Russian President Vladimir Putin has put the world on notice. No renewal of the Ukraine grain export agreement through the Black Sea will happen unless the West fulfills its “obligations” to ease the export of Russian agricultural products. This bombshell came after Putin’s high-stakes talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has been a key mediator in this agreement, which is nothing short of vital for global food supply chains, particularly those feeding Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Back in July, Russia turned its back on extending the grain agreement. The Kremlin complained that promises to lift barriers on Russian food and fertilizer exports were empty words. They pointed fingers at transportation and insurance restrictions that have been roadblocks to agricultural trade, even though Russia has been shipping record amounts of wheat since last year.
Putin didn’t mince words. Russia could rejoin the agreement in the coming days, says the Wall Street Journal, but only if these obligations are met. Adding another layer to the geopolitical chessboard, Putin disclosed that Russia is on the cusp of finalizing a separate deal. This new agreement would provide free grain to six African nations and deliver a staggering one million tons of cheap grain to Turkey. The grain would then be processed and sent to countries where hunger is a daily battle.
Erdogan, for his part, confirmed that the grain deal was the centerpiece of his meeting with Putin in Sochi, where the Russian leader maintains a residence. The Turkish President is keen to breathe new life into the agreement that has enabled Ukraine to export grain and other essential commodities from three Black Sea ports. He even teased a “very important” announcement on Ukrainian grain exports after his talks with Putin, a message that could reverberate across underdeveloped African countries.
But the grain deal wasn’t the only item on the agenda. Putin let it slip that the talks also ventured into the thorny issue of the Ukrainian crisis. “We are open to negotiations on this topic,” Putin told Erdogan, echoing the Kremlin’s official line on international efforts to resuscitate the deal.
This isn’t just about grain; it’s about global stability. Developing countries are heavily reliant on Ukraine and Russia for their supplies of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other life-sustaining goods. A continued stalemate could send shockwaves through these vulnerable nations, affecting food security in regions already plagued by instability.