Amid growing calls for naval intervention to open up Ukrainian ports for grain exports, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said such an operation would amount to a “high risk military operation.”
The West is blaming Russian ships for blocking grain exports from leaving Ukrainian ports, but there are other factors, including mines laid by Ukraine. Russia said last week that it cleared mines around Mariupol and that the Azov Sea port is now open to civil vessels.
This week, Retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO, suggested that naval vessels under the auspice of the UN or NATO could escort convoys of grain ships out of Ukraine.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba suggested on Tuesday that Ukraine was pushing for a UN convoy to open its ports. “Ukraine is working on an international UN-led operation with navies of partners ensuring a safe trade route with no security risks,” he wrote on Twitter.
Milley said such a plan would be high risk due to the presence of Russian ships and mines in the waters. “You can take the grain out by truck or train, or you can take it out by sea. Right now, the sea lanes are blocked by mines and the Russian navy. In order to open up those sea lanes would require a very significant military effort,” Milley said. “It would be a high-risk military operation that would require significant levels of effort.”
Whether under the banner of the UN or not, trying to send Western warships into Ukrainian ports obviously risks sparking a direct war with Russia.
Turkey said on Tuesday that it is in talks with Russia to establish a safe corridor for Ukrainian grain exports. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara wants to establish a center in Istanbul to monitor the corridor.