Russia Must Fulfill its Responsibility for Safe Transportation

Russia’s tactic of holding food supplies “hostage” to demand the lifting of sanctions is absolutely unacceptable.

It is essential for Ukraine, a major grain producer, to continue exporting agricultural products even in the midst of war in order to avert a global food crisis.

Russia has announced that it will halt the implementation of an agreement on the safety of maritime transportation of Ukrainian grain that Russia and Ukraine reached a year ago through the mediation of the United Nations and Turkey.

Prior to last year’s agreement, Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea and its attacks on loading ports in southern Ukraine had prevented cargo ships from leaving the ports, leaving grain piled up in warehouses.

If a similar situation were to occur again, there are concerns that exports to the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere could be delayed and grain prices could soar worldwide.

Russia claims that the expansion of exports of its own grains and fertilizers was included in the agreement but has not been realized, and that the fulfillment of these demands is a condition for Moscow returning to the agreement. It must be said that this is self-serving logic.

Western shipping and insurance companies have been reluctant to underwrite cargoes leaving Russia, and exports have stagnated in some respects. The cause of this is credit deterioration and settlement risk, which Russia has brought upon itself.

In addition, it is also noted that Russia is actively exporting agricultural products to friendly countries such as Iran, and the volume of wheat exports is in fact increasing.

As Western nations’ sanctions against Russia do not target the agriculture or food sectors, Moscow’s argument that sanctions are hindering its exports does not hold true. The real intention is apparently to have Western financial sanctions lifted.

The grain export deal was valid for 120 days, but was later shortened to 60 days at Russia’s insistence. Each time the deadline approached, Russia posed its demands and tried to shake up the agreement. To prevent such a situation, it is necessary to establish a permanent agreement.

It is important that exports of Ukrainian grain continue until Russia returns to the agreement.

The hope is that the United Nations and Turkey will ensure that a mechanism is put in place to guarantee safe transportation in the Black Sea while encouraging Russia to return to the deal.

Russia is sweeping under the carpet the fact that its invasion of Ukraine has caused soaring food and energy prices that inflict distress on developing and emerging nations, trying to place the blame on the U.S. and European side.

To counter Russia’s despicable tactics, the United States, Europe and Japan must support Ukraine’s grain exports and work to stabilize food prices.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2023)