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Jul 20, 2023 / 09:29

Turning the game around

The main reasons lay in the recent NATO summit and Turkey's moves which Russia saw as provocations and often ignoring Russia's security concerns and interests.

Just hours after the bridge between Russia and Crimea has been for the second time attacked which Russia has accused Ukraine of, Russia announced that it was suspending its participation in the so-called Ukraine grain deal, also just hours before it was officially set to expire. This deal, brokered by Turkey and the UN and signed by Russia and Ukraine last summer allows Ukraine to export its grain and food via the Black Sea. In return, Russia got another agreement on facilitating the export of its food and fertilizer amid Western sanctions. But Russia has been often complaining that restrictions on shipping and insurance have hampered its food and fertilizer exports.

 A farmer harvesting wheat in eastern Ukraine in July. Photo: AFP/VNA

This deal is crucial for Ukraine and the West because it has brought Ukraine billions of dollars. It is crucial for Turkey, too, because it was the most significant diplomatic achievement of Turkey in mediating between Russia and Ukraine since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. It is the unique symbol of Turkey's political role and influence in this war.

Russia didn't officially link its pull-out of the Ukraine grain deal with the recent attack on the Crimea bridge. But in its real effect, it acted as one of Russia's resolute retaliations. Without this Crimea bridge attack, Russia would still quit this agreement. Until now, Russia has already four times extended the agreement's validity. That indicates that Russia would at any time decide to return to this agreement.

But now suspending it first. The main reasons lay in the recent NATO summit and Turkey's moves which Russia saw as provocations and often ignoring Russia's security concerns and interests.

At its summit in Lithuania's Capital of Vilnius, NATO once unofficially declared war against China with its new strategic plan to deter and combat Russia for now and for the future. Together with G7, NATO showed its determination to hold Ukraine from winning the war in Ukraine whatever it costs and however long it will last. It will firmly continue to further enlarge itself with new members in Finland and Sweden. Its members will significantly increase their annual military spending. NATO its preparedness, capabilities, and determination to eliminate Russia as security challenges and threats. Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to unleash military offensives along the frontlines in Ukraine and attacks on Russian territories and Crimea. The US, EU, and their allies impose and tighten their sanction scheme against Russia. Therefore, Russia must act, strongly and immediately, showing demonstratively that it always knows how to deal with the West, EU, NATO, G7, and Ukraine.

In this situation, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan did something like having jabbed his finger in Russia's ribs. He openly supports Ukraine's desire to join NATO. He recept Ukraine's president Volodymir Selenskij and freed 5 Ukrainian military commanders Russia deported to Turkey, ignoring all concerns by Russia. For Russia, it can only be betrayal and a double game. Therefore, Russia has to and wants to put Turkey in its place by openly letting Turkey and its president realize that Russia could be able at any time to destroy Turkey's most important diplomatic achievement relating to mediating between Russia and Ukraine, namely even the Ukraine grain deal. Without its friendly relationship with Russia, Turkey would lose its present exponent stand within NATO as the last bridge between the West and Russia. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been since playing a risky game and could only win if he could keep a stable balance between the West and Russia. Suspending the Ukraine grain deal is Russia's blow direct to Erdogan's face and a clear warning to Turkey not to go too far.

With its leaving the Ukraine grain deal, Russia is turning the game around. This tactic will work for Russia but not for a long time. Therefore, Russia would certainly return to the agreement and does it more soon than later.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by Ambassador Tran Duc Mau are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Hanoi Times.