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Tough Talk Aside - Russia Will Have to Restore Grain Deal

By Belal Awad · July 27, 2023

In brief…

  • North Korea marked the 70th Korean War armistice anniversary with top leaders from Russia and China.
  • NoKo's Defense Minister praised Russia's "struggle" in Ukraine.
  • Meanwhile, African leaders arrive in St. Petersburgh ahead of the Africa-Russia Summit taking place this week.
  • USAID Administrator Samantha Power slammed Russia's exit from the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the risk it poses to the global food supply.
  • Power believes Moscow will ultimately have to restore the grain deal.
North Korea Victory Day, 2013.  Wikimedia Commons

North Korea marked the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice with its annual “Victory Day” celebrations. The event was attended by delegations from China and Russia, North Korea’s key allies during the war. The gathering in Pyongyang was seen as a show of solidarity among these nations and thinly veiled support for Russia’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, an architect of Moscow’s assault on Ukraine, was given a tour of a defense exposition in Pyongyang by North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. Later at a state reception, North Korean Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam declared support “for the just struggle of the Russian army and people to defend the sovereignty and security of the country” in its conflict with Ukraine.

While the festivities take place in Pyongyang, Russia is also preparing to host the second Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power told CNN that while the two events are designed to bolster Moscow’s position, Russia appears to be losing popularity. Russia’s decision to pull out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, she said, which could potentially trigger a global food crisis. Powers hopes that the Russia-Africa confab will be used as an opportunity by Africa, China and North Korea to apply pressure on Moscow to restore to the grain deal.

Power explained, “We see in the wake of Russia’s really horrific and devastating decision to pull out of the Black Sea grain initiative, real revulsion in a lot of developing countries. And the PRC [People’s Republic of China] is very mindful of what public opinion in developing countries indicates. Indeed, the PRC is one of the major recipients of wheat that had been coming from Ukraine, from the Black Sea. So we’re hopeful that in the dialogue that exists in North Korea and everyplace else, that Beijing is raising its voice and its concern over what Putin is doing.” Ukraine is one of the world’s largest suppliers of grain and a major part of Africa’s food supply.

Powers’ assessment: Russia has blundered by pulling out of the grain deal and will soon have to walk back what amounts to a very bad policy flub.