Should the US End Russia’s Black Sea Blockade of Ukraine to Prevent Famine?

Should the US End Russia’s Black Sea Blockade of Ukraine to Prevent Famine?

Team Biden has denounced ’s de facto naval blockade of Odesa, ’s most important city on the , and the exit point for Ukraine’s vast grain stores, but has shown little interest in trying to break it.

However, now many are pressuring President Biden to do just that – lead a multinational naval flotilla to essentially break Russia’s blockade.

Why does this matter? World food supplies.

As Joshua Keating of the Grid notes, due to the world’s dependence on Ukrainian grain, and other commodities: “the battle for the Black Sea may also be the key fight when it comes to Ukraine’s struggle to keep its battered economy afloat. And it’s not an exaggeration to say it could directly impact the lives of millions of people around the world.” (RELATED: Ukraine Closes Seaports Seized by Russia)

The Grid explains:

Prior to the war, Black Sea shipping accounted for half of the country’s total external trade and 90 percent of its trade in grains including wheat and sunflower oil. Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest grain exporter, and losses could top $6 billion.

The Grid adds:

…the effects of the blockade are being felt globally via disruptions to the international food supply, particularly in food-vulnerable countries in the Middle East and Africa that were heavily dependent on Ukrainian grain. Ukraine grows enough food to feed 400 million people around the world, at a time when prices were already on the rise.

Natalie Jaresko, the country’s former minister of finance notes that: “There’s about 20 million tons sitting in storage that has to be exported to make room for the new harvest,” Jaresko said. “Otherwise, we know something’s going to rot.”

But Keating adds: “Critical as food is, it’s not the only commodity affected by the maritime blockade. Ukraine produces around half the world’s supply of the neon gas used to produce semiconductor chips. Ukraine is also a major producer of the wire harnesses used in European cars’ electrical systems.”

When asked about the first thing the international community could do to support Ukraine’s economy, Jaresko answered “unblock the ports.”

However, this is more complicated than it first appears. The Grid notes:

…though Russia has not formally declared a blockade, that’s the current reality. “No one’s going to take a chance of going in there right now, either running astray of mines or the Russian navy,” Sal Mercogliano, a former merchant mariner and shipping historian, told Grid. Even if a shipping company were willing to take the risk, insurance rates are skyrocketing, making travel to Ukrainian ports prohibitively expensive. At least 80 merchant ships are stuck in Ukrainian ports, and at least 10 have been attacked.

Still, the Washington Examiner reports that:

…some allies are trying to assemble a coalition in favor of a maritime initiative, despite Washington’s hesitance. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis aired the argument publicly this week in London, where he met with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and outlined a plan for a multinational “nonmilitary humanitarian mission” to defy Russia’s blockade.

“In this endeavor, military ships or planes or both would be used to ensure that the grain supplies can leave Odesa safely and reach the Bosphorus without Russian interference,” Landsbergis told the Guardian. “We would need a coalition of the willing — countries with significant naval power to protect the shipping lanes, and countries that are affected by this.”

Other allies regard U.S. naval power as an essential component of the prospective operation, given the importance of deterring Russian forces from attacking the flotilla. “It’s probably only America that Russia would be afraid of,” a Baltic official said.

Landsbergis’ willingness to go public with his proposal reflects his apparent impatience with Team Biden’s go-slow approach.

However, much like a no-fly zone, NATO countries will be reluctant to put their sailors where they might get involved in direct combat with the Russians.

Additionally, Ukraine is not going to allow the maritime route to Odesa to be opened, and de-mined, exposing themselves to possible Russian naval assault, without serious western military guarantees.

Meanwhile, some of Ukraine’s backers are promoting another solution, giving Ukraine more firepower to fight the blockade themselves. In that vein, Denmark announced it would be delivering ground-launched Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, in order to help break the blockade.

The biggest issue here is that the Russians don’t need overwhelming naval superiority in the Black Sea. They just need to make the region too dangerous for international shipping. (RELATED: Ukraine Sinks Russia’s Third Largest and Best Defended Warship – The Moskva)

And millions could starve as a result of U.S. inaction. It may be time for Biden to make a move. ALD

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of American Liberty News.

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