Ukraine Update: U.S. Sets Red Line For China

xi jinping vladimir putin

A Reuters report said:

The Biden administration, seeking to deter China from aiding sanctions-hit Russia, on Wednesday warned Beijing not to take advantage of business opportunities created by sanctions, help Moscow evade export controls or process its banned financial transactions.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that G7 countries would soon announce a unified response to make sure Russia cannot evade Western sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine with the help of China or any other country.

Speaking aboard Air Force One en route to Brussels where U.S. President Joe Biden will attend an emergency NATO summit, Sullivan said, “That’s not specifically about China, but it will apply to every significant economy and the decisions that any of those economies take to try, in an intentional and active way, to undermine or weaken the sanctions that we put in place.”

He said the U.S. government has conveyed this message to China and that, “We expect similar communication by European Union and individual European countries.”

After Biden had a video call with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, Beijing condemned the sanctions on Russia. It said “sweeping and indiscriminate sanctions would only make the people suffer” and should not be “further escalated.”

Washington is concerned that China could help Russia “backfill” and access these products by violating trade restrictions. The U.S. government has tools to ensure that can’t happen, Sullivan added.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Reuters on Wednesday that the United States would punish any companies that violate the export controls on goods like semiconductors.

In terms of payments, Sullivan said, the United States and its G7 allies will respond to “systematic efforts, industrial-scale efforts to try to reorient the settlement of financial payments.”

China has not condemned Russia’s action in Ukraine, though it has expressed deep concern about the war.

Everyone Knows Who Is Most To Blame For Ukraine War, Says China

The Chinese Ministry of Defense has called the U.S. “a liar and troublemaker” and said that “everyone knows” which country was “the biggest initiator” of the Ukraine crisis.

Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian on Thursday commented on accusations from unnamed U.S. officials that Beijing knew in advance about Russia’s attack on Ukraine and that China had even asked Moscow to delay it until after the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Wu condemned the claims, along with reports about China allegedly offering military assistance to Russia, saying there was “absolute disinformation” which only serves the purposes of “shifting blame to and slinging mud at China.”

The accusations show “the true face of the U.S. as a liar and trouble maker,” he said, adding that his country firmly opposes attempts by the U.S. to spread “false and malicious information targeting China on the Ukraine issue.”

The ministry spokesperson stressed that the Ukraine war had resulted from various reasons and within a “complex historical context,” but added that “we all understand which big power bears the biggest responsibility for today’s crisis,” in an apparent jibe at Washington.

Wu said Beijing wants “all parties” to “keep the door open for dialogue, consultation and negotiation to de-escalate” the situation in Ukraine and that China will play a “constructive role in seeking and realizing peace.”

Wu Qian’s remarks came on the same day Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Ukraine, along with EU countries, had turned into “instruments” of the U.S.

US Prepares For Failure Of Anti-Russian Strategy

Senior U.S. officials tasked with improving the country’s geopolitical position in the wake of Russia’s attack against Ukraine have doubts about their government’s current strategy, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the discussions.

The admission was buried in an article detailing the work of the Tiger Team, a group created in late February by the White House for planning around the situation in Ukraine.

The report itself largely focused on how the U.S. was preparing contingency plans for the unlikely scenario that Moscow would use weapons of mass destruction.

In addition to establishing the unit, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan formed a second body for long-term planning, the newspaper said, explaining its skepticism of the established Western narrative regarding the Ukraine conflict.

“Inside the White House, it has become an article of faith that [Russian President Vladimir Putin] made a huge strategic error – one that will diminish Russia’s standing, cripple its economy, and alienate potential allies for years. But it is early in the conflict, other officials caution, and that conclusion may prove premature,” the newspaper detailed.

The New York Times report (U.S. Makes Contingency Plans in Case Russia Uses Its Most Powerful Weapons) said:

‘The White House has quietly assembled a team of national security officials to sketch out scenarios of how the United States and its allies should respond if Russian President Vladimir Putin — frustrated by his lack of progress in Ukraine or determined to warn Western nations against intervening in the war — unleashes his stockpiles of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

‘The Tiger Team, as the group is known, is also examining responses if Putin reaches into NATO territory to attack convoys bringing weapons and aid to Ukraine, according to several officials involved in the process. Meeting three times a week, in classified sessions, the team is also looking at responses if Russia seeks to extend the war to neighboring nations, including Moldova and Georgia, and how to prepare European countries for the refugees flowing in on a scale not seen in decades.

