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.