Turning a Serious Health Scare Into an Opportunity for a Little Imperialism

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President Putin’s ban on wine imports from two uppity former parts of the Soviet Empire, Georgia and Moldova, is transparently an attempt to punish them for their independence. That’s bad enough (although I do sincerely hope that the wine industries there decide to send more of their delicious product to the U.S. and western Europe, where I can buy it more easily), but it’s offered as a remedy to an authentic problem, which is the failure of the Russian legal system (regarding brand names, legal liability, and other issues) and of Russia’s underdeveloped market to deliver reliable products to Russian consumers. That failure has had terrible health consequences for the Russian population. The falsification takes place in Russia itself, not in Georgia or Moldova, but rather than crack down on such deadly fraud within Russia, the Russian government has decided to keep out the imports from its neighbors, which are (at least in the Georgian case) quite reliable.

2 Responses to “Turning a Serious Health Scare Into an Opportunity for a Little Imperialism”

  1. It’s clear the bans are primarily political weapons against Moldova and Georgia in the struggles over Transdniester and Abkhazia. However, there may also be a secondary factor — perhaps a battle over alcohol market shares in the FSU.

    In Russia, apparently there’s an unexplained shortage of the new state excise tax labels for imported alcohol (but no shortage for domestic production) so store owners are dumping current stocks of imported alcohol at maybe 1/4 of the sticker price, and not importing anything new for now. And a Russian firm is buying (or has bought) a Georgian vodka producer — speculation is that this will make it easier for them to increase market share throughout the Caucusus.

  2. And I forgot to add — meanwhile Borjomi (a major Georgian bottled water firm, also banned in Russia) is expanding its Ukrainian production & exports to Russia, since Ukrainian produicts haven’t been been banned. But fears of such bans have led Ukrainian firms (e.g. Nemiroff, a major horilka [vodka] firm) to pursue production within Russia itself.

    Maybe of interest to few readers of this blog, but as a once and hopefully future consumer of all these products, I try to keep track of all these machinations.