Russian wheat exporter asks China for food
As reported yesterday, the US government appears to be declassifying details of Russia’s requests for assistance from China. After revealing this the United States had become aware of Russia’s demands yesterday (the same day that Jake Sullivan had a seven hour meeting with Yang Jiechi) more details about what Russia requested have been published. CNN even reported on a cable shared with allies detailing that Russia had requested ready-to-eat meals – essentially food for its soldiers.
In a diplomatic cable, the United States told its allies in Europe and Asia that China had signaled its willingness to help Russia, which requested military support. The cable did not definitively indicate that assistance had been provided. An official also said the United States had warned in the cable that China would likely deny it was willing to provide assistance.
Among the aid requested by Russia was pre-packaged, non-perishable military food kits, known in the United States as “ready-to-eat meals” or MREs, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The request underscores fundamental logistical challenges that analysts and military officials say have hampered Russian progress in Ukraine — and raises questions about the fundamental readiness of the Russian military.
Forward-deployed units regularly outpaced their supply convoys, and open-source reports showed Russian troops breaking into grocery stores in search of food as the invasion progressed. One of the sources suggested that the food could be a demand that China would be willing to meet, as it stops short of lethal aid that would be seen as deeply provocative by the West.
CNN is correct that an MRE request suggests a logistical failure to prepare for this invasion.
But the symbolism is far more alarming (which perhaps explains why it was included in a leaked cable).
As Al Jazeera ratingsRussia is the world’s largest wheat exporter, accounting for 18% of the total, with Ukraine being another big producer.
Sanctions against Russia and Ukrainian farmers’ emphasis on tank capture will have a significant impact on global wheat markets – although one of the main impacts will be that Russia will send wheat to China instead of Egypt and Turkey.
Meanwhile, Ukraine exported over $3 billion cereals and other agricultural products to China in 2020.
Unless Russia leaves Ukraine today, most of these exports will not be delivered this year.
On top of all the other things Russia did by invading Ukraine, it created the conditions for food insecurity around the world – the kind of food insecurity that big countries like China can ill afford. .
This is also going to happen, as the COVID shutdowns in China are poised to cause more supply chain crises around the world.
At a time when Russia is destabilizing both Europe and much of the world (in part because a key food producer will harvest tanks and cluster bombs instead of grain), Russia has asked China to help him feed his soldiers.