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We know that Russia could try to limit Black Sea shipments at any time, so Romania’s role becomes even more important in finding alternative routes for Ukraine’s grain

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The US Ambassador to Bucharest, Kathleen Kavalec, said on Wednesday in an interview with G4Media.ro that Russia could try to limit shipments from the Black Sea at any time, making Romania’s role even more important in finding alternative routes for these grains.

„I think one area that will be extremely important in the coming months is improving the ability to ship even more grain from Ukraine, especially if Russia tries to block the Black Sea Grain Initiative. We know that Russia could try to limit shipments from the Black Sea at any time, so Romania’s role becomes even more important in finding alternative routes for these grains,” Kavalec told G4Media.ro.

She also stated that efforts are currently underway to increase navigation on the Danube by adding light so that it can also be navigated at night, which would help double shipping capacity. The US Ambassador in Bucharest also said that there are probably more measures that can be taken and discussed bilaterally between Ukraine and Romania. „There are issues related to roads, rail travel, but I think the most important thing is that Romania has been very flexible, creative and open in trying to address these issues and work with the Ukrainians to make sure that grain can get to the markets where it needs to go,” the US ambassador to Bucharest added.

Dan Tăpălagă: Madam Ambassador, we know that Romania has contributed in various ways to allied efforts to support Ukraine. What other actions are planned? What else could Romania do concretely regarding Ukraine?

Kathleen Kavalec: Yes. Well, thank you for the question. I think it’s important to recognize the strong support that Romania has given to Ukraine during this very difficult time, during this unprovoked, illegal, and horrible war that was waged by Russia against Ukraine. Romania has taken a step forward in terms of receiving the more than 4 million refugees who have transited Romania. Refugees staying in Romania, about 110,000 at the moment, who have received assistance both from the Romanian population and government and from NGOs.

The grain that has passed through Ukraine, thanks only to – through Romania, the Ukrainian grain, thanks to the efforts of Romanian officials to help improve border transit points and ensure that grain can reach the world market, ensuring food security. Romania has provided humanitarian assistance.

Romania has participated in sanctions regimes against Russia and has been a strong participant in the NATO alliance, increasing deterrence, accepting more American troops into the country, increasing its defense spending, helping to contribute to greater defense of Europe, NATO, and the alliance, and demonstrating leadership within the alliance by committing to increase defense spending to 2.5 percent. I believe that, in all these areas, Romania can and will continue.

I think one area that will be extremely important in the coming months is improving the ability to ship even more grain out of Ukraine, especially if Russia tries to block the Black Sea Grain Initiative. We know that Russia could try to limit shipments from the Black Sea at any time, so Romania’s role becomes even more important in finding alternative routes for these grains.

Cristian Pantazi: Do you think Romania has modernized its port of Constanta, which you recently visited, enough to cope with the transit of goods, of crops from Ukraine? What else should happen there? Yes, I think we have not done an analysis of the capacity of the port of Constanta, but we have seen that improvements are being made and that there is an effort to modernize the port and to increase the capacity, and certainly grain is moving on the Danube.

Kathleen Kavalec: Efforts are currently underway to increase navigation on the Danube by adding light so that it can also be navigated at night, which would help double shipping capacity. Other improvements at the borders to try to speed up the transport of grain, I think there are probably more measures that can be taken and these are things that can be discussed between, bilaterally between Ukraine and Romania to see where more improvements could be made. There are issues around roads, there are issues around train travel, but I think the most important thing is that Romania has been very flexible, creative and open in trying to address these issues and work with the Ukrainians to make sure that the grain can get to the markets where it needs to go.

Cristian Pantazi: Speaking of the war in Ukraine and the danger posed by Russia’s actions, does the US government intend to increase the number of troops and send more military equipment here in Romania in addition to what is already present?

