Only Putin would think to starve his own people to punish the West

Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly planning to banning the import of western food in retaliation for new NATO sanctions over the escalating Ukraine crisis.

While the details list of food imports to be banned has yet to be released, the ban will reportedly encompass all imports from America and many from Europe.

Russia is a net importer of many basic food products that it simply does not have the capacity to produce at home, including chicken from the states and dairy from Europe.

For example, Russia imports 1/2 of its annual cheese consumption, with 30 percent of that coming from Europe.

The move to ban food, and thus risk either starving his own people, or stoking Russia’s already-inflation rate, in addition to causing food shortages, struck many as a rather perverse way of “punishing” the West.

From the Washington Post:

Russia has been hit with sanctions from the 28-nation European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and Ukraine. Russian imports of U.S. agricultural products total about $1 billion a year. From the European Union, the figure was $15.8 billion in 2013. Imports include grains and other raw products that feed Russia’s 144 million residents.

Part of Putin’s 14-year-long grasp on power has depended on the acquiescence of a prosperous middle class whose members enjoyed the wide variety of imported foods on store shelves in Russia’s urban centers. Those people may be affected more quickly by the food ban than by Western sanctions that have targeted areas of the economy that are more likely to hit a small sector of the wealthiest Russians.

Also oddly-timed was a threat by Russia’s foreign minister to shut down the country’s airspace to western air traffic, only weeks after Russia provided surface to air missiles to Russian nationals in Ukraine, who then used the weapons to destroy a civilian airliner killing nearly 300 people. It would seem an inopportune moment for Russia to be threatening civilian aircraft.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • http://webparanerds.com/ Admin Kaefel P.

    As someone who writes to free people you should be ashamed to propagate such ignorant view of other cultures. That doesn’t make you ignorant, but brings you a little closer to Russia. Congrats.

  • http://webparanerds.com/ Admin Kaefel P.

    What a crap article. They forget about India, China and Brazil, which all are great food producers and maintain good relations with Russia… There is nothing about starvation, it’s more about nowhere to sell Us food.

    Sorry, but true.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I’m not sure why you think anything we’ve written on AMERICAblog in 10+ years would suggest that we’d embrace conspiracy theories, aka “truthers.” We really don’t :)

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yep, been there twice in fact, once to the Soviet Union, and again shortly after communism fell. I also studied Russian in college, and studied the Soviet Union pretty extensively when I did my master in foreign service at Georgetown, and I studied Soviet law as part of my JD at Georgetown.

    Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make them ignorant :) It simply means we’re a free country where people, you know, disagree sometimes. Unlike Russia :)

  • jwz

    Luckily for you, it looks like there will be no shortage of Russian dingleberries to snack on.

    Your knowledge of geography is amazing. Yeah, China’s closer to Moscow than say, Poland. Do you think it will cost the same to ship produce from Brazil as the Netherlands? Are you saying Brazil will gladly give Russia a steep discount just because?

    The rest of your post is the same regurgitation of Cliff’s notes they’re handing out to everyone in Russian troll school. Blah, blah, Ukrainian nazis, blah, blah, west overthrew the elected government… let me ask you this, why do you think Ukrainian nationalism is evil, while you gush over Russian nationalism? If you claim the separatist movement began after Yanukovych left, why are there images showing the flag of the DNR in Russia from 2013 or even earlier? The Ukrainian revolution had to be orchestrated by the west, while the terrorists in the east were a completely spontaneous occurrence. Sure.

  • Mary Christine

    Agreed, but let’s be honest, we are the main food providers.
    Most of the food for Eurasia comes from Europe, not Asia. Without the European food, they will starve.
    US, meanwhile, is good on its own, just like Australia and Canada. Your continent can live wih its own food, then again, so can Europe.
    Rusiia? Nah. They are too many, and Siberia is not a good land for cultivating as far as I know. The 17% of the country that is in the Europe, warmer region, can’t feed all Russia.
    I hope Putin will have fun eating Chinese rice.

  • Parkperch

    It’s not to punish the West. It’s to punish the Russian citizens who are sympathetic to the West and not suffiently worshipful of Putin.

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  • Demosthenes

    As we Greeks say, Vladimir Putin is a real Malaka.

  • lynchie

    that breadbasket is actually a Lada, with one wheel drive and single speed transmission comes available with racing stripe.

  • lynchie

    Or our 1% for our poor and elderly.

  • Duke Woolworth

    Remember what happened to Rasputin and the royal family, Trotsky and more. The Russians only will get pushed by their own so far.

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  • judybrowni

    “Hey, if it worked for Stalin,” — must be Putin’s thinking.

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  • Ninong

    The former USSR was a “superpower” in name only. It failed to invest in its future and instead spent far too large a percentage of GDP on its military. The current Russian Federation has a GDP that is only 15% that of the United States thanks in large part to Russian workers that are only 1/3 as productive as Americans ($17,000 per capita GDP vs. $55,000 per capita GDP).

    Even Russian vodka is made from ingredients grown in other countries; but Russians still consume copious quantities of the stuff: “demon vodka.” Maybe that’s why they suck at being productive?

    Little Vlad may be about to overplay his hand. His popularity may not remain as high after inflation causes the struggling Russian economy to go into recession. Even George H. W. Bush had popularity numbers in the high 80’s following Iraq War I, when the US and its allies, including Arab nations, evicted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Yet Bush’s popularity was short-lived and he failed to win reelection the very next year.

  • frogview

    I’ll bet Putin and a favored few are getting all and any food desired.

