17.09.2023 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

The grain deal negotiations in Sochi won’t be successful if Russia’s interests are not honored

The recent trip to Russia by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received a lot of media attention ahead of it. One thing was clear – Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would meet, whether it be in Turkey, Russia, or some other country such as India. What caused the Turkish leader to act in such haste?

Of course, the goal of this meeting was not to thank Russia for its assistance during his most recent contentious presidential campaign. It is also hardly the topic of Syrian talks, which have not yet established a meeting place since the “Astana platform” failed. Many were tempted to think that the urgency of the two presidents’ face-to-face meeting was due to the grain deal, where Turkey wants to launch the Black Sea Initiative’s second phase as soon as possible.

Given that Moscow has regularly and openly expressed its justifications for its departure (or suspension of participation), as well as its terms of return, what can Turkey offer the Russian side regarding the grain issue? As is well known, Russia made no accusations against its Turkish partners in this situation, instead actively supporting Erdoğan’s ambitions in every way, sometimes even at its own expense, as was the case with an extension agreement reached in May of this year, just prior to Turkey’s second round of presidential elections.

The greatest impediment is the West’s contempt for Russia’s interests, a one-sided game against the Russian state that will not endure long. As they say, Dostoevsky is Dostoevsky even in “The House of the Dead.” Russia remains a powerful nation whose interests must be taken into account.

In addition, there are serious issues that call for equally clear solutions in order to satisfy Russian agricultural export interests, regardless of how much the West depends on Erdoğan’s close friendship with Putin and his ability to exert influence on the latter in order to advance its goals. In order to sell its wheat through Turkish territory to other countries, such as the destitute African nations, Russia expresses its readiness to build an effective relationship with Turkey in the grain sector.

Did Erdoğan fly to Sochi specifically to meet with Mr. Putin, even if this Moscow proposal was known in advance? Without a doubt, during their high-level conversations, the parties would talk about a wide variety of bilateral and global matters within the norms of diplomacy. This year’s meeting, which took place on September 4 in Sochi, was no exception.

The Russian President has made it clear in Sochi that he is only willing to resume the grain deal if Russia’s interests are safeguarded and the previously outlined requirements for the export of Russian agricultural products and related issues, such as the lifting of financial sanctions on the Russian Agricultural Bank, the import of agricultural machinery and spare parts, the opening of the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline, cargo and ship insurance, etc., are met.

In order to deliver Russian grain to impoverished African nations while Turkish businesses processed the wheat into flour, Russia and Turkey decided to forge bilateral business ties. The only addition was Qatar’s participation, which has close ties with Turkey and Russia. Recent evidence suggests that the West’s efforts to establish a total regime of anti-Russian sanctions are not gaining the support of the rest of the world.

Some international experts, such as Azerbaijani political scientist Aydin Kerimov on the pages of haggin.az, have stated in the press that Russia and Turkey are likely to reward Doha with large commissions for its role in the grain deal. According to Kerimov, Qatar’s accession to the deal occurred at a meeting in Budapest on August 22, this year, during the celebration of St. Stephen’s Day, an official national holiday in Hungary. Qatar, in particular, aims to finance the acquisition of Russian grain, after which the cargo will be transferred to Turkey for a charge, and Ankara will be allowed the right to export these products to worldwide markets with appropriate commissions. As a consequence of this, Qatar will handle financial operations with the Russian Agricultural Bank and might potentially import agricultural equipment from other nations for Russia.

In other words, the UN will attempt to partially accommodate Russian interests in this manner and apparently get Moscow’s consent for the transit of Ukrainian grain over the Black Sea to foreign markets.

This author is unable to confirm or deny the information provided by Aydin Kerimov about a potential commercial deal for Russian grain. One certainty is that business presupposes the business interests of the parties involved in the transaction. Politically, Russia demonstrates its ability to build commercial and financial relationships with external partners, but not to the detriment of its own interests.

Nevertheless, the grain agreement with Qatar and Turkey does not signify that Russia supports the resumption of the Black Sea Grain Initiative on Ukrainian grain. If someone believes that Russia will limit itself to “observing with binoculars” the likely transit of dry cargo from the Special Military Operations Zone to Black Sea ports in response to its goods being exported through Turkey with Qatar’s involvement, they may be proven wrong very soon. Moreover, a “humanitarian convoy” of NATO naval forces threatening to use force against the Russian Black Sea Fleet might exacerbate already tense relations with a nuclear power.

Therefore, President Vladimir Putin stated to Western parties, largely through President Erdoğan, under what terms the “grain deal” in the Black Sea basin can be resumed, but it won’t succeed unless Russia’s interests are honored. That is apparently why the Turkish side anticipates another summit of the two heads of state in the near future; the dates and location of the meeting have not yet been determined. As September has come and wheat barns have filled up, the West and Turkey are understandably pressing the issue of a grain deal. Moscow correctly points out that the volume of Ukrainian grain on the global market is insignificant and has no bearing on the price situation. Therefore, the West shouldn’t exaggerate the idea that “Russia is to blame for the impending global famine.” To put it simply, make friends with Russia if you want bread.

Regarding all other matters, the parties in Sochi reaffirmed the strong dynamics, the 86% increase in trade turnover, the readiness to start the gas hub project, and Rosatom’s development of the second nuclear power plant in Sinop on the Black Sea coast of Turkey. These trade balance numbers make it clear that Turkey needs Russian economic help and cannot impose its conditions on Russia.


Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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