While in a weekend interview 99-year old Henry Kissinger told US media that he predicts China’s entry into Russia-Ukraine diplomacy will result in the two sides finally coming to the table, UN Secretary General António Guterres has issued a much more pessimistic and ominous outlook in a fresh interview with Spain’s El Pais.
He said “I believe that peace negotiations are not possible at this time” as “both parties are convinced that they can win.” But he did acknowledge one rare bright spot: “The most important initiative has been the export of grain from Ukraine and food products and fertilizers from Russia through the Black Sea.”
But the grain deal too is teetering on the brink of failure. As Freight Waves recently reviewed, “Russia is threatening to pull the plug on the Black Sea Grain Initiative on May 18, blocking Ukrainian seaborne exports of corn and wheat.”
Added to this, “The European Union has banned Ukrainian agriculture exports to neighboring Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia until June 5, with an extension through year-end possible, due to local pricing pressures,” the report continued. “The Tolyatti-Odessa pipeline, a key conduit for Russian exports of ammonia — a vital fertilizer feedstock — remains offline.”
The UN/Turkey-brokered grain deal’s collapse would have immediate impact on the food security of literally tens of millions of people globally, but most especially in already struggling regions of North Africa and the Middle East. The UN has called the Black Sea Grain Initiative as “critical” to helping “stave off famine.”
Guterres said the following to El Pais:
This was a Russian invasion against international law, against the United Nations Charter, but I do not think Russia is willing at the moment to withdraw from the territories it occupies, and I think Ukraine is hoping to retake them. What we are doing, as much as possible, is to dialogue with both parties to solve specific problems. The most important initiative has been the export of grain from Ukraine and food products and fertilizers from Russia through the Black Sea.
On the grain initiative in particular, he said “We are completely engaged in trying to save the initiative, and that currently “It is a question of achieving an extension of the initiative that is more lasting and perfect.”
And in the following section of the interview, the UN chief expressed hope that China’s entry on the diplomatic and mediation front will prevent the risk of nuclear escalation [emphasis ZH]:
Q. Will peace have to wait until both sides are convinced that neither side can win?
A. At this moment I don’t see any possibility of immediately achieving — we are not talking about the future — a global ceasefire, a peace negotiation.
Q. Meanwhile, there is a risk of escalation: the use of tactical atomic weapons by Russia or a nuclear accident in Zaporizhzhia.
A. Zaporizhzhia is a big concern. I hope there is enough care on both sides to prevent a tragedy. And I think the possibility of a nuclear escalation is very small. The Chinese initiative was very important for stating very clearly that a nuclear escalation is unacceptable. The fact that China has taken that position is very important in avoiding a temptation that would be an intolerable absurdity.
Certainly President Putin’s words during Tuesday’s Victory Day celebrations in Moscow were not ambiguous on his continued war aims, and suggest viable peace is not on the table at this moment. He said that war was “unleashed” on Russia by the US and West…