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Ukraine's grain exports are being held hostage.
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

What We’re Watching: Russia & Ukraine talk grain, US talks fish

Russia and Ukraine get granular, finally

The two countries at war on Wednesday agreed in principle to a UN-backed plan to resume exports of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Before Russia’s invasion, Ukraine was one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat and cooking oils, but the war has crippled those shipments, inflaming food prices globally and undercutting food security in dozens of emerging market countries. Under the UN plan, Ukraine would clear mines from its ports, Russia would allow safe passage for grain boats, and Turkey would provide safe shipping corridors. But Kyiv is wary about Moscow using the de-mined sea lanes to launch a fresh naval offensive, and Moscow insists on the right to inspect any boats for weapons. The two sides and Turkey are set to ink an official deal next week. For complete coverage of the growing global food crisis, be sure to see our Hunger Pains project.

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A Russian-flagged bulk carrier transits the Bosphorus near Istanbul.

REUTERS/Yoruk Isik

What We're Watching: Black Sea wheat pirates, Kazakh referendum, Korean missile tit-for-tat

Donbas battle rages as stolen wheat hits high seas

Ukrainian and Russian forces are locked in a fierce battle for control of the strategic eastern city of Sievierodonetsk. Taking it would help Russian forces occupy a broader swath of the Donbas. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, visiting frontline troops in nearby Zaporizhzhia, said his men had “a chance” to hold the city despite being outnumbered. The question remains — at what point should Ukraine consider negotiating? Meanwhile, US officials have warned as many as 14 countries that Russian grain ships may arrive with cargos pilfered illegally from Ukraine. Still, amid a growing global food crisis that’s been made worse by the war, are governments really prepared to turn away huge shipments of wheat?

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Flags wave outside NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

What We're Watching: Nordics to join NATO, India says no wheat for you, Lebanon's election

Finland & Sweden heart NATO

In a historic decision for two long-neutral countries opposed to military alliances, Finland and Sweden confirmed Sunday that they'll apply to join NATO in response to Russia's war in Ukraine. The Finns came out first and immediately informed Vladimir Putin, while the Swedes only gave the go-ahead after the ruling Social Democrats finally agreed (although they are against hosting NATO bases or nuclear weapons). The two Nordic countries are expected to formally submit their applications in the coming days, but their bids may have hit a last-minute snag: NATO member Turkey resents the Finns and Swedes for their historic support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hopes the two sides will be able to iron out their differences quickly, but Turkish demands could delay the process. Meanwhile, Putin warned Finland — which shares an 800-mile border with Russia — that joining the alliance will be a "historic mistake" and cut off the Finns from Russian-generated electricity. Still, it seems that NATO's Nordic expansion is in the works — and there’s nothing Putin can do about it.

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How Russia's War Is Starving the World | Interview with Food Expert Ertharin Cousin | GZERO World

How Russia's war is starving the world: food expert Ertharin Cousin

Russia and Ukraine are agricultural powerhouses. Between the two they account for almost a third of the world's wheat exports. But the war and sanctions against Moscow have crippled their ability to feed the world. The war has created a perfect storm that will lead to a global food price and supply crisis, according to Ertharin Cousin, former head of the UN World Food Programme, who spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.
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Ian Explains: Russia's War in Ukraine is Starving the World | GZERO World

Russia's war in Ukraine is starving the world

Ukraine is an agricultural powerhouse. But so is Russia. Between the two they account for almost a third of the world's wheat exports.

The Russian invasion has disrupted planting and harvesting in Ukraine. Sanctions against Moscow, for their part, have restricted shipping — further limiting food supplies.

Who's most at risk? Countries in the Middle East and North Africa that depend on these grain imports, like Egypt.

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A Perfect Storm of Food Insecurity: A Problem for All of Us | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

A perfect storm of food insecurity: a problem for all of us

Russia and Ukraine are agricultural powerhouses. But the war and sanctions have crippled their ability to feed the world.

Who's most at risk? Developing countries that rely on those imports. What will the impact be? The disruptions could double the number of people currently suffering from acute food insecurity (some 275 million) due to the pandemic.

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer speaks to Ertharin Cousin, who knows a thing or two about food security as the former executive director of the UN World Food Programme

Cousin says the war has created a perfect storm that'll led to a global food price and supply crisis. Everyone will be affected because we're talking about global commodities, and the worst might be yet to come since agriculture is a seasonal business.

The conflict, she says, has put the international community in a tough spot. Sanctions will cause hunger, but otherwise, Russia will continue to profit from selling food to the world.

And there's a growing divide between the West and non-aligned developing countries that can't afford to not import Russian food. Conflict-affected nations are the most vulnerable, but many low-income nations will also struggle because they can't afford subsidies to feed their people.

As a bonus, battle over borscht! What’s the back story, and why is the soup such an important part of Ukraine’s national identity? We spoke with a chef, a historian, and a Ukrainian emigré couple to learn more.

Podcast: The Ukraine war is crippling the world's food supply, says food security expert Ertharin Cousin

Listen: The Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia have created a perfect storm that will lead to a global food supply crisis, Ertharin Cousin, former head of the UN World Food Programme, tells Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Russia and Ukraine account for almost a third of the world's wheat exports. All nations could be affected since these are global commodities, but developing countries that rely on those imports are most at risk. The disruptions could double the amount of people that went hungry during the pandemic, and since agriculture is a seasonal business, the worst may be yet to come.

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Ari Winkleman

War of the Sunflower Superpowers

Vladimir Putin’s decision to wage war has already brought destruction to the places and people of Ukraine, but it could also put millions of people at risk far from cities like Kyiv, Kharkov, and Mariupol. That’s because the war is making key food staples around the world more scarce and pricier, raising the prospect of food shortages and social unrest.

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