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Wheat and war: How sanctions are driving Russia-Syria cooperation


The conflict supply chain of wheat from Ukraine and Russia to Syria highlights interlinkages between the conflicts and the role of sanctions in driving cooperation.

Russia’s involvement in smuggling wheat out of the occupied regions or territories of Ukraine has been widely reported over the past year. In response, the US issued sanctions in September 2022 against Russian proxy officials involved in the theft of Ukrainian grain. While these targeted measures have managed to steer many countries in the Middle East and Africa away from buying the stolen wheat, Syria has become one of its primary destinations.

Due to the sanctions already imposed on both Russia and Syria they do not have many alternative trading partners and are also less concerned about any additional consequences they may face as a result of their cooperation. Their relationship has been further encouraged by Syria’s dire need for wheat in the face of increasing food insecurity, and Damascus’ agreement to overpay Moscow for the commodity in exchange for loans. The role of sanctions in encouraging this cooperation requires careful examination of the sanctions regimes, but without increasing food insecurity in Syria, particularly in wake of the earthquake.

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