund the slaughter of Ukrainians — should guarantee a safe passage of ships from Odesa across the Black Sea to the Bosphorus.
Yes, this might require a naval presence to guarantee that civilian ships carrying grain are not attacked by Russia’s Black Sea fleet and that Russian ships do not run the corridor to take Odesa. And yes, we should also ensure that Ukraine has midrange missiles that can continue to defend Odesa from a Russian assault.
But it is a non-military endeavor, and it is not escalation to guarantee food supplies. If we are serious about averting a crisis, this is what needs to be done. Odesa must be opened. Ukrainian grain must flow. Russia must not be allowed to starve the world to choke Ukraine.DONATE
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