General Says NATO Could Provide Military Help to Ukrainian Grain Exports

U.S. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the nominee to be the next NATO commander, said recently that the American military might be called on to conduct operations in assistance of Ukrainian grain exports. The Russian blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports has significantly impacted the ability of the country to ship grain to international destinations.

During a Senate hearing last Thursday, the general said that if he is confirmed to the NATO command post he would be prepared to provide military options to civilian leaders of member nations, including the U.S.

The general added that any help NATO could provide to Ukraine in that regard would have to be a government-wide approach. He said that might or might not include military involvement. He did not provide senators with any specifics about what a military approach could include. It is unknown whether Cavoli envisions the possibility of NATO troops directly engaging Russian forces inside Ukraine in order to facilitate grain shipments.

Worldwide markets are experiencing ongoing and increasing shortages of many of the agricultural products normally exported by Ukraine, which is a leading exporter of wheat, canola oil, and sunflower oil globally.

While addressing the Senate, Cavoli also pointed out the impact of U.S. economic sanctions imposed against Russia on international grain supplies. He noted that both Ukrainian and Russian products are either not being produced at normal capacity or are not being shipped out of those countries onto the global market. Cavoli said that the most severe impact is currently being felt across all of Africa.

Gro Intelligence CEO Sara Menker told the United Nations Security Council a week ago that the Russian invasion is “adding fuel to a fire” that has been burning for a long time. She said her analysis shows that there are now about 10 weeks of wheat supplies in global inventories.

Menker said that the crisis not only pre-dates the Russian invasion, it was simmering even before the global COVID-19 pandemic. She said recent events have mainly served to expose pre-existing weaknesses in global supply chains.

In addition, intense drought seasons and other weather issues were blamed for adding to the pressures of the current food supply chain crunch. Menker said the other factors were critical to understand because even if the war in Ukraine were to end quickly the global food security problem is not going to be solved without international cooperation and action.