The US is working to find ways to offset the sanctions that continue to impede reconstruction and world food supplies

Photo: Ears of wheat are seen in a field near the village of Zhovtneve, Ukraine, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

U.S. backs U.N. push to get Ukraine grain back to global market

16 May 2022 |  Michelle Nichols | Reuters

UNITED NATIONS, May 16 (Reuters) – The United States supports efforts by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to get Ukrainian grain back into the international marketplace amid the war, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Monday.

“He has spoken to us about his plans and his discussions with the Ukrainians and the Russians on this issue,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters without giving further details.

After visiting Moscow and Kyiv late last month, Guterres said he was determined to help bring back to world markets the agriculture production of Ukraine and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus despite the war. read more

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Guterres has asked Russia to allow the shipment of some Ukrainian grain in return for moves to help facilitate Russian and Belarusian exports of potash fertilizer.

Guterres’ spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, declined to comment. Russia’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine – which it calls a “special military operation” – has sent global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer soaring, with Guterres warning it will worsen a food crisis in poor countries.

Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies. Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, while Russia and Belarus – which has backed Moscow in its war in Ukraine – account for more than 40% of global exports of crop nutrient potash.

The conflict has also disrupted shipping in the Black Sea, throttling exports from Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine has been forced to now export by train or its small Danube River ports. Its grain exports have more than halved so far in May from the same period a year ago, agriculture ministry data shows.

Thomas-Greenfield noted that there were no U.S. sanctions on Russian agricultural products. Washington did blacklist the exporting arm of Belarusian state potash producer in December to punish President Alexander Lukashenko for alleged election rigging and cracking down on the opposition.

U.N. food chief David Beasley warned the U.N. Security Council in March that the World Food Programme bought 50% of its grain from Ukraine and the war was threatening WFP’s ability to feed some 125 million people globally.

Guterres has also said 36 countries count on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat imports, including some of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world, including Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration was working with U.S. farmers to see “how we can provide more support to the international market from U.S. grains.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to host a “global food security call to action” ministerial meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday and chair a U.N. Security Council meeting on conflict and food security on Thursday.

Russia ‘weaponizes’ food security, US tells UN meeting

  • Date 19.05.2022
  • Author Farah Bahgat DW

Washington’s top diplomat has called on Russia to lift a blockade on Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, while Russia’s UN envoy said it was “absolutely false” that Moscow was blamed for global food insecurity.

he UN Security Council held a meeting Thursday on food insecurity exacerbated by conflict and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters. Russia’s blockade of Black Sea ports has triggered a crisis in grain supplies, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as he opened the session.

“Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression has halted maritime trade in large swathes of the Black Sea. It has made the region unsafe for navigation, trapping Ukrainian agricultural exports as we heard [and] jeopardizing global food supplies,” Blinken said.

Thursday’s debate aims to “mobilize action to address global food insecurity,” according to the US State Department.

‘Weaponizing’ food?

Blinken referred to a 2018 UN resolution that condemned starvation as a tool of war, saying the situation has worsened since then.

“The Russian Federation’s flagrant disregard of this resolution is just the latest example of a government using the hunger of civilians to try to advance its objectives,” Blinken said. 

Washington’s top diplomat also insisted that sanctions against Russia “aren’t blocking Black Sea ports, Russia is” 

“The decision to weaponize food is Moscow’s and Moscow’s alone.” 

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has also accused Moscow of blocking Ukraine’s grain exports as a weapon of war.

“Russia is leading this war with another terrible and forceful weapon: hunger and deprivation. By blocking Ukrainian ports, by destroying silos, streets and railroads, Russia has launched a grain war, stoking a global food crisis,” Baerbock said at a UN meeting a day earlier.

What has Russia said?

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, said it was “absolutely false” that his country was being blamed for global food insecurity that has been brewing for years. 