‘Those contingencies are expected to be central to an extraordinary session here in Brussels on Thursday, when President Joe Biden meets leaders of the 29 other NATO nations, who will be meeting for the first time — behind closed doors, their cellphones and aides banished — since Putin invaded Ukraine.

‘Just a month ago, such scenarios seemed more theoretical. But today, from the White House to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, a recognition has set in that Russia may turn to the most powerful weapons in its arsenal to bail itself out of a military stalemate.’

The report said:

‘The current team was established in a memo signed by Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, on Feb. 28, four days after the invasion began, according to the officials involved in the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive planning. A previous iteration had worked for months, behind the scenes, to prepare the U.S. government for the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

‘That team played a central role in devising the playbooks of deep sanctions, troop buildups in NATO nations and arming the Ukrainian military, which have exploited Russia’s weaknesses and put its government and economy under tremendous pressure.’

It said:

‘A second team of officials, also created by Sullivan’s Feb. 28 memo, is looking at long-term opportunities for the United States to improve its geopolitical position as a result of Putin’s invasion. Inside the White House, it has become an article of faith that the Russian leader made a huge strategic error — one that will diminish Russia’s standing, cripple its economy and alienate potential allies for years. But it is early in the conflict, other officials caution, and that conclusion may prove premature.’

It added:

‘Officials believe the chances that Putin will resort to detonating a nuclear weapon are small. But Russia’s steady stream of reminders that it has its arsenal at the ready, and could use it in response to anything it perceives as an “existential threat,” has put Washington on high alert.’

The New York Times report said:

‘Several officials said the White House and Pentagon have had some tension over how much detail the Defense Department is willing to share on its highly secretive war planning — especially concerning responses to any use of nuclear weapons — even in the classified setting of the Tiger Team. (The term has been used for many years to describe an emergency task force inside the National Security Council.)’

Wall Street Bank Raises Alarm On U.S. economy

The U.S. will probably enter a recession if oil prices continue to soar and surpass $200 a barrel, Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius said on Thursday.

“We estimate that it would take a sustained oil price increase to $200 per barrel to produce an income shock similar in magnitude to those that precipitated the 1974 and 1979 recessions – and this would significantly increase the 2022 recession odds,” Hatzius said in a note seen by Yahoo Finance.

The warning comes as top oil traders predict that prices could break the $200-a-barrel mark this year as a result of Western sanctions against Russia and the lack of alternative sources.

On Thursday, Brent was trading at $120 a barrel, while US WTI crude’s price stood at $114 per barrel.

Meanwhile, the national average price for gasoline in the United States hit historic highs after Washington banned Russian oil imports. The price is currently up 71.5 cents per gallon from a month ago and $1.37 per gallon higher than a year ago, according to GasBuddy.

The sharp rise has hit consumer confidence, raising concerns of a spending pullback which could lead the economy into a recession.

U.S. Announces New Russia Sanctions

Another Reuters report said:

The U.S. on Thursday imposed fresh sanctions on dozens of Russian defense companies, hundreds of members of its parliament and the chief executive of the country’s largest bank.

The U.S. Treasury Department also issued guidance on its website warning that gold-related transactions involving Russia may be sanctionable by U.S. authorities, a move aimed at stopping Russia from evading existing sanctions.

“Our purpose here is to methodically remove the benefits and privileges Russia once enjoyed as a participant in the international economic order,” a senior administration official said, speaking on condition they not be named.

Among the new sanctions targets are more than 40 defense companies, including state-owned Tactical Missiles Corp and 28 firms to which it is linked, as well as its general director, the Treasury said in a statement.

The Treasury said the conglomerate, which Britain has already hit with sanctions, produces naval systems and weapons that Russia is using against Ukraine, including the Kh-31, a high-speed airborne guided missile that has been employed extensively in Moscow’s offensive.

Other firms on the new list include manufacturers of ammunition for the Russian military, civilian and military helicopters, and drones that the Treasury said originally were designed for surveillance but have been “repurposed” and used to attack Ukrainian forces.