Kathleen Kavalec: At the moment we have somewhere in excess of 3,000 US military personnel in Romania, which is a tripling of the number of military personnel since before the war started. So I think this number is a good number at this moment. In NATO and in the US we are constantly reassessing the situation, so I don’t have anything new to announce at the moment, but obviously, we are watching what is happening in the region and if the situation warrants it other decisions could be taken, but at the moment we are at about 3,000 American troops.

Dan Tăpălagă: Let’s talk a bit about Russian propaganda. I wrote on G4 Media, other publications have written about Russian propaganda in Romania. How strong do you think Russian propaganda is in this country?

Kathleen Kavalec: Well, I think we’re definitely seeing signs that it exists and I think with the social media that exists nowadays, there are no borders or barriers to spreading disinformation, fake news. So Romania, like any other country, is affected by this and part of the Russian attack on Ukraine involves trying to change the narrative about what led to the attack, what they’re trying to do and how Ukrainians are responding. So they’re spreading a lot of misinformation.

I think I’m encouraged by the fact that, for the most part, I think Romanians see through this propaganda, but obviously, the Russians continue to try all sorts of different narratives to see what might gain some traction and try to exploit any dissent.

So we see these problems pop up from time to time. I think it’s important that we all work together to expose misinformation when we see it, when a false story starts to gain traction, that reporters have a key role in verifying information. I think misinformation benefits from the emotional shock factor, where something that makes you outraged or whatever is easy to spread because you react emotionally without thinking critically.

It’s important for all of us to invest in media literacy courses in schools to support efforts to teach critical thinking, fact-checking, to counter these things. It’s not just a problem in Romania, it’s a problem in the United States, it’s a problem all over Europe. We all face this. I have to hope that, as we learn to deal with these things, we will become wiser. Certainly, I think young people are already much more skeptical about what they see online because they know about these efforts. Sometimes it’s the older audience that is most affected.

Cristian Pantazi: Could you tell us what are the main Russian propaganda narratives you have identified? If you could give us one or two examples.

Kathleen Kavalec: I don’t know if I don’t monitor it carefully, as some of my colleagues may, but it certainly tries to blame Ukraine for the war, to claim that NATO is attacking Russia, which is, of course, absurd, to try to suggest that Russia is the country under attack, which is not the case. It is Russia that is attacking Ukraine. So it is a kind of Orwellian effort to try to tell us that white is white and black is black, to try to hide the horror and the enormity of what they are doing by attacking innocent civilians, children, women, hospitals, universities, schools, destroying the infrastructure of Ukraine. It is appalling what they are doing and, of course, they are trying to use this information to try to cover up the horrors that they are doing.

Background

After agreeing to extend the Black Sea grain export initiative again after 18 May, Russia has renewed threats that it will not extend the agreement if Western powers do not meet its demands to lift certain sanctions, CNN reports.

Russia has agreed to a two-month extension, until 17 July, of the deal, which is seen as crucial to fighting world hunger.

Moscow has frequently complained that while the agreement allows Ukraine to export its grain through Black Sea ports, its own exports are hampered by Western sanctions. An agreement with the United Nations to help facilitate Russian shipments has not worked, the Kremlin claims.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday there would be no talks on extending the agreement further unless it won concessions.

„The Russian Federation reminds the US, the UK and the EU of the need for a real lifting of unilateral sanctions on Russian fertilizers and food; even Russian fertilizer donations to the poorest countries continue to face blockages due to sanctions,” the ministry’s statement said.

Following its large-scale invasion, Moscow has blocked exports from key Ukrainian Black Sea ports, including Odessa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi.

The blockades prevented millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain from reaching countries that rely on them until the United Nations and Turkey helped mediate the deal.

Ukraine says the current extension does not provide for meeting Russia’s related demands, said Vasyl Bodnar, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey.

„What Russia is trying to attach now are issues related to the ammonia pipeline, issues related to the lifting of sanctions against banks and organizations involved in the grain and fertilizer trade. This issue is still under discussion,” he said.

 

 

 

 

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