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Ukrainian farmer visits his crop storage that was destroyed by Russian military strike near a frontline outside Orikhiv.


No grain from Ukraine

Poland, Slovakia and Hungary have once again announced their own unilateral restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports, after the European Commission chose not to extend a broader import ban to five countries that border Ukraine. The ban had been imposed in May due to “distortions in supply” and complaints that Ukraine was not exercising effective export controls.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia, on Sept. 4, 2023.

Sputnik/Sergei Guneev/Pool via REUTERS

No pain, no grain

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s weekend meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has failed to revive the Black Sea grain deal. The UN-brokered agreement, which guaranteed safe passage for Ukrainian grain shipments to markets in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, had been on hold since July. Russia refused to extend the deal, citing a failure to honor a parallel agreement to remove obstacles to its food and fertilizer exports.

On Monday, Putin reiterated this demand. "We will be ready to consider the possibility of reviving the grain deal … we will do this as soon as all the agreements on lifting restrictions on the export of Russian agricultural products are fully implemented.” Moscow is also demanding that the Russian Agricultural Bank be reconnected to the SWIFT international payments system, from which it was cut off as part of EU sanctions for its invasion. The UN had offered to reinstate this relationship in July to keep the grain deal alive.

Erdogan offered his own prescription for reviving the deal: “Ukraine needs to especially soften its approaches in order for it to be possible for joint steps to be taken with Russia" and export more grain to Africa rather than Europe. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba “took note” of Erdogan’s position, but added, "We should not continue to be hostages to Russian blackmail, where Russia creates problems and then invites everyone to solve them.”

To deflect criticism that Russia is starving developing nations of much-needed food, Russia is set to supply up to one million tons of grain to Turkey at reduced prices for processing at Turkish plants and shipping to countries “most in need.” Putin is also brokering a deal to send free grain to six African countries: Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Eritrea, and Central African Republic.

But Russia’s moves aren’t all bread and roses: They will also conveniently purchase political capital for Russia’s war in Ukraine and expand its influence over the African continent, an arena where Russia has been increasingly active in recent years.

A Turkish cargo shop loaded with Ukrainian agricultural products leaves the Port of Odessa.

Zozulia Yulii/Ukrinform/ABACA via Reuters Connect

The limits of Russia’s grain weapon

Russia’s suspension of the UN-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative creates uncertainty for Ukraine’s economy and for global food prices, though there are several reasons why the effect of this break will likely be more limited than worst-case scenarios suggest.

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Ukraine Port of Odessa

Is the Ukraine grain deal over?

Fears are growing that Russia could refuse to extend its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative after it expires on Monday. The deal has allowed grain to flow from Ukraine’s port of Odessa since last July, alleviating the global food crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has two demands to extend the deal. Reopen the pipeline of ammonia (a key ingredient in fertilizer) from Russia to the port, and let the Russian Agriculture Bank reconnect to the global payments network, SWIFT.

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Biden attends NATO Summit
Biden attends NATO Summit | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Biden attends NATO Summit

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hey, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and a happy Monday to you. A Quick Take to kick off your week.

And this week the big news is coming from NATO, the summit that will start within a day in Vilnius. Heads of state from all the key NATO countries, including of course President Biden. And the big topic will be Ukraine. Not the only one big question about Sweden, whether or not they're joining NATO or not. Erdogan can always decide to change his mind and cut a deal at the last minute. But the big news is what's going to happen with Ukraine, with continued military support for Ukraine that we still see expanding pretty much every week. And all, both in terms of the amount and also the types of armaments, and I'll get into that in a moment. And also as to where we stand on NATO membership and a pathway to that for Ukraine itself. Erdogan interestingly very strongly supporting Ukraine to get into NATO, also providing directly some Asov battalion leaders to the Ukrainians that, you know, he had told the Russians he wasn't going to do. This is a couple of indicators and there are many that the grain deal between the Ukrainians, the West and the Russians is not going to get extended in another week's time. Erdogan was critical to that deal. That relationship with Russia is getting more brittle by the day. At the same time, Ukraine is not about to get an immediate pathway into NATO, and Biden made that clear with my friend Fareed Zakaria. Over the weekend, Biden's perspective is, "Hey, we're fighting a war in Ukraine by proxy. We're giving all of the equipment, all the weapons, but we don't want the Americans directly fighting on the ground."

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A cargo ship waits to pass the Bosphorus strait near Istanbul, Turkey.

REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Hard Numbers: Grain deal extension, Italy’s “apocalyptic” floods, global warming threshold, books bans in Florida, Everest record

60: Russia has agreed to extend the grain deal that allows Ukrainian food shipments to travel safely in the Black Sea by 60 days. Still, Kyiv says that Moscow has been holding up joint inspection of ships, leaving Ukrainian vessels stocked with grain stranded for weeks on end.

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