Russian Roulette in the Pontic Granary: Deploying the ‘Silent Weapon’


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine altered the structure and the fundamentals of postCold War security architecture. In more than one sense, it appeared unequivocally that few things shall remain untarnished in matters pertaining to the order of state-to-state interactions or the (crumbling) self-desired universality of international law. But such a metamorphosis of perception did not limit to issues of high politics, military doctrine or legal responsibility in times of war.

Simultaneously with Russia’s terrestrial deployment of large-scale destruction upon its neighbor, a naval blockade was instituted, effectively sealing all of Ukraine’s (remaining) Black Sea ports from their commerce with the wider world. More than 20 tons of agricultural products – headed for export – remained grounded in the docks and inland silos, unable to reach global markets. Then followed a systematic campaign of incapacitating Ukraine’s grain-producing sector: dismantling of infrastructure, theft of stocked harvests, removal of equipment and industrial hardware.

The whole world witnessed Russia’s (ab)use of famine as a threat aimed not merely at Ukraine, but to the entire array of Kyiv’s customers overseas. And, in this sense, the present study will proceed by explaining the two actors’ centrality and relevance in the global food supply chains. Further on, it will address the manner in which the war changed both their positions and those of regular overseas customers, leading to a race to buy and stock on a disrupted market. In the final parts, the short- and medium-term solutions to the crisis will be analyzed, struggling to glimpse the new ‘horizon’ of food supply and the larger global market in the aftermath of the blockade.

With or without the blockade, a significant part of the transnational agricultural export capacity had been affected by Russia’s invasion, proving that wars (and their subsequent effects) cannot be ‘grounded’ and ‘isolated’. What happens in Ukraine, might not stay in Ukraine, but provoke hunger across the other side of the globe.

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