European leaders in Davos have condemned Russia’s use of food as “blackmail”

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(Bloomberg) – European leaders have condemned President Vladimir Putin for using food as a weapon in a bid to free Ukraine’s exports from Russia’s blockade.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says Russia’s bombing of grain warehouses, blockade of Ukrainian ships loaded with wheat in the Black Sea and stockpiling of its own food exports have pushed global wheat prices skyrocketing and put fragile nations at even greater risk.

“It is wielding power through hunger and grain,” von der Leyen said in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, condemning “Russian blackmail” and comparing Moscow’s actions to Soviet-era crop grabs and the 1930s. Famine

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Von der Lane said the EU was working to bring the 20 million tonnes of wheat stuck in Ukraine to the global market by opening “solidarity lanes” to connect Ukraine’s borders with European ports, as well as financing various modes of transport and increasing Europe’s own production.

The war in Ukraine and the future of the NATO alliance have dominated several speeches at the Davos summit.

On the sidelines of the conference, Estonian President Alis Karis told Bloomberg that there was growing support in Europe to send warships to the Black Sea to escort Ukrainian grain cargo ships, despite concerns that the war could escalate. Meanwhile, Polish President Andrzej Duda, speaking at a panel, warned of potential civil unrest in North Africa unless Ukraine is able to send its grain, a potential “huge immigration problem” for countries like Spain.

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also took the stage in Davos on Tuesday, reiterating that he was confident Sweden and Finland would be able to overcome Turkey’s opposition to their membership in the military alliance and address its security concerns. Turkey has expressed concern that countries view Kurdish groups as “terrorist” and support them.

The Nordic countries’ bid “demonstrates that European security will not be driven by violence and intimidation,” Stoltenberg said.

To allay Turkey’s allegations, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Havisto told a panel that both Sweden and Finland would send delegations to Ankara tomorrow. However, Turkey’s concerns could spread to other NATO allies, he said, adding that despite his repeated hopes, problems would be resolved.

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Russian revenge

Finland also hopes that Russia will retaliate for its NATO appeal with “some hybrid attacks in the form of cyber and information warfare” but military action is unlikely, said former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb in an interview with Tom Keane and Lisa Abramovich on Bloomberg TV. It has previously managed to reduce its reliance on Russian energy through diversification, he said, adding that “we have seen energy become weapons.”

In a keynote speech, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the NATO summit in Madrid in June would work to show the unity of the alliance, both within the organization and between the EU. As part of this, the organizers are preparing a dinner that will include both NATO member and non-NATO EU countries, he said.

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Karis said Estonia continued to push for more NATO troops, including a permanent presence in the east, and even said that Russia was “unprepared” for the war in Ukraine, making it unlikely that they would conduct attacks on other neighboring countries.

Despite strong criticism of Russia’s move, officials kept an open mind for a return to cooperation between Russia and Europe.

If the country finds a way back to democracy, the rule of law, and respect for international law, Russia could find its place in Europe again, says Von der Leyen.

“It is certainly a distant dream and hope, but it also says that our resistance to this brutal attack is against the Russian leadership,” he said. “It’s up to the Russian people who decide the future of their country, it’s in their hands.”

© 2022 Bloomberg LP



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