No pain no grain
Russia and Ukraine are hardly beating their swords into plowshares, but at least the fruits of the harvest are once again on the move from Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa. Earlier this week saw the departure of the first grain boat from there since the signing of a tenuous new export security deal between Ukraine, Turkey, the UN, and Russia. The return of Ukrainian grain to world markets is welcome news for countries that depend heavily on the country’s exports, as well as for broader food prices around the globe. But it will take months to get back to pre-war export levels, warns the Ukrainian government. The next few weeks will see only about half a dozen departures compared to the normal level of about 200 every August. A big question looms: the first boats to leave Odesa will be ones that were stuck there for months, but it’s unclear whether a large number of grain traders will be willing to take the immense financial and insurance risk of sending fresh boats to Odesa. GZERO reader Jonathan Grange, a grain trader at Sunstone Brokers in Switzerland, tells us that a fully laden grain boat is worth about $70 million — “who,” he asks, “wants to assume the risk of a Russian misfire on this value?”
Will Biden get a boost?
Republican and Democratic voters agree on very little these days, but there will be no love lost in America for Ayman al-Zawahri, the al-Qaida heavyweight and key plotter of the 9/11 attacks killed by a US drone strike in Kabul over the weekend. The killing of Osama bin Laden’s successor gave President Joe Biden a chance to present himself as an elder statesman Monday night, when he announced the counterterrorism coup during a rare primetime address. This comes after a few weeks of good PR for Biden, who has scored a number of legislative wins, including getting Congressional approval for a massive legislative package to bolster US competitiveness in semiconductors and other advanced tech. The White House is also very close to getting the country’s most ambitious ever climate legislation passed by Congress. But Biden is waiting on Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who sometimes bucks her party on key legislation, to come out in support of the bill. (Given the Dems’ razor-thin Senate majority, there can be no party holdouts.) Does this signal a change of fortune for Biden, whose approval rating has tanked amid a series of international and domestic crises? It’s too early to say, but if Congress passes his $369 billion climate bill, Democrats will certainly be in a stronger position heading into midterm elections this fall.