Biden Complicates Agreement with Russia to Restart Grain Exports

As the United Nations works to put together an agreement that would include Russia allowing Ukraine to reopen grain exports at its Black Sea ports, U.S. officials and lawmakers are expressing skepticism about Vladimir Putin’s good faith.

A U.N. official told Politico that the agreement is being hampered by Russian officials proposing that in exchange for opening up trade from Ukrainian ports, Western nations would lift economic sanctions against Mosco. Russia’s suggestion that it might be relieved of sanctions is reportedly “complicating the fragile negotiations.”

Essentially, it would not be an understatement to say that the Biden administration is putting the world at risk of serious food shortages so that it can maintain punitive sanctions on Russia.

An American official referred to the Russian request as “extortion diplomacy.” The U.S. reportedly will not agree to any arrangement that removes any economic pressure on the Russian government. Even so, a State Department spokesperson has said that the world needs “to get the ports back up and running so we can boost food supplies for those most in need.”

U.S. officials and international shippers are also closely watching separate negotiations being facilitated by Turkey by which it would promote safe passage for Ukrainian agricultural products into the global marketplace.

U.S. officials have not been present for the direct U.N. discussions with Russian officials and it is unclear whether Russian requests for sanctions relief have been directly discussed.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that Russian demands for sanctions relief in exchange for lifting blockades amounts to “blackmail.”

Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the media this week that removing mines from Ukrainian ports and assisting with navigating the blockade would be a “high-risk military operation.”

For the time being, the Biden administration appears committed to continue sending weapons and resources to Ukraine during a time when the U.S. is experiencing serious economic issues. But the U.S. can’t sustain the world.

Given that the sanctions have not stopped Russia from achieving virtually all of their military objectives in Ukraine, it may be time for the Biden administration to consider the blowback that will result from continued refusal to negotiate with the Kremlin, both in the U.S. and across the world.