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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

G-7 promises $4.5 billion to address global hunger caused by war in Ukraine

President Biden with President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Group of 7 summit in Germany on Monday.

By Michael D. Shear

The United States and its Group of 7 allies Tuesday pledged to spend $4.5 billion this year to help ensure food security around the globe, seeking to counter global food shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The G-7 leaders said in a statement that the money would be used to ease what they called a “multidimensional crisis” that has left as many as 323 million people at high risk of food shortages, a record.

“We reiterate our urgent call upon Russia to, without condition, end its blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, destruction of key port and transport infrastructure, grain silos and terminals,” the statement said. “These can only be assessed as a geopolitically motivated attack on global food security.”

The United States and its Western allies are scrambling to find new ways to tighten pressure on Russia and shore up the global economy, after four months of sanctions against Moscow and military support for Ukraine have failed to slow Russia’s aggression. At the G-7 summit and a NATO meeting that begins Tuesday, President Joe Biden and other leaders have sought to demonstrate their resolve to keep punishing Russia even as its war drives up food and energy prices.

Food prices have surged since the Russian invasion, which has cut off Ukraine’s exports of grain and has reduced shipments of wheat and oil from Russia. Together, the two countries typically export about 30% of the world’s wheat and 75% of its sunflower oil. The shortages have caused alarm around the globe, with estimates that they could push as many as 40 million people into poverty.

The United States will commit more than half of the new funding for food security — $2.7 billion — to be financed by the $40 billion Ukraine aid legislation passed by Congress last month, according to the White House.

The pledge of $4.5 billion is not going to solve the global shortages. But a statement released by the White House said that $2 billion of the U.S. aid would be used for direct humanitarian intervention in areas facing immediate hunger or famine. The other $760 million would be invested in upgrading food delivery systems for the short and medium term.

“These new investments will support efforts in over 47 countries and regional organizations, to support regional plans to address increasing needs,” the White House said in its statement.

Among the issues still unresolved is an effort by the United States and its European allies to free Ukrainian grain that is trapped in the country by Russian blockades.

A White House official, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations among the G-7 leaders, said that finding a way to get the grain released and into the global food markets was at the very top of the list of priorities for Biden and his counterparts. But the official declined to say whether the leaders had settled on any specific plan to accomplish that goal.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has proposed releasing the grain in exchange for sanctions relief, a proposal that Biden and the other leaders have rejected. European officials have accused Putin of “war crimes” for using food as a negotiating tool.

“Vladimir Putin’s actions have strangled food and agriculture production and have used food as a weapon of war,” the White House said in its statement.

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