The media and officials aligned with the Kremlin are attempting to divert attention from Moscow’s responsibility for rising global food insecurity, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) said in a statement.
The food crisis is worsening due to the war Russian President Vladimir Putin launched against Ukraine. It was not caused as Russia claims by sanctions democratic countries took to quell the Russian war effort, the statement said.
“This is clear blackmail against the West and the international community,” Mario Morales, an analyst and professor at Colombia’s Pontifical Javeriana University, told Diálogo. “Russia is taking advantage of the food crisis from a disinformation standpoint for ideological purposes, making use of the media it has spread around the world and of the locutions, presentations, and speeches from diplomatic speakers, whenever they can.”
“Faced with the failure of its military offensive that intended to occupy all of Ukraine in a few days, Russia opened another front, using what former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called a silent weapon: food exports,” European Union (EU) Ambassador to Mexico Gautier Mignot said, Mexican newspaper El Financiero reported July 3.
Although food insecurity was growing before the invasion, Moscow aggravated that trend. “Russia mined Ukrainian grain fields, attacked merchant shipping on the Black Sea, and blocked Ukrainians from exporting their own grain. Russia is also plundering Ukrainian grain for its own profit,” the DOS said June 22.
Ukraine was a major supplier of grain to dozens of countries in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Europe, and “has turned ‘from a breadbasket to a breadline’ while the Russian government uses disinformation to mislead the world about the cause of this crisis,” the DOS said. Russia provokes fear to point the finger of blame at the West with this false narrative, Morales added.
The U.S. and EU are taking great care to avoid exacerbating food insecurity in the most affected countries, such as many in Africa. They also help Ukrainian farmers maintain their production and find alternative export routes, Mignot said. The blockade of Ukrainian exports could starve 40 million people this year, he added.
In Latin America, “we should be concerned for two reasons: first, because it’s apocalyptic, negative, and wrong information,” said Morales. “And second, because it’s a smokescreen. It’s intended to divert attention from the world’s concern about Ukraine.”
According to Morales, Latin America has been affected in terms of cost due to excess demand. Food, fuel, and fertilizer prices doubled in the last two months, Colombian magazine Semana reported.
In June, the Organization of American States (OAS) launched the Center for Media Integrity of the Americas, to support independent journalism and the production of serious and rigorous content, in support of the defense of democracy in the Americas, unmasking false propaganda such as that of Russia.
“It’s essential for the sustainability of any democracy that citizens have relevant and objective information,” OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said during the launch of the new center. “That right is openly challenged by malicious actors who misuse multiple communications technologies […] to spread intentionally erroneous information, to promote their interests at any cost.”
“The only alternative to eliminate Russian disinformation is to not do the same, but to do the complete opposite. That is to say, in the face of emotion, reason; and reason must be consistent in the propagation of content associated with the verification of facts. The OAS and other organizations […], could help in this approach,” Morales concluded.