Skip to content
Clara Ferreira Marques

The World Can Stave Off Putin’s Food Fight

Wealthy countries should support Ukraine’s efforts to export grain and make sure poorer countries can afford to buy it.

Don’t let Putin leave him empty-handed. 

Don’t let Putin leave him empty-handed. 

Photographer: Luke Dray/Getty Images Europe

Russian forces have bombed grain silos and farms and plundered Ukrainian wheat, which US diplomats say Moscow is now trying to sell on. Ukraine’s Black Sea ports are blocked by mines to protect the shoreline from attack by Russia’s navy, which is also bottling up shipments. And yet, if President Vladimir Putin is to be believed, Western selfishness and sanctions are to blame for the current food crisis that is driving up prices — not Russia’s invasion of one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, maize and sunflower oil.

Putin is attempting to blackmail the West into lifting punitive measures, and that’s to be expected. But more worrying is the Kremlin’s amplification of the lie that rich nations are meddling and punishing with no concern for the poorest. In the emerging world, populations are already skeptical of Western motives, not to mention highly sensitive to rising food costs, and its governments fear that the combination of pandemic scars and expensive shopping baskets will lead to protests. “The conflict is in Europe, but the implications and damage are global,” Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a security gathering in Singapore this weekend, in a speech that underlined the risks ahead with pointed reference to Sri Lanka’s unrest and Pakistan’s soaring inflation.