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Russia’s Negotiation for the Grain Deal

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On July 22, 2022, the Grain Corridor Agreement was signed in Istanbul, which foresees the safe transportation of agricultural products from the ports of the Black Sea. United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres, Ukraine Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu attended the signing ceremony. During the ceremony, two separate agreements were signed. In other words, Ukraine and Russia signed different documents.

On July 23, 2022, Russia launched a missile attack on Ukraine’s Odessa Port. Although the Russian Ministry of Defense did not make any statement regarding the attack, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the target of the attacks was not grain ships, but military vehicles. In the announcement made from Kiev, two of the four missiles called Kalibr launched by Russia were connected to the air defense systems; It was stated that the other two hit the Odessa Port.

The fact that Moscow sabotaged the agreement, which it had ratified and promised to abide by, in this way caused various discussions. Despite this, the Moscow administration has officially committed to abide by the agreement. In addition, the following statements were included in the post made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov:[1]

“Russia expects all necessary efforts to be made to fulfill the agreements on the transport of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea ports and the promotion of Russian food and fertilizer exports. Given the significant share of Russian and Ukrainian agricultural products in the world markets, ensuring their uninterrupted export fulfills the urgent tasks of ensuring food security, especially for developing and underdeveloped countries. All this should help achieve the goals of sustainable development, including the eradication of hunger. Russia has given assurances that it will continue to abide by its obligations in this area.”

In addition, Lavrov described the use of the food situation as leverage by the United States (US) and its allies “for their geopolitical adventures” as an “unacceptable and inhumane” act.

The terms of the Grain Corridor Agreement are as follows:

  • Ukrainian grain will be exported from three ports, Odessa, Chernomorskiy and Yuzhny, via the Black Sea.
  • The validity period of the agreement is 120 days.
  • No side will clear the mines surrounding the ports, safe passages will be created and ships will pass through these passages. Ships carrying grain shall not be accompanied by military vehicles such as warships, airplanes or unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • It will be open to inspection whether there are weapons on the ships going to Ukraine.
  • In order to monitor the grain export process, a coordination center with representatives from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine will be established in Istanbul and this center will be responsible for resolving any problems.
  • One of the reasons for Russia’s involvement in the agreement is to solve the problems of developing countries, as Lavrov explained. In the Russian public, this attitude of the Kremlin has strengthened the perception of “the state trying to find solutions to the problems of the world”. In addition, this situation will bring about a positive perception towards Russia in the North African countries that will benefit from the agreement and meet their food needs. However, the negotiations in other areas also had an effect on Russia’s consent to this agreement.

In this sense, the first of the bargaining issues concerns the Kaliningrad region. There are allegations that the Lithuanian company LTG Cargo continues to operate in the Kaliningrad region since July 22, 2022. However, after the start of the war, transit sanctions were applied to the region by the member states of the European Union (EU). Thus, Moscow may have requested the lifting of the “embargo” on Kaliningrad in exchange for continuing grain exports from Odessa.

At this point, it should be noted that; These allegations in the Russian media caused serious reactions. Because this situation was perceived as the victory of the Kremlin. However, making the Odessa Port open to trade, preventing Russia from leaving Ukraine to the sea; that is, it also shows that it has abandoned its plan to transform it into a land state. Moreover, this indicates that Moscow’s claims regarding Transnistria have been abandoned.[2]

It is argued that the second of the negotiation issues is related to the arms supply to Ukraine. Accordingly, the USA stopped the transfer process of fourth generation F-15 and F-16 fighters, as well as ATACMS missiles with a range of up to 300 km. The USA is either shy or cautious about giving the weapons it wants to Ukraine. In both cases, only some of the weapons requested by Ukraine are provided.

The reason why the Washington administration took such an attitude can be interpreted as its desire not to attract Moscow’s reaction and to make the agreement sustainable. It is possible to say that arms shipments will deepen the crisis even more. In fact, Russia occasionally brings up the nuclear threat.

The third issue that is probably being negotiated is paving the way for Russian exports. Because with this agreement, not only Ukrainian grains; A memorandum was also signed, which stipulates that the grain and fertilizers exported by Russia will have unhindered and transparent access to the world markets for 3 years. This means the lifting of embargoes for some products of Russia.

Undoubtedly, Russia, which is exposed to the sanctions of Western countries, has to find new partners for itself. This situation forces Russia to turn more towards African and Asian countries. It is also related to this that Lavrov went on a five-day trip to African countries on July 24, 2022. Lavrov, who started his tour by visiting Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab World and the main buyer of Russian grain, is also expected to visit Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. In addition, the Russian Foreign Minister announced that during his Africa trip, the main parameters of the Second Russia-Africa Summit to be held in 2023 would be agreed upon.

As a result, the success of the grain agreement signed in Istanbul will be an incentive for the resumption of peace negotiations. It is important to keep the diplomatic channel open. In addition, the agreement serves the interests of all parties in terms of both preventing the global grain crisis, stopping the possible invasion move towards Odessa, and Russia gaining gains that will neutralize certain sanctions.

[1]“Лавров: РФ рассчитывает, что к реализации документов о зерне будут предприняты все Усилия”, Tass, https://tass.ru/politika/15289325, (Date of Accession: 23.07.2022).

[2]“Отказ Кремля от освобождения Причерноморья может привести к стратегическому поражению России”, Reportyor, https://topcor.ru/27013-stambul-1-ili-minsk-3-otkaz-kremlja-ot-osvobozhdenija-prichernomorja-mozhet-privesti-k-strategicheskomu-porazheniju-rossii.html?utm_source=politobzor.net, (Date of Accession: 23.07.2022).

Dr. Sabir ASKEROĞLU
Lisans öğrenimini Ankara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde tamamlayan Dr. Sabir Askeroğlu, yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda almıştır. Doktora eğitimini İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi ve Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda tamamlayan Dr. Askeroğlu, çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında görev yapmıştır. Başlıca ilgi alanları, Avrasya çalışmaları ve Rus dış politikası olan Dr. Askeroğlu, iyi derecede Rusça ve İngilizce bilmektedir.