Putin could ‘starve’ developing nations to put pressure on the West

Putin's annexation 'changes rules' for Russian military says caller

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Vladimir Putin may cut off Ukraine’s grain supply in an attempt to shake Western resolve, according to an expert. Earlier this year, the United Nations and Turkey set up a deal between Ukraine and Russia to allow Ukrainian grain exports to pass through the Black Sea. The move was one of the few examples of a diplomatic breakthrough concerning the conflict. However, as Putin gets more desperate, he may attempt to pressure the West to give up support, particularly by reducing energy supplies and grain shipments.

Ukraine’s grain exports are down by almost half compared to last year despite the deal, which saw three Black Sea ports unblocked and grain shipped – mostly to developing nations.

However, as Putin becomes more desperate following decisive losses on the battlefield, he may use other means to try to pressure the West, according to Russia expert at UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies Professor Pete Duncan.

He told Express.co.uk: “[Putin] can still threaten to stop selling grain in the West. Russia and Ukraine together export a huge amount of the world’s supply of grain. And Russia effectively controls, at the moment, Ukrainian grain exports as well as Russia’s.”

The move could cause food prices to rise even further, however Western nations wouldn’t likely feel the brunt of the grain shortage. Instead, developing nations which rely on grain imports to feed their populations would likely suffer the most.

Prof Pete Duncan added: “We certainly don’t want to see lots of people in Africa or the Middle East starving because they physically can’t get the grain.”

Earlier this month, Putin threatened to shut down grain shipments, falsely claiming that the grain was headed to EU countries.

Putin said: “Excluding Turkey as the mediator country, almost all the grain exported from Ukraine is flowing not to the poorest countries, but into the European Union.”

He added: “We need to help the poorest countries first and foremost. This is not what is happening right now. And I can tell you that this situation is the outcome of reckless action pursued by the elites of the U.S., U.K. and EU who are labouring under political delusion.”

However, UN data shows that a significant number of the grain ships are indeed heading for the developing world, mostly in the Middle East and Africa.

The comments could be part of Putin’s effort to court developing nations to take Russia’s side in the conflict.

If Russia does decide to pull out of the deal and effectively shut off the supply of grain through the Black Sea, it would be a blow to Ukraine which receives much of its hard currency from selling grain.

A drought in southern Europe also means that Ukrainian grain is in high demand around the globe. The country also needs to make space for this year’s grain harvest in its storage facilities.

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Like limiting the supply of Russian gas, stopping Ukrainian grain exports is a way in which Putin can attempt to pressure the West without using its military.

However, following the illegal annexation of four regions of Ukraine announced yesterday, September 30, military escalation with the West appears to be on the table.

Putin and several of his allies have issued threats against the West claiming that Russia would defend the newly annexed territory using all the means at its disposal.

The situation surrounding gas, grain and even Putin’s threats about the use of nuclear weapons is likely to become more volatile as Putin feels pressure on the battlefield and at home in Russia.

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