• A Yale historian said Putin would use global food insecurity as a backdrop for Russian propaganda
  • The historian said Putin plans to create instability in Europe through an influx of refugees
  • Ukraine produces 12% of global wheat exports

Russian President Vladimir Putin could be planning to starve other countries in order to win the war in Ukraine, a historian has said.

In a lengthy Twitter thread Saturday, Yale historian and authoritarianism expert Timothy Synder said Putin plans to use food insecurity to promote Russian propaganda that blames Kyiv for world famine and call for other nations to recognize its territorial gains in Ukraine.

“Russia is planning to starve Asians and Africans in order to win its war in Europe. This is a new level of colonialism, and the latest chapter of hunger politics,” Snyder said.

Ukraine is a major contributor to the global food supply as it sits in the “world’s breadbasket,” an area around the Black Sea with fertile soil and high rates of grain production. Ukraine itself produces 12% of global wheat exports. However, Russia has moved to block millions of tons of grain exports from leaving Ukrainian ports since the beginning of the war — a claim that Putin adamantly denied. Russian soldiers have also been accused of stealing and exporting Ukrainian grain to places suffering from drought and famine, most of which are in Africa.

"If the Russian blockade continues, tens of millions of tons of food will rot in silos, and tens of millions of people in Africa and Asia will starve," Snyder said in the Twitter thread.

The war has also driven up world food prices to record levels and caused food supply crisis in some areas, especially in those that rely on Ukraine's supply of corn and sunflower oil, which is an important ingredient used in food processing.

The Yale historian noted that Putin’s plan likely has three phases. First, to cut off Ukraine’s exports to destroy Kyiv’s statehood. Second, to create an influx of refugees from countries relying on Ukraine’s food. A wave of refugees would cause instability in Europe. Lastly, Putin would use starvation as a weapon for its propaganda.

“A world famine is a necessary backdrop for a Russian propaganda campaign against Ukraine. Actual mass death is needed as the backdrop for a propaganda contest,” Snyder said. "When the food riots begin, and as starvation spreads, Russian propaganda will blame Ukraine, and call for Russia's territorial gains in Ukraine to be recognized, and for all sanctions to be lifted.”

Putin, for his part, has blamed the food supply crisis on the West and urged other nations to lift sanctions imposed against Russia.

Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Solovyov
Vladimir Solovyov, a top Kremlin propagandist and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)