After the grain deal, another missile attack, Putins goals are extended

Anyone who hoped that the grain agreement between Ukraine and Russia was a prelude to a peace agreement was wrong. On Saturday, the Ukrainian port city of Odessa was again bombarded with missiles.

On Friday, the Russian defense minister said that Ukraine did not have to worry about attacks on ports. So none of that appears to be true.

The good ornamentation that Russia makes international with the grain deal does not mean that the country is more modest in the war, experts say. In fact, Russia‘s ambitions have grown earlier.

Russia itself deserves a deal

It seemed striking that Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement in the middle of wartime. But that is not so bad, according to strategic analyst Paul van Hooft (The Hague Center for Strategic Studies). โ€œHistorically, you have that very often. Sometimes states, while living each other in every way possible, have to trade with each other. That just goes on.โ€

And yet: with this deal, Russia is supporting its opponent’s economy. Because it is mainly Ukrainian grain that can now enter the world market. What interests does Russia have in the agreement?

In any case, economic advantage says Russia expert Hubert Smeets. โ€œDue to the grain agreement, Turkey has abandoned the obstacles it had imposed on Russia in the Black Sea. Russia can now also supply a lot of grain to countries in Africa and Asia via the Black Sea itself.โ€

But perhaps more important to Putin, says Smeets, is the political benefit he hopes for. โ€œThrough the grain agreement, he gives the impression to countries in Africa: we make sure you have to eat. In this way, he wants to prevent those countries from providing support to his opponent.โ€

Van Hooft agrees. โ€œFor Russia, it is very important to win the battle for the narrative. Who is blamed for the fact that food transport to part of Africa and the Middle East stopped? That food prices are skyrocketing there and famines are starting to arise?โ€

The Kremlin is trying to portray the West as a culprit, says Van Hooft. For example, Putin wants to maintain the support of the few countries that help him with, for example, arms supplies and circumvent Western sanctions.

Nor

does Putin want to alienate the countries that are largely aloof from the war. Van Hooft: โ€œRussia cannot afford to lose the countries that sometimes close their eyes to the war. A famine due to a grain shortage could have changed their attitude.โ€

Battle against the West

For Putin, gathering support is part of an even bigger plan, says Smeets. โ€œRecently, Putin said in the Russian parliament: the West must stop deciding what happens in the world, this is a war against the Western world order. According to Putin, the war, or what he calls โ€œthe military operation,โ€ is the beginning of a world in which major world powers have their own sphere of influence and where Europe is disconnected from the United States.โ€

But Putin is not yet very successful in binding other countries to himself. Smeets: โ€œEven in his own former Soviet territory, he hardly gets any support for the war.โ€

That while Russia could make good use of foreign aid. Because the war is not exactly going well for Putin, while his military ambitions remain great. Saturday‘s missile attacks on Odessa show that well, says Smeets. โ€œThe attack fits in with Putin’s strategy to cause as much economic damage as possible in Ukraine and ultimately conquer this area.โ€

โ€œForeign Minister Sergey Lavrov left no ambiguity about this earlier this week either: Russia wants to take possession of the entire east and south of Ukraine. And that includes Odessa. The initial goal of freeing only the Donbas in eastern Ukraine from Nazis, as the Kremlin calls it, has expanded considerably.โ€