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Armed escorts needed to allow Ukrainian food exports

Jun 22, 2022 | Opinion, Editorials, Featured

Ukraine in the global export

Marco Levytsky Editorial Writer

Thanks to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine and its blockade of Ukrainian ports, the world is facing a global food crisis.

More than 20 million tons of grain are stuck in silos at Ukrainian ports, as Russian blockades prevent ships setting sail with wheat, corn and other exports. Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine was the world’s top producer of sunflower oil and a major maize and wheat exporter. Russian forces have also been stealing grain and deliberately destroying storage warehouses in Ukraine.

On June 17, World Food Program (WFP) Director David Beasley said that “frightening” shortages of key food staples put tens of millions of lives in jeopardy and risk destabilizing countries that are heavily reliant on imports.

“Even before the Ukraine crisis, we were facing an unprecedented global food crisis because of Covid and fuel price increases,” said Beasley. “Then, we thought it couldn’t get any worse, but this war has been devastating.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on June 18 called for international pressure to end a Russian naval blockade of Black Sea ports. The United Nations and some other countries are pushing for a maritime corridor to be opened up to allow exports to resume.

“The world will face an acute and severe food crisis and famine, in many countries of Asia and Africa,” Zelenskyy said in a video address to the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore.

“The shortage of foodstuffs will inexorably lead to political chaos, which can result in the (collapse) of many governments and the ousting of many politicians,” he told delegates, including Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and China’s defence minister.

The problem is that Russia will not allow a humanitarian corridor to be set up to allow food exports from Odesa, unless Western nations drop their sanctions. Putin has also been lobbying African leaders to urge Western nations to drop their sanctions so that they can get their food. With all the human toll and destruction, the Russians have inflicted upon Ukraine, dropping sanctions cannot even be considered. To enable food shipments to countries in Africa and Asia that depend on Ukrainian exports to feed their populations, armed escorts are needed to accompany the cargo ships out to the Black Sea and to the Bosporus Straits.

Western nations, however, are reluctant to provide this critical assistance just as they are reluctant to provide a no-fly zone over Ukraine or to provide planes or certain types of weapons. Their claim of trying not to further escalate the conflict or to provoke Russian dictator Vladimir Putin can now be seen for what it is: a hollow excuse devoid of merit and uttered without a trace of conviction. Instead, all they are accomplishing is giving Putin a free hand to escalate the conflict as he pleases and to commit even further aggression. Putin knows that as long as he can threaten the world with nuclear blackmail, he can get away with anything. Where is the red line he has yet to cross before the West decides to take a more forthright stand? If nothing changes, we are going to witness a war of attrition of unprecedented scale that will last not for months, but for years. Of course, the people of Ukraine are the ones who will suffer most.

But where the food crisis is concerned, the suffering will extend across entire continents. Tens, maybe hundreds of millions of the most impoverished people in the world will face famine. They will die a slow and agonizing death unless Western nations intervene.

Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen has called upon Canada to advocate for such a humanitarian corridor. When asked by New Pathway – Ukrainian News whether she would call for armed escorts to accompany cargo ships to safety, her office replied that NATO action remains an option that should be on the table. The Conservative proposal is something the Government of Canada should take into consideration. While we lack the military clout to effectively conduct such an operation ourselves, we can at least seek to build a coalition of nations (whether NATO-based or much broader) led by countries with far more powerful navies, like the United States and the UK, to step forward in a concerted effort to prevent widespread starvation.

What Western nations have to realize is that the Russian Federation does not care about how much damage it can create worldwide and the Russian Federation is not a state with which one can engage in diplomatic negotiation. Like it or not, the time will come when Russian expansionism reaches a point of no return. What will the West do then? It’s time to stop employing half-measures against an enemy possessing limitless imperial ambitions and no moral qualms in ruthlessly pursuing them. The naïve belief that Putin can be restrained by some combination of good faith diplomacy and military half measures is not just reckless, it risks inviting an apocalypse.

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