U.S. officials and lawmakers are also worried that food shortages, along with rising fuel and food prices, could spark mass starvation, political unrest and migration across parts of Africa, the Middle East and, possibly, Central America, in the coming months.
Biden said Tuesday that the grain can’t be shipped out through the Black Sea “because it’ll get blown out of the water” by Russia’s naval blockade. The U.S. for now has ruled out sending military ships into the region, which would risk Russian retaliation.
Biden noted the U.S. has been working on a plan to export the grain through other countries by rail but acknowledged the overland routes are rife with logistical problems. Rail routes can only move a fraction of the grain that Ukraine normally exports from its Black Sea ports and Ukrainian trains operate on a wider rail gauge than that used by the rest of the tracks in Europe. Biden suggested building silos is a better option for now and could help Ukraine buy some time.
Talks are ongoing between the United Nations and Russia, and separately with Turkey, which aims to broker a deal with Russia to allow Ukraine to restart grain exports via the Black Sea. But Biden administration officials and U.S. lawmakers are skeptical of Russia’s efforts, since Moscow is demanding sanctions relief in return.
“It’s hard to view the Russian offers in good faith considering how they are actively and intentionally destroying food products in Ukraine and exacerbating global food insecurity,” a U.S. official recently told POLITICO.
Russian forces are continuing to target Ukraine’s grain silos and agricultural infrastructure, while stealing grain from the country, U.S. and Ukrainian officials have said.
“Russia, we believe, has stolen several hundred thousand tons of grain from Ukraine and then sent it out on small ships from Russian ports,” Jim O’Brien, the State Department’s head of sanctions, recently told POLITICO and other reporters. “Now, that grain has ended up with Russia’s friends.”