Putin raises the stakes with grain blackmail

Consequences of the attack on the port of Odessa on the night of July 19

Consequences of the attack on the port of Odessa on the night of July 19

Putin cannot be provoked because he provokes both himself and the West. Constantly responding to these provocations after the fact is a fragile position, which leads to the abuser’s appetite for more.

There has never been a case where a mild reaction to a particular provocation by Putin could have brought him to his senses. There has always been an increase in “needs”. Therefore, it is not appropriate to react with too much trepidation about crossing “red lines”. The West must set the red lines itself; otherwise, it would seem that the United States lacks parity in terms of nuclear weapons. That is to say, the United States is under pressure and it bends. That’s how Putin feels right now. And that is why he continues the provocations in all directions.

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What do we see now with the grain deal? Naturally, Putin needs this mechanism to create an image of Russia as the breadwinner of the Global South, fighting for the hungry and caring about these issues. But on the other hand, the Kremlin is well aware that if Ukraine uses this mechanism, it will not benefit it. So they try to keep this mechanism in reserve without completely destroying it.

The implementation of a grain agreement is a special process. It includes the shipment of grain from Ukraine, the transport of this grain by sea and the unloading in Turkey. These are the three mandatory links. Based on this agreement, Putin expected one of the ties to be severed. But seeing that Erdogan is somehow behaving “disrespectfully” towards him (allowing Sweden to join NATO, giving Ukraine the commanders of Azov, generally declaring his support for Zelensky, whom Putin doesn’t want to see in person, allowing France to inspect the nuclear power plant that Russia is building in Turkey, and generally wanting to join the EU himself), Putin is well aware that all of this could lead to the organization of convoys. Of course, convoys not only involving Turkey, but with the participation of NATO coastal states. Then it decides to exclude the first element of this chain – shipping. That is why there were attacks on the terminals of the port of Odessa.

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If we manage to agree on the movement of these ships in the waters of coastal countries, Putin has a sneaky answer for this option as well. That is, he can use the same attack craft against them, while lifting elements of Ukrainian craft from the bottom near the destroyed span of the Crimean Bridge, and thereby blame Ukraine.

I started from this principle: do not make concessions to Putin.

How to thwart these insidious plans? Any concession to Putin is a continuation of his expansion. We just have to keep pushing it. We need to provide Ukraine with more air defense equipment so that we can cover not just the front line and not just Kiev and the nuclear power plants, but if we consider this grain deal necessary, we need to cover the port terminals. That is, Odessa.

Ideally, such a layered air defense system would cover the entire territory of Ukraine. But since neither we nor our allies have the strength to do so, it is necessary to protect the most critical installations.

There are two ways to counter this. The first is to kill Putin, and the second is to defend ourselves against him. I don’t see any other options.

How to cover the ports? With coastal defense systems like our Neptune, which can hit not only sea targets (our only sea target is the Russian Black Sea Fleet) but also land targets, like the Crimean Bridge. In any case, we are talking about long-range land-based missiles or similar air-launched missiles. Then we need the air force not only to take flight and launch these missiles, but also to intercept them. And for that we need either western avionics on our planes or, even better, western planes with proper avionics. If the West claims that the offensive is slow, it is because they are claiming themselves, not us.

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Much depends on Erdogan now. He will now step up his own game. For example, on the question of the organization of convoys. Erdogan will say that Turkey will not go it alone. Let’s do it with NATO forces. And to do this with NATO forces, you have to open the Bosphorus. After that, he will make another “quiet offer”, saying: “Give me back EU membership, for example, or allow me to buy F-35 fighter jets. Erdogan is a skilled player. What cards he will play (we can, in principle, consider all cards), but how he will play them depends on his personal talents.

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Erdogan can play the same way with Putin on the same grain deal. Many people see the grain deal as an initiative by Erdogan to provide grain to the Islamic world and the global South. So Putin violates this agreement. Erdogan cannot remain silent, but say: gentlemen (from Sudan, Mali and other countries), you really have to watch who is playing against you. Russia destroys you. This is what Putin is afraid of. He will lose a lot of support in the UN General Assembly. It will lose its support at the BRICS summit and its support within the SCO. Putin is afraid of it and Erdogan can play on it. He can play it seriously.

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That is why the situation in the Black Sea region can change quite quickly. The more Putin raises the stakes, the more he will be hit in the face. Because many politicians, as they say, have lost patience.

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