Alp Sevimlisoy

Putin Leaving Grain Deal Raises Risk of Direct Conflict With NATO

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to pull out of the Black Sea grain deal could lead to a “direct confrontation” with NATO warships, according to former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis.

Stavridis—a retired four-star admiral who served in the U.S. Navy for 37 years—made the warning on Twitter Monday following Russia’s announcement that it was pausing its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

He later told Newsweek that NATO “will probably escort humanitarian grain and fertilizer-carrying vessels to and from Ukrainian ports like Odessa. When that occurs, NATO warships will potentially be in direct confrontation with the Russian Navy. The results could be unpredictable, and very dangerous, but it is the right thing to do.”

The Black Sea grain agreement, which allowed Ukraine to export its grain by sea during the war with Russia, was key in stabilizing global food prices during the conflict. Russia consented to several extensions to the original deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022, but the Kremlin announced Monday it would no longer prolong the accord.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists the deal had “de facto” ended. He added that the decision was not based on the attack hours earlier on Crimea’s Kerch Strait Bridge that Russia has accused Ukraine of carrying out. (Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the bridge strike.)

Stavridis tweeted that NATO might step in to protect Ukraine’s grain shipments in order to prevent the threat of possible shipping disruptions by Moscow.

He also said that if “Russia acts recklessly,” NATO might find itself in a tense situation with Moscow’s naval fleet in the Black Sea.

“This is very bad news for international grain market. It also raises the specter of @NATO deciding it needs to escort these grain ships.” Stavridis wrote. “That could lead to a direct confrontation btwn the Russian Black Sea fleet and NATO warships if Russia acts recklessly.”

Stavridis told Newsweek in an email that “simply allowing Russia to effectively blockade Ukraine would be a significant mistake on the part of NATO. It would crush the Ukrainian economy and give Russia affectively veto power over ship movements on international waters.” Hence, NATO could step in to escort shipments.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest suppliers of grain, and the World Food Program estimated that Ukraine produced enough grain to feed approximately 400 million people worldwide prior to the war that Putin launched in February 2022.

When Ukraine’s grain exports were disrupted during the early months of the war, global grain prices spiked. Those prices surged again on Monday following the Kremlin’s announcement that the deal was over.

The news regarding the Black Sea grain deal comes days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Putin had told him during a phone deal that he would agree to another extension.

“We are on the same page with him on the issue of extending the Black Sea grain corridor,” Erdoğan told reporters on Friday, according to the Daily Sabah.

The Kremlin quickly refuted Erdoğan’s claims on Friday before announcing Monday the deal would not be extended. The current agreement expires on Tuesday.

Geopolitical strategist Alp Sevimlisoy told Newsweek that Ukraine should be able to continue exporting grain due to the aid of the Turkish Armed Forces, which he said has “the ultimate supreme power in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.”

“The Turkish Armed Forces possess a level of military prowess above and beyond the Russian Federation, whereby the Kremlin shall not be able to disrupt grain shipments in any way as they would face the full wrath of the military high command of Turkey as the grain agreement is part of the country’s national security doctrine since its inception,” Sevimlisoy said.

Even as it previously agreed to extensions, Russia has voiced complaints that the deal unfairly benefited Ukraine. On Monday, a statement from Russia’s Foreign Ministry reiterated such grievances and cited “provocations and attacks against Russian civilian and military facilities” in the Black Sea by Ukraine’s forces.

However, Peskov offered hope for the initiative to be resumed in the future, saying that “as soon as the Russian conditions are met, the Russian Federation will return to the deal.”


Alp Sevimlisoy originally featured as per: Newsweek