“As with its decision to start this unjustified war, responsibility for the disruption of these supplies and the suffering that it’s causing around the world lies squarely and solely with the Russian Government.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken May 18, 2022
Lying to the World About Global Food Security
Russian President Putin’s illegal and unprovoked on Ukraine, its neighbors, and people across the globe. The Kremlin’s war in Ukraine has wreaked death and destruction, , , making refugees of millions more, and massively . The devastating effects of Russia’s aggression have , which in turn has exacerbated global food insecurity. Ukraine has long been the “ ” millions of people across the globe. It is a top grain supplier to dozens of African and Middle Eastern countries. Now, after Russia’s February 24 all out invasion, Ukraine has turned “ ” while the Russian government uses disinformation to mislead the world about the cause of this crisis.
Food insecurity has risen because of Putin’s war of choice. It was not caused, as the Kremlin claims, by that the United States and many other countries have imposed in response to Russia’s horrific aggression against Ukraine. Food insecurity was rising before the invasion, and Putin’s war exacerbated that trend. Russia Ukrainian grain fields, merchant shipping on the Black Sea, and Ukrainians from exporting their own grain. Russia is also plundering Ukrainian grain for its own profit, grain from Ukrainian warehouses according to credible reports. All these actions have worsened food insecurity around the world.
Conversely, the United States and its partners have taken great care to avoid exacerbating food insecurity. U.S. sanctions, for example, are specifically written to prevent food insecurity: they include and permit transactions for the export and re-export of food to and from Russia, even with a sanctioned individual or entity. Moreover, the United States has $2.6 billion this year in humanitarian food assistance to help alleviate world hunger, with an added $5 billion to be added over the next five years.
The Kremlin’s Blame Game and What it Hopes to Accomplish
Russia’s government officials, Russian state-funded media, and Kremlin-aligned proxy disinformation actors are attempting to from Russia’s responsibility for worsening global food insecurity by blaming sanctions, “the West,” and Ukraine. In fact, the Kremlin and its proxies’ massive disinformation campaign is the crisis’s most heavily impacted regions – the Middle East and Africa. These false narratives are amplified by Kremlin-controlled state outlets such as and , as well as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) .
As it has with past false narratives about , the Russian government’s top diplomats and its embassies spread disinformation, often concentrating on African and Middle Eastern audiences. Some recent false claims include:
- Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain “ .”
- In his May 19 United Nations Security Council speech on conflict and food security, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vasiliy Nebenzya accused Europe of “hoarding” Ukrainian grain and engaging in “ ” exchanges with Kyiv.
- Russia’s embassy in Egypt blamed “ ,” while Russia’s embassy in Zimbabwe claimed “ ” in the Global South.
- In his May 25 Africa Day speech, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to de-legitimize Ukraine and urged African ambassadors in Moscow to demand the removal of “illegal, anti-Russian” sanctions in order to strengthen food security.
- , a website with ties to Russia’s military intelligence, to U.S. officials, echoed Lavrov’s claims, accusing President Zelenskyy of supporting a U.S.-led “ ” that will wield control over global food supply as a “ ” against the Global South.
- In his May 26 interview with RT Arabic, Foreign Minister Lavrov the West of neo-colonialism and of blackmailing African and Arab countries to join “anti-Russia” sanctions, in a bid to build solidarity against what Russia’s propaganda calls the “ .”
This disinformation is intended to both hide Russia’s culpability and persuade leaders of at-risk countries to support an end to sanctions designed to stop Russia’s unjust and brutal war in Ukraine.
Conclusion: Where the Blame Really Lies
The Russian government’s attempts to for its actions by blaming others for the worsening crisis in the global food system are reprehensible. This crisis is keenly felt in many Middle Eastern and African countries that import at least half of their wheat from Ukraine. According to World Food Program, millions of people are at of famine and malnutrition in these regions, as Putin’s reckless war increases the price of bread, taking money from the pockets of the most vulnerable families. “Russia is solely responsible for this food crisis … despite the Kremlin’s campaign of lies and disinformation,” European Council president Charles Michel as Russia’s UN Ambassador Nebenzya a June 6, 2022, UN Security Council meeting.
The Russian government continues spreading disinformation about its unjustified war’s disastrous consequences, including global food insecurity. The Russian government should and allow Ukraine to safely ship out its grain so that millions of hungry people in the Middle East and Africa can be fed.