U.S. rejects Russian quid-pro-quo on Ukraine food exports

Placeholder while article actions load

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1957, Brunswick Records released “That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly and the Crickets. It’s a hall-of-fame entry in the “songs that are actually creepy if you listen to the lyrics.” Like a precursor to the Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” Or REM’s cover of “Superman” by the Clique.

There are more signs Moscow feels the pain of war-related sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official line is defiance. The international sanctions imposed to punish Moscow for its expanded war in Ukraine will fail. The West, facing its own economic turmoil, will cave first. Only the United States and its allies are to blame if other countries suffer as well.

Speaking to the Eurasian Economic Forum on Thursday, Putin scoffed at “completely unfeasible” efforts to isolate Russia, dismissing them as “simply unrealistic in the modern world.” Countries that join that campaign “harm themselves the most,” he said.

  • But there are signs on Russian shelves and in Kremlin statements that the unprecedented suite of retaliatory measures adopted after he escalated the conflict on Feb. 24 are taking a serious toll and have the ruthless former KGB officer in something of a deal-making mood.

Not that the West seems eager to bargain. On Thursday, the White House bluntly rejected the latest offer from Moscow: If the U.S. and its partners will only lift the sanctions, Moscow will take steps to prevent what experts warn could be a devastating global food crisis.

“This is Russia who is actively blocking the export of food from Ukrainian ports and is increasing world hunger. This is on them,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at her daily briefing. There are “no” discussions about easing sanctions, she said.

Regular readers of The Daily 202 know what this is broadly about. Ukraine and Russia produce about a third of global wheat and barley exports. Three dozen countries rely on them for more than half of their wheat imports. They also produce more than half the world’s sunflower oil, used in cooking and snacks.

But as my colleague Shane Harris documented this week, “U.S. intelligence shows that a Russian naval blockade has halted maritime trade at Ukrainian ports, in what world leaders call a deliberate attack on the global food supply chain that has raised fears of political instability and shortages unless grain and other essential agricultural products are allowed to flow freely from Ukraine.”

And Russia itself is feeling the sting of economic sanctions. Yesterday, my colleague Miriam Berger told the story of how Russians are turning to Iran to learn how to live as global economic pariahs for years, hardly a show of optimism that the West is ready to crumble.

  • And my colleagues Anthony Faiola and Mary Ilyushina detailed how “Russia is starting to devolve into a secondhand economy dependent on poor substitutes, where shortages are stirring memories of the consumer wasteland that was the Soviet Union.”

As for Putin, he hiked pensions and the minimum wage 10 percent this week to counter inflation, which hit an annualized rate of 18 percent last month.

That’s some of the context in which to understand Moscow’s latest offer: If the West wants to avoid a food crisis that could destabilize dozens of countries, it must ease up on sanctions that have potentially damaging repercussions for Putin’s rule at home.

At the Associated Press, Ricardo Mazalan and Elena Becatoros report Putin “told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow ‘is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizer on the condition that politically motivated restrictions imposed by the West are lifted,’ according to a Kremlin readout of the call.”

And, they note: “European countries have tried to ease the crisis by moving grain out of the country by rail — but trains can carry only a small fraction of what Ukraine produces, and ships are needed for the bulk of the exports.”

My colleague Stefano Pitrelli reported that Draghi told reporters Putin agreed in principle during a telephone conversation to help clear a path for several million tons of Ukrainian wheat sitting in Black Sea ports. Draghi also acknowledged the effort may be “fruitless.”

  • Draghi said “that he decided to make the call ‘because of the gravity of a humanitarian crisis, which can strike at the world’s poorest. … Millions and millions of lives are at stake.’ Draghi said he was hurrying to fend off the risk that the wheat could rot.”

Ukrainian officials have expressed concerns that any opening of Black Sea ports to traffic — such as by removing mines or other deterrents — would let Russia try to take them over.

“The proposal, as Draghi described it to the Italian media, involves a collaboration between Russia and Ukraine, ‘on the one hand on demining, and on the other on guaranteeing’ that no attacks are launched while the operation is being carried out,” Stefano reported.

Draghi plans to run it by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

House Oversight Committee initiates gun manufacturer investigation

“Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) contacted five gunmakers on Thursday, requesting information regarding the manufacturing, sale, and marketing of deadly weapons used in mass shootings. Both gunmen responsible for the carnage in Buffalo and Uvalde, Tex., used AR-15-style rifles, purchased legally at the age of 18,” Jacqueline Alemany reports.

NRA opens gun convention in Texas after school massacre

“The National Rifle Association begins its annual convention in Houston on Friday, and leaders of the powerful gun-rights lobbying group are gearing up to ‘reflect on’ — and deflect any blame for — the deadly shooting earlier this week of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas,” the Associated Press‘s Juan Lozano and David A. Lieb report.

And: Abbott to skip NRA meeting, will release video remarks instead

Fears of a ‘second Mariupol’ as Russia tightens grip in the east

“President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of executing “an obvious policy of genocide” in eastern Ukraine, while the mayor of one of the cities under attack warned it risked becoming a second Mariupol,” Jonathan Edwards, María Luisa Paúl, Jaclyn Peiser and Claire Parker report.

  • U.S. preparing to approve advanced long-range rocket system for Ukraine, CNN reports
  • WHO members condemn Russia, warn its voting rights could be stripped

Follow our live coverage of the war here

Lunchtime reads from The Post

The NRA has weakened. But gun rights drive the GOP more than ever.

