Russia’s grain-for-influence gambit


Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged free grain to six African nations. The announcement comes one week after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain deal, triggering a spike in global prices. Opening the Africa-Russian summit in St. Petersburg on July 27, Putin promised to send 25,000 to 50,000 tons of free grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic, and Eritrea. The countries are among Moscow’s closest allies on the continent, but they are not all the most food-import dependent. UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that a “handful of donations” would not correct the market impact of Russia’s termination of the year-long deal, which had cut cereal prices by more than one third. The African Union echoed Guterres’ criticism.

The St Petersburg summit was supposed to mark Moscow’s growing influence in Africa. But only 17 heads of state made it, compared to 43 at the last meeting in 2019. Putin blamed Western pressure for the disappointing turnout. However, in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, many African nations have chosen to remain non-aligned.

From The New Humanitarian, July 28

See our last report on the global food and energy crisis sparked by the Ukraine war.

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