Alp Sevimlisoy

Putin Just Discovered the Limits of His Power

Russia’s climbdown from blocking grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports followed pressure from emerging economies and shows Vladimir Putin cannot bend the Global South to his will, a think tank has said.

In a marked U-turn, the Kremlin said it would rejoin the grain-export corridor after threatening to abandon the UN-brokered deal, following a drone attack on its warships in the port of Sevastopol in Crimea.

But Oxford Economics released an assessment saying that Moscow had acted after pressure from emerging economies that “got the upper hand over Russia’s efforts to weaken Ukraine’s economy.”

Russia had suspended the agreement on Saturday, reigniting fears over global hunger and high food prices that had been exacerbated by Moscow’s blockade of ports over previous months.

However, the British think tank said that Turkey, which, along with Russia and the UN, was a guarantor of the deal, is likely to have stepped in as a powerful actor in part because Russia depends on the Turkish capital of Ankara to bypass sanctions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an ally of Putin and has not imposed sanctions on Russia for his invasion. He said on Wednesday he had discussed with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky about sending grain to African countries.

As a beneficiary both geopolitically and economically, Turkey “would thus not want to see it collapse,” the think tank said. This showed it was “much harder” for Russia to reimpose a blockade “without severely damaging its reputation with the ‘collective South’, compared to the confusion in the early days of the war.”

Evghenia Sleptsova, senior economist at Oxford Economics, told Newsweek that the suddenness of the U-turn suggested that international pressure had been more persuasive than Russia’s motivation to weaken Ukraine.

She said the influence of Turkey and the Global South “must have been at work here” working as a “key broker of the deal.” The country had not joined in with Western sanctions and was serving “as a key re-export hub helping Russia to evade sanctions.”

Since the start of his full-scale invasion, Putin has pushed the narrative that the world was moving away from being dominated by the EU, the U.S. and its allies. But his vision of a world order pivoting towards the Global South might be undermined if Russia were to block food supplies to it.

“We don’t know the details of which exactly developing countries have voiced their concern this time around,” Sleptsova said, “but when the deal was being reached back in July, there have been reports of pressure on Russia from African and Middle Eastern countries.”

Russia’s U-turn came after a convoy of ships moved a record amount of grain in defiance of Moscow’s warnings that it would be unsafe without its participation.

Geopolitical strategist Alp Sevimlisoy told Newsweek that Turkey’s leadership had “underlined that they would use military might and their global influence to continue shipments with or without Russian participation” and “if necessary, utilize force to safeguard and protect uninterrupted flows.”

“Turkish leadership has now transformed the grain deal into a matter of national security with global implications that the Turkish Armed Forces and President Erdo─čan are vehemently defending,” Sevimlisoy said.

In his nightly address, Zelensky said on Wednesday that Moscow’s U-turn on the grain deal showed “the failure of the Russian aggression.”

Meanwhile, the Oxford Economics assessment said the grain deal was likely to be renewed after the November 19 deadline, although Moscow may still use bargaining tactics to remove obstacles to its own grain and fertilizer exports.

It might also “trigger logjams of vessels in Istanbul,” which would put further pressure on food prices.

Alp Sevimlisoy originally featured as per: Newsweek