The Treasury also slapped sanctions on 328 members of the Duma, Russia’s parliament, and Herman Gref, the head of Russia’s largest lender, Sberbank, who the Treasury said was a close Putin associate.

The U.S. said last month that U.S. banks must sever their correspondent banking ties – which allow banks to make payments between one another and move money around the globe – with Sberbank, but did not freeze its assets.

The U.S. on Thursday also targeted 17 board members of Sovcombank, which is also under U.S. sanctions, and Gennady Timchenko, a longtime ally of Putin, his companies and family members.

China, Pakistan Share Concern About Sanctions On Russia

China and Pakistan share concern about “spill-over effects of unilateral sanctions” on Russia over its war against Ukraine and called for a ceasefire and diplomatic resolution of the crisis, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Old allies China and Pakistan have refrained from condemning Russia over its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, unlike Western countries that have imposed unprecedented financial and corporate sanctions in response to what Russian President Vladimir Putin calls a “special military operation”.

“Both expressed concerns about the spill-over effects of unilateral sanctions,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement following a meeting on Monday in Pakistan between the neighbors’ foreign ministers.

“Both called for a ceasefire through diplomatic dialogue and hope that based on the principle of indivisible security, a fundamental solution to the Ukraine problem can be found,” the Chinese ministry said.

U.S. Refiners Turn To Middle East For Oil

U.S. refiners have begun snapping up fuel oil cargoes from the Middle East this month after U.S. President Joe Biden banned Russian oil imports over the country’s invasion of Ukraine, shipping data showed.

Middle East supplies are set to make up at least 17% of April U.S. fuel oil purchases, according to preliminary Refinitiv Eikon tanker tracking data.

About 4 million barrels from Middle East suppliers are set to discharge along the U.S. Gulf Coast next month, the highest level in at least 12 years. For all of last year, they supplied a total of 13 million barrels, according to Kpler.

“It’s a clear sign that we’re seeing a shift in where the United States is buying fuel oil from,” said Kpler analyst Matt Smith. The United States could struggle to plug the gap left by Russia, Smith said, given the loss of Russia fuel oil imports.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates make up roughly half of all fuel oil cargoes under contract and expected to head to the U.S. in April, the data showed. At least one cargo was scheduled to discharge in May.

Imports of fuel oil from Mexico into the U.S. are also expected to rise in April, analysts said, but the cargo tracking data has not yet shown the increase as scheduling from Mexico is typically very dynamic due to short routes.

Cargo from the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait due to discharge in April would be the first in at last eight months, while March marks the first time Iraqi fuel oil will arrive in the United States since mid 2021, Refinitiv data showed.

U.S. officials have been pressing other oil suppliers to boost exports. Some diplomats met with Venezuelan officials this month over the possible return of Venezuela’s heavy crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Refiners also have reached out to Ecuador for additional heavy crude cargoes.

Challenges Arise As Russia Calls For Gas Payments In Roubles

A news agency explainer said:

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said the world’s largest natural gas producer would soon require “unfriendly” countries to pay for their fuel in Russia’s currency, the rouble.

The requirement raised new hurdles for the mostly European gas purchasers that buy Russian gas.

The EU is considering sanctions and the United States, Britain and Canada slapped sanctions on Russia’s central bank and energy imports, dealing a blow to the country’s economy to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

If Russia gets paid for gas in roubles, it could avoid some of those financial sanctions. Nearly all Russian gas purchase contracts are denominated in euros or U.S. dollars, according to consultancy Rystad Energy.

The European wholesale gas futures benchmark, TTF, briefly topped $44 per million British thermal units on Wednesday in response to Putin’s call for payments in roubles.

Eastbound gas flows via the Yamal-Europe pipeline from Germany to Poland declined sharply, data from the Gascade pipeline operator showed on Wednesday.

It is unlikely Russia has the power to unilaterally change the terms of contracts already in existence, said legal experts.

“Contracts are made between two parties, and it is usually in U.S. dollars or euros. So if one party unilaterally says ‘no, you’re going to pay in this’ Well, there’s no contract,” said Tim Harcourt, chief economist at the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney.

