Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on 26 March, 2019. (Photo credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/AFP/Getty Images)
The Lebanese government has reportedly ignored a Russian offer to send wheat, grains, and vegetable oils to Lebanon, despite a worsening food crisis, according to a 27 April report from Al-Akhbar. The offer was made through official channels.
According to the report, Moscow also recently announced it could consider adding Lebanon to its list of “unfriendly countries” if Beirut continues to vacillate on its neutral position in relation to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Lebanon’s foreign policy is centered on neutrality when it comes to foreign conflicts, with the exception of the Israeli occupation. However, the Lebanese state issued a statement condemning the Russian special military operation in Ukraine.
It was revealed that the draft of this statement was written by the US embassy in Lebanon and handed to Prime Minister Najib Mikati, indicating foreign interference behind the Lebanese decision.
Moscow expressed its dissatisfaction and surprise in the face of this statement, but did not formally summon the Lebanese ambassador for official condemnation.
The Al-Akhbar report listed further incidents of Lebanon taking a non-neutral position on the conflict, including the participation of a Lebanese delegate to the UN in a workshop on the “dangers of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on global food security.”
Beirut received the Russian warning that it had been added to the list of “unfriendly countries” in the wake of these non-neutral positions.
Russia has, however, also offered to sell oil for Lebanon’s power plants at an affordable rate in Lebanese liras.
The report states that the Russian embassy in Lebanon is slowly softening its relations with Beirut, despite its tepid responses to Russia’s infrastructure and investment offers, and in addition to the anti-Russia positions taken by the Lebanese government towards the Russian special military operation.
Currently, Lebanon pays for imported fuel in foreign currencies such as US dollars, despite its dwindling supply of foreign currency reserves. The shortage of reserves is due to a lack in domestic production, which has created trade deficit, and caused the illicit transfers of billions of dollars abroad by top banks in Lebanon.
Lebanese residents are meanwhile suffering through rolling blackouts with the government unable to provide 24/7 electricity service since 2019. Locals have been forced to pay a second electricity bill through the use of private generators, which are far more costly than state electricity services.
Lebanon is experiencing one of the worst economic crises in its modern history while the Lebanese state overlooks Russian, Iranian, and Chinese infrastructure projects and investment offers that would vastly improve the standard of living for the Lebanese people.