The Russia-Ukraine Grain Deal Is Skating on Thin Ice

The Russia-Ukraine Grain Deal Is Skating on Thin Ice
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres sit as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar exchange documents during a signing ceremony at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, July 22, 2022 (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP).

The first ship exporting grain from Ukraine since February departed the port of Odessa this week thanks to a deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations. That agreement, which aims to ease a global food crisis triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, inspired some cautious optimism when it was first announced in mid-July. However, there remains skepticism about whether it will hold long enough to make a difference.

The cargo ship Razoni, which sails under the flag of Sierra Leone, left Odessa on Monday carrying more than 26,000 metric tons of Ukrainian corn. It was allowed to pass a Russian blockade along a corridor in the Black Sea thanks to the recent deal, known as the Black Sea Initiative. Fears have deepened in recent weeks that, as a major food exporter, Ukraine’s inability to ship its grain could cause food shortages around the world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, where some of the largest importers of Ukrainian grain are located.

Before setting out for its final destination—the port of Tripoli in Lebanon—the ship first had to pass an inspection in Istanbul by the new Joint Coordination Center set up by the Black Sea Initiative. According to the U.N., its inspectors, along with ones from Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, spent three hours checking the ship to ensure it was transporting only grain.

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