The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, warned African countries last week not to purchase anything from Russia besides grain and fertilizer, or else they could face sanctions.
Thomas-Greenfield said during a visit to Uganda that countries could buy “Russian agricultural products, including fertilizer and wheat” but added that “if a country decides to engage with Russia, where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions.”
“We caution countries not to break those sanctions because then … they stand the chance of having actions taken against them,” she added. Thomas-Greenfield said that purchasing Russian oil risks sanctions, even though many of the US’s European allies are still buying Russian crude before a ban takes effect at the end of the year.
Many African nations, including Uganda, have not joined the US in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and have rightly blamed Western sanctions, as well as the war, for raising food prices and exacerbating shortages.
Western sanctions technically have exemptions for agricultural products, but many shipping companies and banks have stopped doing business with Russia altogether out of caution. History has shown that sanctions cause shortages of humanitarian goods despite exemptions, but the Biden administration has acted surprised by the issue and has quietly encouraged more Russian fertilizer deals in a bid to ease food prices.
Thomas-Greenfield’s comments to Africa came ahead of a visit to the continent by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The US has been vying for more influence in Africa as China and Russia are expanding ties with African nations. Thomas-Greenfield’s warning demonstrates the US approach of using force to get the results that it wants, which has been backfiring on Washington, and drawing countries closer to China and Russia.