Blinken Warns Arab World of 'Grave' Security Threat From Ukraine War

Russia's invasion of Ukraine poses a "grave" threat to the Arab world and threatens its food security, particularly due to surging wheat prices, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on a visit to Algeria Wednesday.

Blinken was speaking on the final leg of a trip to the Middle East and North Africa, which began an Israeli-Arab summit in the Negev desert, with several foreign ministers from Israel, Egypt and Arab countries that normalized ties with Israel in 2020.

The Middle East and North Africa face a severe wheat crisis as a result of the war in Ukraine. Both Ukraine and Russia are major global wheat importers. Russia is also one of the world's main suppliers of oil and natural gas.

The impact on food security will be particularly acute in Egypt, which is the world's top wheat importer—taking in 12 to 13 million tons in a year, much of it from Russia and Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference in the capital Algiers about the conflict on Wednesday, Blinken said: "It's having a direct impact on their lives right now, particularly with regard to rising food prices... especially wheat."

"So my sense from having talked to a lot of colleagues over the last days is that a lot of this pain is keenly felt in this region. Most of the countries import half their wheat or more," Blinken added.

Surging food prices pose "grave threats to security" in Arab countries, he added.

Newsweek has contacted the State Department for further comment.

Both Russia and Ukraine have huge natural resources and some of the most fertile soil in the world. But the conflict and tough economic sanctions have driven a global spike in several types of food.

The price of wheat was $8.53 per bushel on February 25, when Russian Vladimir Putin began the invasion of Ukraine. On March 29, according to the most recent data available, it was $10.14.

Blinken said that the Ukraine conflict had "a clear aggressor and a clear victim."

"These actions have had deadly consequences for citizens in the region," Blinken added. "They've disrupted the peace and prosperity of communities. They've intruded into the lives of families and individuals who are simply trying to live peacefully in their own countries."

Blinken met with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune after speaking with Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamara.

The secretary of state flew into Algeria's rival from Morocco on Wednesday morning. Morocco normalized ties with Israel in 2020 and there have been tensions since between the two countries over disputed Western Sahara.

In 2021, Algeria severed ties and closed its airspace with its neighbor amid the rising tensions. In 2020, the U.S. recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for stronger diplomatic ties with Israel.

Anthony Blinken in Poland
The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and Poland's Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau (not seen) give a press statement at the Bristol Hotel on March 5, 2022 in Rzeszow, Poland. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses a “grave” threat to the Arab world and threatens its food security, particularly due to surging wheat prices, Blinken said on Wednesday. Omar Marques/Getty