“It is not clear how serious a demand this is,” said Susan Sakmar, a visiting law professor at the University Houston and a liquefied natural gas business consultant.

Wednesday’s rise in the rouble-dollar exchange and jump in European wholesale gas prices may be the point, she said. “It would take a long time for something like this to happen. In the meantime, Putin can keep prices elevated. That’s serving his interests well.”

Claudio Galimberti, a senior vice president at Rystad, said it is possible for Russia to devise new contracts that require payment in roubles, but it would require governments to hold roubles in their central banks or buy them on the open market.

Russia, China, Iran and others have hit at the dominance of the U.S. dollar in global trade and the frequency at which Washington applies financial sanctions.

For Russia, the move would pressure its ability to service foreign debt and cut imports, further squeezing its economy, said Liam Peach, a Capital Economics Emerging Europe economist.

For the U.S., a successful switch could contribute to a lessening of the dollar’s role in global trade as the rouble, yuan or other currencies rise in trade. That would have long-term implications for U.S. borrowing and financing costs.

Bulgaria Will Have To Pay For Russian Gas In Rubles

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that Moscow’s decision would create many problems. He explained that Bulgaria, the country through which gas supplies to Serbia and Hungary is delivered, has declared its unwillingness to switch to rubles in gas payments.

In response, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that the issue is closed, and Bulgaria will have to pay in rubles “whether they like it or not.”

However, he addressed Serbia’s concerns, noting that the country has abstained from any hostile acts or comments against Russia in connection with Ukraine.

“This does not apply to Serbia. The problem remains to be solved and, naturally, Serbia’s concerns will be our top priority,” Peskov said.

“It’s absolutely normal, [Vucic] is right, this can really be a problematic situation, because in this case, Bulgaria took hostile steps against us, so they will have to pay in rubles, whether they want to or not, whether they like it or not,” Peskov stated.

Earlier this week, the former deputy energy minister of Bulgaria, Yavor Kuyumdzhiyev, said the country greatly depends on Russian gas and lacks alternatives.

Serbia Sees No Problems In Paying In Rubles

The transition to paying for natural gas from Russia in rubles will not become an obstacle to energy supplies, technical difficulties are possible only at the first stage, Vojislav Vuletić, head of the Serbian Gas Association, told RIA Novosti.

“Ruble, dollar, dinar – all these are means of payment. The seller wants his goods to be paid in his currency, I think that this is correct. Perhaps there will be inconvenience at first, since we do not have enough rubles at the moment, but we can conclude an agreement so that they pay us something in rubles and the exchange of funds will begin,” the head of the Serbian Gas Association told the agency.

“We are interested in receiving gas, and what will be the terms of payment – we will agree and this will be spelled out in the contract. I think this will not become an obstacle to supplies,” Vuletić said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said in March that the new EU restrictive measures against the energy sector of the Russian Federation hit not the interests of Russia or the European Union, but Serbia. The Ministry of Energy of the country announced on Tuesday that Russian gas from the Turkish Stream continues to flow through the gas transmission system of Bulgaria to Serbia and Hungary, and there is still no decision to suspend the supply.

Serbia receives gas under an agreement with Gazprom from November last year until May 31 at $270 per thousand cubic meters, 6 million cubic meters per day. The Serbian authorities reported that they plan to sign the next contract with the Russian side for 10 years. The director of the state company Srbiyagaz, Dusan Bajatović, said that the leadership of Serbia and Russia could reach a new agreement on gas supplies by May 15.

EU Will Not Allow To Pay In Rubles, Says EC Chief

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU will not allow Russian rubles to be paid for gas. It is reported by Reuters.

“That would be an attempt to circumvent the sanctions. We will not allow our restrictions to be circumvented,” von der Leyen said.

She called this scenario unacceptable.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa expressed confidence that Europe  “will not pay for Russian gas in rubles. ”

Sending Peacekeepers Could Lead To Clash, Says Lavrov

Poland said last week it would formally submit a proposal for a peacekeeping mission in Ukraine at the next NATO summit.

“This would be the direct clash between the Russian and NATO armed forces that everyone has not only tried to avoid but said should not take place in principle,” Lavrov said in remarks to staff and students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on Wednesday (March 23).

Asked about the initiative, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “It would be a very reckless and extremely dangerous decision.”

