What’s the deal with the grain ban by Ukraine’s allies? – expert analysis
April 26, 2023
The EU is a block of countries, and each cannot decide unilaterally how to trade with other countries. This must be decided by Brussels. And what happened? Ukraine, roughly speaking, and not Brussels, negotiated with Poland. This is a blow to the unity of the European Union.
Russia's Lavrov blames West for deadlock over future of Black Sea grain deal
By Michelle Nichols
April 25, 2023
Russia signed a three-year deal last July in which the United Nations agreed to help try and remove any obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports. While those exports are not subject to Western sanctions imposed following the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance are a barrier to shipments.
One of Russia's demands is for the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to return to the SWIFT banking system. Lavrov said that there were no plans for that to happen and as an alternative Guterres had proposed that U.S. banks could help the Russian Agricultural Bank with transactions.
China, Russia Trade Turnover Grew 38.7% in Q1 2023
April 20, 2023, Posted by China Briefing Written by Chris Devonshire-Ellis
In March this year, the bilateral trade volume amounted to over US$20 billion, up 23% compared to February. China mainly imports oil, natural gas, and coal from Russia, as well as copper, copper ore, timber, fuel, and seafood. A significant share of exports to Russia includes smartphones, industrial and specialized equipment, toys, shoes, vehicles, air conditioners, and computers.
Some analysts believe that if the geopolitical situation between Beijing and Washington is not improved, Russia may overtake the United States as China’s leading trade partner by 2030 if current growth and retrenchment trends continue.
Exports from China to Russia amounted to US$24.07 billion, up 47.1% from last year. Imports from Russia grew to US$29.77 billion (+32.6%).
If annualized, and projected over the entire year, China-Russia 2023 trade would reach about US$215 billion.
OPINION: Xi to Ze
by Timothy Ash April 27, 2023
Timothy Ash considers the latest call to be just about buying time for Putin, as it would be too weak from China's perspective to risk a regime change in Russia.
The timing looks very suspicious, coming after that incredible diplomatic faux pas/catastrophe by the Chinese ambassador to Paris, by commenting to the effect that post Soviet states have not right to exist.
So Xi was on damage limitation exercises today. If ever Xi eats some humble pie, I think that was today. What is that in Mandarin?
Xi's call might also have been all about stalling Ukraine's looming spring offensive - Xi may be afraid that the Ukrainians might actually win. Ironically both China and the US have an interest in the war dragging out, if only to weaken Russia. From the Chinese perspective a weaker Russia would become more dependent/reliant on China - understanding exactly who the junior partner/brother in the relationship is.
Just two weeks ago, Xi Jinping was telling his European visitors he would call President Zelenskiy when the time was right. We, Ukraine supporters, interpreted that as when Ukraine’s upcoming offensive proves decisively that Russia would be forced out of Ukraine by Ukraine forces. But it appears Xi was waiting for an event that would allow him to speak with Zelensky without giving Putin the impression that Zelensky might be able to influenced Xi’s thinking on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Zooming back to the past four months, a series of seemingly unrelated things begin to come into focus, and the one thing all of them have in common is Xi Jinping.
- First we have the no peace, peace agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia
- Next, Xi publishes his 12 point no peace plan for Ukraine and accepts the mantel of peacemaker
- Xi then travels to Russia for two days there months ahead of schedule to talk peace with Putin
- Xi invites Russia's Priminister Mikhail Mishustin to China for talks with China’s Primer
- In the interim, Xi holds marathon trade negotiations with over forty high level representatives of various nations
- Russia takes over the of the U.N. Security Council presidency
- China’s Minster of Defense visits Putin for four days
- Chinese diplomat makes unprecedented miscalculation while discussing former Soviet nations
- Ukraine allies halt grain transports
- Lavrov complains about Russian fertilizer and grain shipments ask that Russia be reinstated to the SWIFT transactions system
- Xi speaks to Zelensky
This maneuvering transpired in a four months time frame, but they have significantly changed conditions and the dynamics of the China-Russia-Ukraine relationship. China; Ukraine and Russia are stronger, but Putin is weaker. The increased activity in China has increased its demand for energy and raw materials from Russia, The increased Russian exports have provided funds for increased imports of China consumer goods but not Chinese military equipment, bad for Putin, good for Mishustin. Having Russia reinstated to the SWIFT transaction system would be a big win for Mishustin, and the grain deal just might do it.
Ukraine has received thousands of pieces of military equipment, retrained thousands of troops and received millions of munitions of various sizes and types ahead of its spring offensive, bad for Putin, good for Zelensky.
Extrapolating into the future, conditions are being set for Mishustin to establish a track record of improving national economic conditions and the availability of consumer goods for average Russian citizens, a prerequisite for transition from a wartime economy to a peace time economy. Ukraine is likely to have a very successful spring offensive pressuring Russian elites to make a move to replace Putin, the likely candidate Mishustin. Putin takes the loss, Mishustin withdraws all force from within Ukraine 1991 borders, negotiations between Russia, China, the EU and the US begin to resolve the non Ukraine issues of sanctions relief, reopening the Western financial systems, funding of the rebuilding of Ukraine, and Russia and Europe’s long term security.
Yep, that last paragraph is opinion, but that’s how I see it.