The lack of concern for Russian citizens by their own government is repugnant

I just read this article on Russian officials destroying contraband food illegally smuggled into the country:

Authorities earlier this month started bulldozing piles of cheese, peaches and even frozen geese after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the destruction of food smuggled into the country illegally.

Now police in the Moscow region say they have arrested six people for producing cheese worth some $30 million (27 million euros) with banned Western rennet, a substance containing enzymes used for cheese production.

Authorities “foiled the activities of an organised international criminal gang in the Moscow region whose members have for a long time been engaged in smuggling sanctioned products from abroad,” police spokeswoman Yelena Alekseeva said in a statement.

My first thought was WTF?! All  that food could have helped feed many of the Russian citizens living in poverty.  My second thought was “an international criminal gang that smuggles in food? What’s bad about that?”Those were still my thoughts even after I considered that maybe officials feared the food wasn’t inspected. After all, why couldn’t they simply inspect it? So I thought maybe there was some other reason-a really good one-to destroy that food.  After all, the number of Russians living in poverty reached 16.1 million last year. I imagine all that food could have been of great use to many of them. I found this article by Russian political analyst Andrew Korybko which attempts to explain and justify the actions of the Russian government:

It’s not simply about saving the administrative resources and time that have to be directed to resending the products back to their original destination, nor in depriving a sanctions violator of the opportunity to profitably resell their said contraband back in the EU or elsewhere. There’s also more at play than just supporting Russian domestic producers and ending the country’s foreign food reliance. What’s really happening is that Russia is publicly defending itself from a clever form of psychological-economic warfare being waged against it by the EU, and it’s doing so at this specific time in order to limit the ability of this offensive to interfere with the upcoming general elections in September.

‘Psychological-economic warfare’ being conducted via food illegally entering the country? What does the EU have to do with a “criminal organization” (which I’d like to know more about) importing food? He makes it sound like this food was imported as some sort of plot by the EU to make Russia dependent upon foreign aid. But I’m noticing a lack of evidence on his part to support that.

The first thing that needs to be addressed is the reason why the Russian government is engaging in such a highly publicized destruction of the banned EU foodstuffs. The point here is to hold Russian customs officials to full accountability by retaining a retrievable record of their activity and transparently demonstrating to the people that the law is being complied with. Things brings about another point, which is that it’s impossible to have carried out such an action “quietly” since the whole point of the matter is to enforce a law that was publicly signed by the Russian President. As such, there’s obviously an accessible record of Putin having agreed to the decree, and correspondingly, investigative journalists (both Russian and foreign) that would naturally conduct follow-up reporting on it and monitor its implementation. Under such conditions, it would be scandalous for the government to ‘hide’ the very same activity that it had just recently committed to in public. Even more so, it would have been a conspiracy of epic proportions if the original decree had been ‘secret’ and pictures and/or footage of the Russian government burning and burying food were leaked to the international media. All things considered, this is why Moscow decided to publicly and proudly demonstrate to the world that the President’s law is actively being followed.

Transparency. Uh-huh. Gotta uphold a law that prevents food from entering the country. It’s like he doesn’t consider that maybe the law was fucked up in the first place. And I think it was.

“Agricultural products, raw materials and food items exported to the territory of the Russian Federation, with a country of origin that imposed sanctions against the Russian legal entities and/or individuals or joined said decision, and that are banned from entering the territory of the Russian Federation are subject to extermination as of August 6, 2015,” the decree published by the Kremlin website said.

Nevermind how much good that food could do for Russian citizens. They’re not important or anything. I realize that Putin is angry over the sanctions in place against Russia, but this just seems petty and not at all the actions of a leader who should be concerned that the needs of his people are being met. Back to Andrew Korybko’s article:

The most common criticism surrounding Russia’s controversial measure is that the government should donate the smuggled food to those in need, perhaps even to the refugees in Donbass, instead of just destroying it. This well-intentioned and altruistic perspective forgets that that there are concrete health concerns behind the government giving its citizens or other recipients food products of unverified quality, but that’s not all. The main issue is that doing so would only be a short-term solution to whatever problem it was meant to address (be it poverty in Russia or helping war refugees in Donbass), albeit one with major external strings attached that are unacceptable for any self-respecting and patriotic authorities to fully agree to. To begin with, if Russia gave the food to anyone else, it would merely be acting as a conduit for de-facto ‘humanitarian aid’ from the EU to its population, and as with all examples of this type of international assistance, the donor’s image would be enhanced at the government’s expense and could easily be exploited by Brussels for soft power gains. It would also undermine Russia’s message that its domestic issues (even poverty) don’t need foreign interference to solve.

That’s a lot of words to support a policy that appears to amount to “we’re not going to put this food to good use because it came from people we’re mad at, no matter how much suffering said food would alleviate”.

Moving along, another primary reason behind Moscow’s refusal to give the confiscated food away is that it establishes a dependency relationship between the recipients and the EU donor that could be broken at any time.

