About 25 million tons of grain now sit in Ukrainian silos blockaded by Russian ships. By disrupting global food and energy supplies, the Kremlin seeks to spark multiple international crises, forcing the West to pressure Ukraine into negotiations. The U.S. should spoil Russia’s strategy by establishing a maritime corridor with a naval coalition of the willing to ensure Ukrainian grain can reach foreign ports. That would alleviate the global food crisis while undermining a key element of Russian leverage over Ukraine and its allies.
From his initial military buildup, Vladimir Putin has aimed to shock Kyiv and the West into submission without having to martial the forces necessary to conquer Ukraine outright. Moscow has pushed to achieve objectives that aren’t geostrategic in the usual sense of allowing Russian forces an easier military victory, but that instead could put pressure on Ukraine’s allies to back off and force President Volodymyr Zelensky to capitulate.
Mr. Putin’s yearlong force buildup was intended to convince the West that a quick Russian victory was inevitable. Russia’s initial offensive—a multi-axis push after a countrywide missile barrage—was supposed to convince the West that supporting Ukraine was fruitless. Russia’s Donbas offensive, now targeting a small pocket around Severodonetsk, is designed to convince the West of much the same—that Ukraine has no chance, even with greater military aid, and must negotiate or be devoured by the Russian bear.
The situation on the ground contradicts the Kremlin’s narrative. Both Ukraine and Russia have taken brutal losses, but the former now has 700,000 men under arms and aims to have one million soldiers by 2023. Ukraine requires equipment, but it has held its own even without significant heavy weapons, bloodying the Russian Donbas offensive, pushing back around Kharkiv, counterattacking near Kherson, and denying Moscow a decisive breakthrough. Over time, Russia will run short of men, shells and cannon.
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