The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused a global food crisis, severely affecting millions in poor countries, and may extend to include a wave of global hunger, which fuels political instability in a number of countries and may encourage the outbreak of uprisings.
Russian and Ukrainian agricultural products are critical to global food security, with the former accounting for 13 percent and the latter 8.5 percent of world wheat exports.
Sanctions against Russia, as well as Moscow’s naval blockade of Ukrainian seaports, have made the two countries’ products scarce on the global market, causing economic shock waves around the world.
An analysis of the magazine “Foreign Affairs” believes that the international community has military and diplomatic options to mitigate the impact of this looming crisis, but at the same time confirms that all these measures that can be taken have negative aspects, or “in short, there are no easy solutions to these the crisis”.
One way to circumvent the Russian naval blockade and liberalize shipments of Ukrainian agricultural exports is to route them overland, with the help of neighboring countries such as Poland and Romania.
Ukraine has already switched to roads and railways to ship grain.
These modes of transportation offer one major advantage, which is that Russia lacks the ability to intercept this traffic, although railways are vulnerable to attacks by missiles or aircraft, but even if they do, they are relatively easy to repair.
Unfortunately, Ukraine’s railway system lacks the full capacity to make up for the loss of maritime trade.
Transporting the entire Ukrainian food exports, estimated at 30 million tons of grain, will require 100 shipments, and some calculations indicate that it will take 14 months to transport all grain by rail, compared to just four months by sea.
NATO military intervention
In another proposal, NATO could use its massive naval fleet and vast air power to escort Ukrainian grain ships, but a treaty known as the Montreux Convention limits the size of the force that can enter the Black Sea, and Russia may also intercept convoys that have its own naval arsenal. Using mines and submarines.
The magazine explains that this strategy will provide the rapid flow of food that the world needs, but it will face several obstacles, foremost of which is the large Russian naval forces, which will have the ability to attack any Western ships interfering in the conflict.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet currently owns 5 frigates, some amphibious ships, dozens of coastal defense vessels, and most importantly, six new diesel-electric submarines.
However, the magazine stresses that Russia’s grip on the Black Sea is not absolute, as it faced the loss of its most important frigate “Moskva” in the Black Sea in April, in a blow that shook Moscow’s capabilities.
But NATO will also be limited in its ability to loosen Russia’s grip on the Black Sea because of the Montreux Convention. regulating maritime traffic in the Turkish straits linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.
The agreement allows unrestricted access to merchant ships, and relatively free passage to the Black Sea states, but limits the size and number of warships that can cross the straits and the length of deployments by non-Black Sea states.
Ultimately, the use of the straits will depend on Turkey, which can, in theory, modify the rules to facilitate NATO’s naval reinforcement, given that Ankara is a member of NATO. But given Turkey’s relatively neutral position in the conflict, its reluctance to jeopardize relations with Russia or the West, and its historical unwillingness to undermine the agreement, the limitations are likely to remain.
And if NATO sends convoys to Ukrainian ports, it may have to face a Russian attack.
Russia has already warned NATO against interfering in the conflict and that this could lead to a third world war.
Russia will not be obliged to intercept all convoys, according to “Foreign Affairs.” It may suffice, for example, to target a quarter of their number, which will affect the flow of grain to the world.
Russia is likely to use naval mines and submarines to attack grain convoys, because these weapons are not only effective, but also secretive and deniable, alleviating the blame. Russia has already planted undersea mines in Ukraine’s ports.
There are also diplomatic options that could be pursued, especially with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently saying that Russia will allow shipments from Ukraine “under some circumstances”.
This means that Russia wants to negotiate sanctions relief in exchange for a partial lifting of the embargo.
Among the proposals, there would be a ship-for-ship, where one merchant ship from Ukraine would be allowed to engage in international trade, in exchange for one ship from Russia to do so.
But this proposal has gained little traction, as it will provide Russia with significant financial resources, which means finding a loophole in the sanctions imposed on it.
But with Western countries reluctant to risk a military confrontation, and the global food situation growing in danger, the diplomatic approach may win international support over time.
Although all options are difficult, “the crisis cannot simply be ignored, because ultimately, if hunger spreads on a large scale and leads to political instability, there will be increasing pressure on the West to act,” according to the magazine, stressing that the United States must have And its allies plan, if they wish to avoid a global catastrophe, that could spiral out of control.