So it’s better to give them no food at all? Da fuq?! Here’s where he gets really repellent:

On the other hand, there are certainly consequences to this patriotic measure, as the Western media onslaught attests. The US and its EU allies have once more been caught unaware by the fortitude of the Russian government, hence why they’re reacting in such a hysterical manner (much as they did to Crimea’s seemingly unexpected reunification). The objective here is to intensify the information war against Russia by promoting the false idea that Moscow is depriving an unspecified amount of starving citizens from being fed by seized EU foodstuffs. The preconditioned foreign audience is expected to use their imagination in envisioning thousands of disgruntled people queuing up for food that they won’t ever receive (a hybrid mix of the late-Soviet-era bread lines and the recent untrue stories about a ‘food scarcity’ ever since the counter-sanctions). There’s also a domestic component at work here too, since external actors hope that Russian voters will be so upset by the decree and its coverage in the international (Western) media that they’ll vote against United Russia next month.

If it’s a false idea, then that means Moscow is not depriving its citizenry of food that they could use?  Except that’s just what they did. Yeah. See, there are poor people living in Russia. That food could have gone to many of them. But I notice that Korybko has no concern for those who live in poverty. In fact, his entire piece is just an excuse at pro-Moscow propaganda. And one that places no importance on alleviating the suffering of those Russian citizens living in poverty. Quite frankly, it’s disgusting.

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The lack of concern for Russian citizens by their own government is repugnant
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6 thoughts on “The lack of concern for Russian citizens by their own government is repugnant

  1. 1

    Russian leaders have never had a problem with lying.

    I wonder why they didn’t just confiscate the food, distribute it and take credit.

  2. 4

    A bit of backstory:

    Russia has been trying to wage a second cold war for almost a decade now. It was a theme of Putin’s presidency at least since 2004 (the date of the Rose Revolution) and it has only intensified ever since.

    Food embargoes have been playing a major part since 2005, when Russia banned Georgian agricultural products, and most famously the Georgian wine, which is popular in Russia. These were retaliations for Georgia’s closer relationship with USA and EU and against the Georgian government which Russia still considers illegitimate since it replaced a previous pro-Russian government.

    Two years later Russia invaded Georgia. You can find a better description of Russian-Georgian relations on Wikipedia, but the above article shows you how deranged Russian view of world affairs was in 2008. There isn’t even a grain of truth in that article (as you know, USA didn’t send troops to fight Russia in Georgia, nor was there any NATO involvement, the Russian-Georgian war was completely ignored), but it is a faithful representation of what the overwhelming majority of Russians consider to be true. The same “food diplomacy” would continue to be deployed against Ukraine following Yushchenko’s election in 2005 and up to this day.

    Food is being employed because food was a major export of both Georgia and Ukraine to Russia, and it is a very useful commodity to embargo. The embargo can be simultaneously described as apolitical (the foodstuff supposedly don’t meet Russia’s standards)  and as a political-nationalistic move, depending on Putin’s mood.

    Granted, boycotting EU food market is economically meaningless since unlike Russia’s poor neighbors, it’s not a major source of income for the EU, and EU’s GDP is about 8 times that of Russia. However, it is the only thing that Russia can boycott – Russia is still a developing country that requires on the west for much of its technology (but not all – som Russian technologies are competitive with Western ones), most importantly everything that has to do with gas and oil extraction and refinement, and the newly formed caste of Russian super-rich oligarchs is very sensitive to any economic embargo. The Russian middle class is in no danger of starvation, so food is the best option left.

  3. 5

    Apparently, it’s not just food, but medical equipment as well. MRI machines and defibrillators, among others, are being blocked if they are “Western”. (source: The Economist of 8/15-8/21, 2015, p. 46) Putin has nothing left, it seems, but stirring up ultra-nationalism through deprivation.
    (ETA: someone mentioned GDP above. The Russian GDP has shrunk by 4.6% in the last year, while inflation is in the double digits. Again, from The Economist.)

  4. 6

    clamboy

    Putin has nothing left, it seems, but stirring up ultra-nationalism through deprivation.

    Exactly. Russia is now experiencing its largest economic hardship since the 1990s, and it’s mostly due to Putin’s foreign policy. He can’t admit he was wrong to in his actions in Ukraine, not only because admitting any mistake would be seen as weakness (and in Russia weakness is preyed upon), nor because the official Russian position is that there are no Russian troops or weapons in Ukraine, but because the invasion of Ukraine was a logical continuation of current Russian ideology. Admitting that the ideology is wrong is a political death sentence (and in some cases, like that of a former deputy PM Boris Nemtsov, it’s a literal death sentence) and nobody will do it. Not Putin, not anyone.

    As for the medical supplies – that’s going into crazy town. Russia doesn’t have food shortages (yet), and it can buy necessary supplies from non-Western nations or produce them itself, but it can’t do so with medical supplies. Russia can’t produce MRI machines of decent qualities, nor can it produce most medications, and other non-Western countries have the same problem. If the food boycott was mostly a blow for the urban poor, the blocking of Western medical equipment is a blow against the middle class.

    And that’s terrifying. This is essentially a step towards a purely fascist regime.

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