“For GOP voters and lawmakers, gun rights have become a central culture-war issue animating their movement. Arguments that once centered on hunting and rural traditions have turned into bitter battles over identity, with no need for a giant lobbying group like the NRA to stoke the flames,” Isaac Arnsdorf and Carol D. Leonnig report.

  • More on that: The NRA “has been embroiled in lawsuits and infighting for the last four years, taking a toll on its budget and standing in Washington — and also creating space for more-extreme groups to gain traction.”

As timeline emerges, police criticized for response to school massacre

A gunman roamed outside a Texas elementary school for about 12 minutes, entered without challenge and spent an hour inside before he was killed by law enforcement, authorities said Thursday, revising key details in their account of the massacre as the police response to it was criticized by some parents,” Jon Swaine, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Mark Berman report.

“The new details of how 18-year-old Salvador Ramos was able to kill 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Tex., on Tuesday, together with cellphone videos and witness accounts of police outside tackling or handcuffing desperate parents who tried to rush into the building, called into question earlier claims by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that a ‘quick response’ by law enforcement had saved lives.”

More: How the official accounts about the Uvalde shooting have changed

How the U.S. has struggled to stop the growth of a shadowy Russian private army

“For nearly a decade, U.S. officials watched with alarm as a shadowy network of Russian mercenaries connected to the Kremlin wreaked havoc in Africa, the Middle East and most recently Ukraine. A number of them now say they wish the U.S. government had done more,” ProPublica‘s Joaquin Sapien and Joshua Kaplan report.

President Vladimir Putin has increasingly relied on the Wagner Group as a private and unaccountable army that enables Russia to pursue its foreign policy objectives at low cost and without the political backlash that can come from foreign military intervention, U.S. officials and national security experts said.”

White House pushes to get Paxlovid pills in more covid patients’ hands

“The federal government will start reimbursing a clinic in Providence, R.I., for evaluating patients who test positive and immediately prescribing Paxlovid to those eligible for it — the first of what the White House said would be a series of federally supported sites, with others set to open in New York and Illinois,” the New York Times‘s Noah Weiland reports.

U.S. to begin allowing migrants to apply for asylum under a new system

“The Biden administration will begin to allow certain migrants to ask for asylum as they arrive at the southwestern border at the end of the month, even as it continues to use a pandemic-era public health rule to quickly turn migrants away without the option to seek it,” the NYT’s Eileen Sullivan reports.

U.S. plans economic talks with Taiwan in latest challenge to China

“The talks would focus on enhancing economic cooperation and supply-chain resiliency, falling short of a traditional free-trade agreement, according to the people. The deal is likely to include areas of trade facilitation, supply-chain work and trade in agricultural products, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of a public announcement,” Bloomberg’s Jenny Leonard reports.

Latest White House plan would forgive $10,000 in student debt per borrower

“The White House’s latest plans called for limiting debt forgiveness to Americans who earned less than $150,000 in the previous year, or less than $300,000 for married couples filing jointly,” Tyler Pager, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Jeff Stein report.

Senators press Biden administration to improve treatment of Afghans

“President Biden’s recent creation of a program to ease a pathway to the United States for Ukrainian war refugees cast the administration’s more restrictive policy toward Afghans and others into ‘stark’ relief, Democratic Sens. Edward J. Markey (Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Tina Smith (Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) wrote in an open letter to Biden and the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday,” Abigail Hauslohner reports.

Biden is squaring off with Bezos — and bringing back a top aide with Amazon ties

Anita Dunn rejoined the administration as a top adviser this month from the powerful communications shop she co-founded, SKDK. The Democratic firm, which has produced a number of current and former administration officials, has a host of major clients in business and politics. One of them is Amazon,” Politico’s Hailey Fuchs and Emily Birnbaum report.

Student loans in America, visualized

About 1 in 5 Americans hold student loans. More than half of those 45 million people with federal student loans have $20,000 or less to pay, with about a third of all borrowers owing less than $10,000. Seven percent of people with federal debt owe more than $100,000,” Alyssa Fowers and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel report.

Border Patrol agents are now both heroes and villains in the Texas shooting

“It’s now clear that crucial minutes ticked by—around an hour—as police stood outside Robb Elementary while the gunman, Salvador Ramos, went on a killing spree inside a fourth-grade classroom. Dozens of Border Patrol agents did respond to support local officers, but it was a four-man team of tactical agents who went in together. And while their actions were undoubtedly heroic, one witness, a 10-year-old boy, has come forward to say the cops inadvertently helped the gunman identify another victim to shoot,” Vice News‘s Keegan Hamilton reports.

Tucker Carlson calls Blake Masters the future of the GOP. First he has to get elected.

“Despite Trump’s four years in the White House and his enduring dominance over the GOP, Trumpism as an ideology is still largely inchoate. And this is where [Peter] Thiel, [J.D.] Vance and [Blake] Masters come in. The Masters and Vance candidacies offer an opportunity to flesh out Trumpism — or Thielism — and reshape the GOP,” Politico‘s Hank Stephenson reports.

At 1:55 p.m., Biden will depart Forrest Sherman Field for the Delaware Air National Guard Base. He’s expected to arrive in New Castle, Del., at 2:30 p.m.

Late-night hosts balance comedy and tragedy after Texas school rampage

Seth Meyers knew he’d have to address millions of viewers after national tragedies when he took a late-night hosting gig eight years ago,” Jonathan Edwards writes.

But Meyers said he’d done something even more difficult that morning, less than 24 hours after the Uvalde massacre. The father of three dropped off his own kids at school.

Thanks for reading. See you next week.

Leave a Comment