The grain trade has been halted. What are the expected developments?
CAN BURGAZ- On July 17, Russia announced its withdrawal from the grain deal. Despite Turkish President Erdogan's persistent assurances of the Kremlin's continued participation, President Putin expressed skepticism about extending the agreement. However, he also mentioned that Russia would be open to rejoining the Grain Trade if its commitments were met. During the July 21 session of the UN Security Council, Dmitry Polyansky, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, presented seven preconditions for the resumption of the Grain Trade.
The preconditions listed by Polyansky for the possible continuation of the Grain Trade are;
- Removal of sanctions on the supply of Russian grain and fertilizers to world markets.
- Lifting of restrictions on Russian banks involved in the supply of fertilizers and food, and immediate inclusion in the SWIFT international banking settlement system. Actual fulfillment of these conditions is required, not just promises or ideas on the subject.
- Restoring the export of spare parts and components for agricultural machinery from the Russian Federation.
- Solving all issues related to freight and insurance of Russian export food supplies, providing logistics for food supplies. Increased freight costs and international financial settlements have significantly reduced the profitability of deliveries.
- Creation of conditions for expansion of supplies of fertilizers and raw materials for their production, including restoration of operation of the ammonia pipeline "Togliatti - Odessa".
- To unblock spills from the Russian Federation, to ensure the communication of the agricultural industry.
- Restoration of the humanitarian character of grain trade. The agreement should be focused on the interests of countries in need, and not only for the benefit of already wealthy countries.
Following the suspension of the grain deal, the defense ministries of both Ukraine and the Russian Federation issued almost identical statements warning of the danger to shipping in the Black Sea and considering ships as potential military targets. As expected, this situation led to an escalation of military operations.
On the morning of July 17, a bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula with the mainland, specifically the 146th km section of the Novorossiysk-Kerch A-290 highway, was subjected to a bombardment carried out by water combat drones. This attack led to the disruption of normal bridge operations. The following day, the Russian Armed Forces conducted a group attack in the Odesa and Kirovograd regions. Attacks by the Russian Armed Forces on Ukrainian settlements along the Black Sea coast have continued with undiminished intensity.
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has escalated to a new stage marked by a naval war in the Black Sea. Both sides have declared their intention to target naval military assets, categorizing any ship as a potential target. International experts warn that the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports, including Odessa, Nikolaev, and Yuzhny, poses risks not only to Ukrainian ships but also to Russian ships involved in the blockade. The Ukrainian armed forces have been using underwater combat drones, and their strikes could have a significant impact on the Russian Navy.
The escalation of the mine war poses a double threat and is unlikely to be effective in achieving a solution. The situation remains highly dangerous, and both sides must exercise caution to avoid further escalation and potential humanitarian consequences.
The Russian press has extensively discussed the remarks of retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis published in Foreign Policy magazine. Several Russian news agencies, including lenta.ru, rg.ru, ria.ru, ura.news, and rambler.ru, have highlighted Admiral Stavridis' words and presented them as a call to open fire on Russian Navy ships in the Black Sea. However, this portrayal is not entirely accurate.
In reality, Admiral Stavridis was merely suggesting that warships from NATO member states in the Black Sea could accompany Ukrainian ships carrying grain and, if necessary, defend against any potential attacks by Russian warships. His intention was not to call for an aggressive act of opening fire, but to emphasize the potential for NATO warships to provide protection and assistance to Ukrainian vessels in the region.
It is noteworthy that President Zelensky made an announcement about his appeal to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, proposing a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Council to discuss the situation in the Black Sea and the issue of the grain corridor.
Despite the tense situation, V. Zelensky expressed his optimism and hope to continue the grain deal even without Russia's participation. He is waiting for official confirmation from Ankara and the United Nations on the matter.
Turkey is discussing the possible continuation of the grain deal. High-level talks have taken place, including a telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The issue was raised at a meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation S. Vershinin and Turkish Ambassador to Russia M. Samsar.
Both countries underlined their commitment to work together to ensure global food security and expressed their willingness to cooperate on this important issue. Further discussions will take place during the planned meeting between Presidents Erdogan and Putin, signaling their mutual interest in finding a solution and maintaining cooperation on grain trade.
According to expert Pyotr Akopov, if the grain trade continues without Russia's participation, Turkey will play a crucial role. He believes that Turkey and Ukraine could theoretically continue the "deal" by having Turkish warships escort Ukrainian ships leaving Odessa and other ports. However, this approach carries significant risks, as it could lead to the presence of NATO warships in a Russian "special military operation zone," and the "collective West" avoids direct confrontation with the Russian armed forces.
Erdogan is likely to be cautious not to jeopardize Russian-Turkish relations and will seek to reach an agreement with Putin. Russia will continue its complicated interactions with Turkey, covering a range of issues from economic and geopolitical to gas pipeline and Syria. The situation remains complex and multifaceted, with many intertwined interests at play between the two countries.