Analysis by Gerhard Mangot: Inflation and refugees: Putin is pursuing two goals with his “muesli game”.
With the blockade of the Ukrainian ports, Russia is exacerbating the global food crisis. The Kremlin is deliberately cutting off grain shipments and using hunger as a geopolitical tactic. Putin expects two things.
Russia has radically exacerbated the food crisis; But there was a crisis in the industry, and before that, food prices had risen sharply. The aggravation of the situation was caused by Russian military attacks on Ukrainian granaries, but primarily by the blockade of ship exports from the ports of Odessa and June.
Odessa has always been the main transshipment point for Ukrainian grain. However, exports via Odessa are currently made impossible by Ukraine, which has mined the port basin to protect against Russian attacks on the city.
Exciting, but just no time?
Ukraine does not want to destroy the mine belt. This is understandable, since it would significantly increase the threat of a Russian Navy threat to the Odessa region. But if the mine bar stays in place, exports will be difficult even if Russia agrees to free transit, which is unlikely.
How Russia’s “cereal games” are fueling our inflation
Russia has started illegally shipping Ukrainian grain through the ports of Bardyansk and Mariupol, both under Russian military control. But recently Turkey intercepted a freighter loaded with Ukrainian grain. This points to a dilemma: Of course, Russia must not make any money from the stolen grain from Ukraine. On the other hand, every late shipment causes a deterioration in the global grain supply.
At the same time, Russia has kept some of its grain off the world market. Their goal was to raise grain prices and fuel inflation in western states. The Russian leadership hopes this will weaken Westerners and pressure their governments to stop supporting Ukraine. However, inflation does not only affect Western countries, but also many poor countries in the world. In many of these states it would shake social and then political stability.
Food crisis in Africa? Also interesting for Putin because of refugees
In early 2010/11, a food crisis sparked riots in North African and Arab countries in the Middle East. Crises in this region are interesting for Russia because they could significantly increase the refugee pressure on the EU.
The influx of refugees from climate change will increase the influx of refugees from the hunger crisis. However, this would also make it clear that the southern European states are more interested in stability in North Africa and the Middle East than in ending the war in Ukraine.
Will Russia’s role in the global grain supply crisis escalate into outrage in countries most affected by Russia?
The narrative propagated by Russia is countered
Partly yes. But the narrative propagated by Russia is also beginning, that the West is partly to blame for turning a regional conflict into a global one. Russian measures are the result of Western sanctions.
Indian Prime Minister Modi recently said: “Europe turns its problems into problems for the whole world. However, Europeans do not see the world’s problems as theirs.”
In some countries, Russia would sell itself as the savior in need by supplying Russian grain to particularly poor countries.
All actors would have been clear from the start that Russia would retaliate.
So it is true that Russia is using hunger as a weapon in its geopolitical conflict with the West. This is a serious offense. When it comes to energy supply, too, Russia is using its European dependency and the throttling of gas exports in retaliation for EU sanctions.
As reprehensible as Russia’s behavior is, it must have been clear to all actors from the outset that Russia would take revenge on Western sanctions. Economics Minister Habek speaks of an “economic attack” by Russia on Europe. In Moscow, the EU sanctions were described as an “economic power war” against Russia. In this dispute, Russia is using all the weapons it has.
about the specialist
Gerhard Mangot is a professor of political science with a special focus on international relations and security in the post-Soviet space. He teaches at the Institute for Political Science in Innsbruck and is a lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
As in German “potatoes”: Why is the splitter Ataman a stroke of luck for the Greens?