He told reporters on a conference call that any possible contact between Russian and NATO forces “could have clear consequences that would be hard to repair”.

Ukrainians Using Roubles, Says Crimean official

A Reuters report said:

A Crimean official has said that Ukrainians living under Russian military control have begun to reject the Ukrainian currency in favor of Russian roubles, and “feel at home once more in historical Russia”, according to the RIA news agency

Georgy Muradov, deputy premier of Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014, said that “our brothers in the southern regions of Ukraine controlled by the Russian Armed Forces”, notably the Kherson region, Melitopol and areas bordering the Sea of Azov, “have already begun to gradually use roubles, refusing to pay in hryvnia”.

“People’s spirits have been lifted as they feel at home once more in historical Russia,” Muradov said, according to RIA.

Moscow, Tehran Developing SWIFT Alternative

Russia and Iran have been cooperating to connect their interbank messaging systems in order to bypass the SWIFT financial transactions network, Kazem Jalali, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Russia, said on Thursday.

Both countries are facing severe Western sanctions, making settlements in trade through SWIFT difficult or impossible.

“We are making efforts in this direction” Jalali told reporters, as quoted by RIA Novosti news agency.

Russia has its own payment mechanism called the Financial Message Transfer System (SPFS) that has similar functionality and allows the transmission of messages in the SWIFT format. It was created as an analogue to SWIFT that has been developed by the Bank of Russia since 2014.

EU Offers Farmers Aid, More Land To Grow Due To Ukraine War

Another Reuters report said:

The EU will distribute 500 million euros ($550 million) to help farmers and allow them to grow crops on fallow land to mitigate food price spikes and potential shortages resulting from war in Ukraine.

Published on Wednesday, the proposals by the EU’s executive European Commission also include assistance to Ukraine to help its farmers sow corn and sunflower seeds and tend to wheat.

The EU executive stressed on Wednesday that there was no immediate threat to food security in the 27-nation bloc given it is a net exporter of cereals.

However, recognizing farmers will face higher fuel and feed prices, the EU will distribute 500 million euros to aid farmers hardest hit by the crisis, particularly if they are engaged in more environmentally friendly production.

The Brussels-based Commission will also let farmers temporarily grow crops on the almost 6% of EU agricultural land that is set aside to boost biodiversity.

The Commission believes this, along with record Indian exports, will help cover some of the 20 million tonnes of wheat which Ukraine normally exports.

The Commission also said it supported EU countries using possibilities to reduce blending of biofuel – usually made with crops like cereals, vegetable oils and sugar – in road fuel as a way of easing pressure on supply of food and feed commodities.

It also proposed an emergency support program of 330 million euros to Ukraine, some of which is designed to help farmers.

Ukraine’s minister of agrarian policy and food, Roman Leshchenko, told EU lawmakers this week that his country normally exported 80% of its agricultural and food production but was now limiting that to feed its own population.

He said most of Ukraine’s grain and harvest production used to be exported from sea ports, now destroyed or blocked, and that farmers were struggling with the spring sowing campaign amid shelling.

U.S. Farm Groups Urge Sowing On Protected Land

Another Reuters report said:

Farm groups are urging the U.S. Agriculture Department to allow farmers the ability to plant on acres set aside for conservation, to help fill the absence of Ukrainian corn, wheat and sunflower oil amid war in the country.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Wednesday, seven agriculture lobbying organizations representing U.S. farmers, feed producers, grain exporters, millers, bakers and oilseed processors asked the USDA to provide flexibility to farmers to plant crops on more than 4 million acres of “prime farmland” currently enrolled in the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) without penalty.

The program pays farmers to fallow land for a 10-year period.

If those acres are planted, at 2021’s average corn yield, that could mean an additional 18.7 million tonnes of grain produced.

The letter, signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Grain and Feed Association and others, echoes a March 8 request by U.S. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas, as well as calls from agriculture economists.

Some farmers are skeptical about the approach. CRP acres are often set aside because they are difficult to farm, have poor soil, or are environmentally sensitive.

“In my area, everything that is farmable is farmed. We have very little CRP in my neck of the woods. It’s only in places you don’t want to farm,” said Kevin Scott, a corn and soybean farmer in southeastern South Dakota.

