Paris announced Friday to be ready to participate in an “operation” to lift the blockade of the port of Odessa and to export Ukrainian cereals which could quickly be sorely lacking. “We are at the disposal of the parties so that an operation can be set up which would allow access to the port of Odessa in complete safety, that is to say to be able to allow boats to pass despite the fact that the sea is mined,” said a presidential adviser. The subject was discussed during an exchange between Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Poutine on May 28.
“The food crisis can be very serious and it is used as a weapon, observes Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute of International Relations. “Because the South is under such pressure, the response must be an operation that goes beyond the European Union and includes the countries concerned, such as Egypt for example. There are many technical problems but we cannot leave Mediterranean countries facing such a food crisis. »
France hopes for this a Security Council resolution to which Russia would not be opposed. “The United Nations must be at the center of the game because only they can put all the elements together, both secure access to Odessa, give a mandate to inspect the boats going there and then plan […] the distribution of grain under acceptable conditions for those who need it, ”noted the Elysée.
The setting up of escorts is dangerous but “it is absolutely what must be done to help the cereals to come out”, approves Nathalie Tocci, director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali. “The risk of not doing so is much greater than that of carrying out these operations. Because 50 million people could experience famine. »
If you need an international operation and a protective corridor, “you’re going to need some sort of ceasefire, because there’s no hope of the Ukrainians demining the port if they think the Russians are coming from behind…”, remarks Robin Niblett, executive director of Chatham House.
According to him, “Russia plays its card very well on food insecurity by making believe that it is the result of the sanctions imposed by the West and not of the war carried out by Russia! It is, he explains, “a way for Russia to break its isolation. She has assets at her disposal. This was illustrated by the visit of Senegalese President Macky Sall to Moscow”.
Indeed, “the idea of creating a south-against-west front on the war in Ukraine goes very far,” observes Daniela Schwarzer, executive director Europe and Eurasia of the Open Society Foundation. This will affect the United Nations on many subjects, in other contexts, in a very fundamental way”. This must be seen as the result of very effective Russian and Chinese propaganda, “blaming the West and Ukraine, which would privilege its sovereignty over the lives of millions of individuals”.
We saw this during the discussion between the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers this week, who created “a narrative by saying that all this is the doing of Ukraine, which does not mine! abounds Nathalie Tocci. It is urgent for the West to fight this narrative and regain weight in the debate, insists Daniela Schwarzer.
All this underlines the central role of Odessa. “The West wants a viable Ukraine. If it loses its south coast, it may technically be sovereign, but it will no longer be viable,” observes Robin Niblett. Europeans and Americans must make it clear that the fall of Odessa is unacceptable. Because of grain exports, the Black Sea port is not only central to the country, but to global food security.