Nebenzia instead blamed Kyiv for blocking Ukraine’s ports, saying Ukrainian forces had placed mines along the Black Sea coast.

He also said Western sanctions have had a negative effect on Russian food and fertilizer exports. 

According to the Interfax news agency, Russia seems to imply a possibility to open Ukrainian ports for grain exports if on sanctions Moscow were lifted. 

“If our partners want to reach a solution, then the problems associated with lifting those sanctions placed on Russian exports must also be solved,” the agency quoted  Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying. 

UN chief: No solution without Russia and Ukraine

On Wednesday, UN Security-General Antonio Guterres said he was in “intense contact” with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the US and the EU in an effort to relieve the crisis. 

“There is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by Russia and Belarus into world market despite the war,” Guterres said.

Pete Buttigieg says US backs new Marshall plan to rebuild Ukraine

Pete Buttigieg (third from left), with Adina Vălean, EU commissioner for transport (second left), the FDP’s Volker Wissing (fourth from right) and Richard Lutz of Deutsche Bahn at Berlin Hauptbahnhof on 17 May. Photograph: Christian Jungeblodt/The Guardian

Exclusive: Transportation secretary says there is global support for reconstruction effort to help recovery from Russian invasion

20 May 2022 | Kate Connolly | Kate Connolly

A leading figure in the Biden administration has backed a recovery programme for Ukraine in the style of the Marshall plan, which helped rebuild Europe after the second world war.

Pete Buttigieg, the US transportation secretary, said there was plenty of political will at home and internationally towards cooperating in long-term reconstruction efforts including to buttress existing infrastructure in Ukraine.

“With the memory of the Marshall plan in mind, what we’re talking about is not only about how we fund immediate needs and support their ability to maintain the war effort, but how we support the ability of Ukraine to be economically viable and generate a sustainable future for themselves, even as they’re under attack,” the former presidential candidate said in an interview with the Guardian.

Buttigieg admitted that while “the destruction of Ukrainian homes and infrastructure is still under way”, to talk about reconstruction might feel premature “and yet in my encounters with Ukrainian leaders, and particularly my counterpart [Oleksandr Kubrakov], who I speak to regularly, they are already thinking about reconstruction even as they’re thinking about defending their homeland and it’s inspiring to see and it deserves strong and unified support from us.”

Rebuilding Ukraine

COMMENTARY

(United Press International) RAND ORG

by William CourtneyKhrystyna HolynskaHoward J. Shatz

April 18, 2022

Even though fighting is still underway, Ukraine and its Western partners are beginning to weigh options for postwar reconstruction. The West will likely be generous, and some Russian financial assets might be drawn upon. Ukraine’s main contribution—its talented workforce and private sector—could make their best contribution if long-delayed reforms were undertaken.

Reconstruction elsewhere may offer insights. Transparency was key in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Agricultural land reform and education helped the South Korean economy take off in the years following a devastating war. In Europe after World War II, restoring industry, providing financing to eliminate bottlenecks in inputs, and liberalizing trade spurred remarkable growth. These are among the factors that could spur rebuilding in Ukraine.

Understanding the reconstruction challenge is vital. Ukraine’s former finance minister, Natalia Jaresko, who later led Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board after a devastating hurricane, emphasizes that the first step is to document and assess the damage. The Ukrainian government is developing procedures for estimating the cost of damages. It and the Kyiv School of Economics have launched a website to assemble and verify data. Anyone can upload information, which KSE experts check. Ukrainians may report personal property damage through the government’s Diia app.

In some areas, reconstruction offers an opportunity to leap ahead. It could take advantage of modern building materials and energy-saving techniques. Most structures and infrastructure that Russian forces have destroyed were built at least four decades ago. In 2020, the average age of the housing stock was 46 years. New buildings comprised only 3 percent.

Reconstruction in the construction sector would benefit if there were easier access to building permits, better mortgage programs, and a more-efficient real estate market. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pledged to engage the best architects and companies.