The war in Ukraine threatens around 7 million hectares (17.3 million acres), nearly half the nation’s planned spring planting region, Agriculture Minister Roman Leshchenko said. Some farmers cannot access farms in conflict zones, while others struggle to find adequate fuel and fertilizer, and exporters are blocked from shipping grain by Russian forces.

The EU has already eased restrictions on fallow land, offering financial incentives for farmers to plant additional acres.

The USDA-FSA said it had no immediate plan to relax CRP rules, while Vilsack, in a March 10 town hall, did not rule it out.

Greek, Spain Italy Supermarkets Limit Flour, Sunflower Oil Purchases

Reuters reported:

Supermarket chains in Greece said on Thursday they are restricting how much flour and sunflower oil customers can buy, saying the step was precautionary after seeing demand rise on worries supplies will be hit due to the war in Ukraine.

Following similar measures in Spain and Italy, four Greek supermarket chains – AB, Sklavenitis, Kritikos and My Market – said they had limited online and in some cases in-store purchases this week of flour and sunflower oil. AB said it has placed a limit of 3 bags of flour and 3 bottles of oil per customer.

The Secretary General for Commerce and Consumer Protection Sotiris Anagnostopoulos told Ant1 TV on Thursday that demand for some products had increased three-fold in recent weeks as shoppers stock up. The government said this week that so far, there were no shortages. Officials at three of the supermarket chains confirmed that was the case on Thursday.

Officials at the other three supermarket chains also told Reuters that they had imposed restrictions on flour or sunflower oil.

Greece imports about 250,000 tonnes of soft wheat from Russia and Ukraine, about 30% of its total wheat imports, the agriculture minister said earlier this month.

The government has asked suppliers, such as supermarkets and other food retailers, to declare stockpiles of products including fertilizers, animal food, grains, flour, sunflower and other vegetable oils.

Spanish supermarkets have limited the purchase of sunflower oil to a few bottles per person.

Some supermakets in Italy have implemented similar measures. Unicoop Firenze said limits had been placed on sugar, flour and sunflower oil purchases while Eurospin confirmed its shops had placed limits on flour and sunflower oil.

On Tuesday, Cristina Polcri, a shopper in the town of Sansepolcro in Tuscany told Reuters she found the local COOP supermarket shelves empty of sunflower oil and flour restricted to four kilos per customer.

EU’s Green Farming Plan Rattled

A media report said:

Scientists are urging Europe not to delay the transition to greener agriculture in response to war in Ukraine, which threatens global wheat supplies and raises fears over food shortages.

The European Commission is preparing to pass emergency measures on Wednesday to deal with the consequences of the war and sanctions on Russia, also a major exporter of cereals.

That will include granting temporary exemptions for fallow land, but some states, including agricultural powerhouse France, are calling for a much greater roll-back of the EU’s green agricultural policies.

The bloc’s “Farm to Fork” strategy — which aims to slash pesticide use by half, cut fertilizers by 20 percent and devote a quarter of agricultural land to organic farming this decade — was due to be officially outlined in legislative texts unveiled on Wednesday. They have been postponed indefinitely.

“This is very bad news,” said An Lambrechts, of Greenpeace International, from Geneva, where international negotiations are taking place for better protection of biodiversity.

That view is shared by scientists.

An appeal signed by more than 500 experts has called on the EU to “reinforce — and not abandon — the transformation towards a healthy, just, and environmentally-friendly food system”.

“We have to look at sensible short-term measures but we must not neglect those long-term targets,” said Hermann Lotze-Campen, agricultural economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), which led the appeal.

“Because reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting biodiversity are absolutely necessary to sustain and ensure long-term food production.”

Intensive agriculture contributes to climate change, environmental pollution and poses risks to human health.

“We should not only look at the supply side, but also that we have to reduce our consumption of animal-based products and then reduce the number of livestock,” Lotze-Campen told AFP.

About 60 percent of European cereal production is used for feeding pigs, chickens or cows, and just under 10 percent is used to produce fuel.

“Today, the main reason why we could run out of cereals in Europe is that we put too much of it in engines and that we give too much of it to animals,” said Pierre-Marie Aubert of the IDDRI research centre.

He said cultivating fallow land is not a viable solution to increase agricultural production.