  • labman57

    Putin appears to have as little regard for the welfare of the average Russian family as does North Korea’s Kim Jung Un for his own citizens.

  • FLL

    It’s ironic that Ukraine is more self-sufficient in agriculture than Russia today. Stalin murdered at least 4 million Ukrainian peasants through starvation during 1932-1933. Armed Soviet soldiers confiscated all food, animals and farm equipment from peasant farms and left the people to starve to death, which they did. Today, the Ukrainian public is solidly opposed to Putin’s nascent dictatorship. Now who’s fault is that? And if somebody says “Victoria Nuland,” would you please put a piece of duct tape over their mouth?

  • MyrddinWilt

    This isn’t about the outrage, it is what it says about the state of Russia and where Putin is headed.

    This is a major mistake by Putin. Russia has not been self sufficient in food since Stalin massacred the peasants. And right now about a quarter of their food is coming from Europe. So food prices are set to go up.

    But more significantly, food is a very visible indicator of standard of living. For most people it is the most variable aspect of their budget. If money is tight you can’t save much on rent or heat or electricity. Buying cheaper food and not going out so much is the main way to save money suddenly.

    So Putin has just put the whole country into a situation where it is feeling that its become poorer. They can’t buy all that Western food they have become accustomed to. Sure they can buy some food from Asia but the Russian supply chain can’t react quickly and neither can the suppliers.

    He might be able to pull the situation out by whipping the population into a state of patriotic frenzy. But the window of opportunity for an invasion of Ukraine has passed. The Ukrainian army is now on a full state of mobilization with very good morale. Putin can send his tanks over the border but he will meet serious resistance and any occupation would be an Afghanistan-like quagmire.

    Less than a year ago, Ukraine was a close Russian ally considering a trade deal with the EU. It is now totally aligned with the EU and totally opposed to Moscow. And it is all because of Putin’s own actions.

  • nicho

    Oh, for heaven sake. Get off the fainting couch. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk. This hysteria can’t be good for you.

  • SomeYankInRio

    Too bad the very valid point Aix Morpheus made was drowned out by the spewing of major craziness that followed. As I read your post – and the Wapo source story- Russia is banning imports from the EU and US. Brazil is just one of many other major food exporters. Changing your suppliers in response to their actions isn’t really that big a deal

  • http://hunteratrandom.blogspot.com/ rmthunter

    Just out of curiosity, what kind of quid pro quo are you getting from which Russian agency for posting diatribes like this one? If you just worship jack-booted thugs, we have enough of those here at home — no need to look overseas.

  • goulo

    Or he uses it as propaganda advantage at home, convincing his faithful that the lack of imported food is the West’s fault, thus drumming up further pro-Putin anti-West feelings. Probably easy enough to do, given his state control of media.

    (Analogous to Republican politicians convincing the party faithful that the government shutdown was done by Democrats and not by Republicans.)

  • FLL

    “I have nothing against Ukraine (although they are a bunch of idiot western worshiping nazis and liars) .”

    (1) Yep, it sounds like you have nothing against Ukrainians.

    (2) Poroshenko won the Ukrainian presidential race in May with 54.7% out of a field of 21 candidates. I think Ukrainians get to run their country the way they want, not the way the Kremlin wants or the way you want. In other words, who in the hell are you? You lost the election fair and square. Now get on with your life. And yes, I agree with Bookbinder below—stop hitting the vodka so much.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Using food shortages to stifle dissent and punish certain groups is a long-standing Soviet/Russian tradition going back more than a century…

  • Bookbinder

    Ah, Russia, breadbasket of the world.

  • Bookbinder

    Hitting the vodka again, Dear?

  • Indigo

    Peter the Great rises.

  • Alx Morpheus

    And Russia will starve if it bans food imports from Europe and US.. like there are no other food production countries on this planet.. Argentina, Brazil, Chile and basically the whole South America.. And closer to Russia, Turkey and of course China. Hell.. even Europe imports most of its food supplies from those countries because it is cheaper.
    Reading your “credentials” and then your article gave me big laughs.
    By the way, in my humble oppinion Russia should invade Ukraine and end this joke.
    Extending NATO influence to the Russian borders by overthrowing an elected goverment and replacing it with a rightwing nationalist anti-Russian puppet (in a country with a large Russian population) is a huge provocation, even bigger than the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    Supporting this nationalist’s goverment killing of “separatists” (who were organized AFTER the illegal replacement of the former goverment to resist Ukrainian nationalism) while the doublestandard is still fresh in memory with Kossovo.. is an annoyingly obvious false pretense even to the public of NATO countries.
    Russia should demand from the UN to show the exact same stance shown in the case of Kossovo. I have nothing against Ukraine (although they are a bunch of idiot western worshiping nazis and liars) and I share no common interest with Russians (except for preffering a dipole planet with 2 “superpowers” instead of one international bully) but when I see doublestandards in international affairs it makes me mad.

  • http://heimaey.tumblr.us heimaey

    The red revolution is officially dead forever.

  • http://buddybest.tripod.com/index.html BuddyNovinski

    Holy Josef Stalin!

  • pliny

    I doubt much will come of this. Russian companies will likely just launder western foods via China. With their lock on media, it’s not like the increase in food poisonings would be noticed.

  • Bluestocking

    Not precisely a good sign for the West, either, since it raises the possibility that Putin is either growing a bit desperate or else is not playing with a completely full deck anymore…and everyone knows that desperate and/or disturbed people sometimes do things that have very serious or even permanent, if not terminal, consequences.

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