Often “it’s not good land” for cultivation, he said, but it is needed to provide “key services that farmers depend on: pollination and pest control”.

He said a better short-term answer would be economic aid for countries that are struggling to cope with soaring cereal prices.

The war in Ukraine has also underscored Europe’s dependence on synthetic fertilizers from Russia and potash from Belarus.

But research in France has suggested that herbicides and nitrogen fertilizers can be cut by 30 to 50 percent from a high base, with no effect on yields.

Almost 200 countries are due to adopt a global framework this year to safeguard nature by mid-century from the destruction wrought by humanity, with a key milestone of 30 percent protected by 2030.

That must include better agricultural practices across the world, experts and activists say.

The EU is positioning itself as a leader at the Geneva talks, which are laying the groundwork for the COP15 biodiversity summit later this year, hosted by China.

Blinken To Mideast As Ukraine War Complicates U.S. Diplomacy

An AP report said:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Mideast and North Africa next week as the Biden administration strives to keep allies and partners united in opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the State Department said Thursday.

With U.S. diplomacy facing serious tests on Ukraine and a range of Middle East regional issues, the department said that Blinken will visit Israel, the West Bank, Morocco and Algeria starting this weekend.

In Israel, Blinken plans to press Israeli officials on support for the Ukrainian government, seek their thoughts on potential mediation with Russia to end the conflict and update them on the status of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna.

In Morocco and Algeria, Blinken will discuss the importance of the role that smaller states can play in backing Ukraine’s sovereignty, as well as the U.S. interest in Arab nations continuing to normalize and expand their relations with Israel. While in Rabat, Blinken will also meet with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, a longtime U.S. partner in the Gulf that recently attracted Washington’s ire by hosting a visit by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Australia Blacklists 22 Russian Journalists, Mass Media Employees

Australian authorities made effective a new package of sanctions against 22 Russian mass media representatives, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in her statement released on Friday.

Persons under sanctions include “senior editors from organizations including Russia Today, the Strategic Culture Foundation, InfoRos and NewsFront,” Payne said.

In particular, the sanction list includes Editor-in-Chief of RT TV Channel Margarita Simonyan, director and TV presenter Tigran Keosayan, Rossiya-1 TV Channel journalist Olga Skabeeva and others.

France Predicted Global Consequences Of A Special Operation In Ukraine

The situation in Ukraine will slow down the recovery of the global economy, which was already weakened after the pandemic, and could change it forever. So says the French edition of Le Monde .

The newspaper writes that according to the forecasts of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), global GDP growth will decline by 1 percentage point, while inflation will rise by 2.5 percentage points. OECD Senior Economist Lawrence Boon pointed out that this crisis is already manifesting itself in the form of rising prices for energy resources, food products and certain metals.

Back in December, the organization predicted that global economic growth by the end of 2022 would be 4.5%. The OECD was due to release new forecasts in March, but decided to cancel the scheduled publication as uncertainties increased.

The newspaper also quoted the International Monetary Fund, which believes that the Russian special military operation in Ukraine could have long-term consequences for the global economy.

“In the longer term, this conflict could fundamentally change the global economic and geopolitical order – if the terms of trade in energy resources change, supply chains are rebuilt, payment networks are divided and countries reconsider the composition of their gold and foreign exchange reserves,” the IMF quotes Le Monde.

Earlier, Maxim Shein, head of investment strategies at BCS Mir Investments, said that the U.S. dollar is gradually ceasing to be the main currency on the planet. According to him, such global organizations as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization are losing their importance.

The investment strategist also recalled that seven years ago, China began to actively promote its currency, which forced the IMF to include the yuan in the basket of key currencies. Subsequently, most countries have increased the share of the yuan in their reserves, reducing the share of the dollar.

The analyst added that Russia and a number of other states are creating alternative payment systems, reducing the share of settlements in dollars.

Prior to this, economist Henrik Müller shared his opinion that the dollar could lose its position as the world’s main currency. According to him, in the future of the US currency, three factors make one doubt at once, including inflation. The specialist recalled that the rise in prices in the US amounted to 8%, now the further development of the situation depends on the actions of the Fed. Anti-Russian sanctions may also have a negative impact on the dollar.


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