When some trendy new atrocity
Has brought you to your knees
Come with us we’ll sail the
Seas of Cheese
Primus, from “Sailing the Seas of Cheese”
Recently, The Economist was swept away by a riptide of rennet and teary boo-hoo over the appalling waste of good food displayed by, no surprise, Russia; the latest episode of Russia’s disgracing itself in front of an aghast world occurred at various points of entry to the Russian Federation on August 6th. On that day, we are told by a shocked Economist, Russia burned and otherwise destroyed 300 tonnes of food; incinerating pork, pulping tomatoes and driving bulldozers over shipments of European cheese.
I realize you’re probably more used to “tons”. A ton, in non-U.S. measure, is 2000 pounds. The “tonne” is its metric bigger sibling, at 1000 kg, or 2,204.6 pounds. So, simple math tells us the Russian Federation destroyed 6,613,80 pounds of delicious European imported food.
Why would Putin do such a thing? Because naturally it was Putin, Russia is Putin, and The Economist gets lots of mileage out of the order to destroy these delicacies having come from Putin himself. “All of this is being done with the blessing of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Last year the government banned imports of food from countries which had imposed sanctions on Russia. Now food that slips through the embargo is being destroyed in the name of Russian sovereignty.”
This runs under the subheading, “A famine-prone country tests its citizens’ loyalty by destroying food”. Apparently if your country has ever had a famine – The Economist is clear that this was in the 1930’s – you are famine-prone forever. Since there is no time limit and famine was more regular than the post in medieval Europe, I guess France and England are famine-prone as well.
Obviously, The Economist would prefer that banned goods were simply allowed to proceed unimpeded to Russian market shelves, where they would be sold as usual to the Russian public, resulting in profit for their European vendors. Because laws like that are just stupid, and when the government makes stupid laws, citizens should feel free to ignore them. That’s the way it’s done in democratic non-slave countries. You better believe that’s the way it’s done in France, which makes one hell of a lot of cheese, and would like to sell more of it to Russia and to hell with what Putin says. Right?
Actually, non. In France you can marry a dead person, so long as you can demonstrate that you were planning to marry that person before he or she died. If you meet someone else later, you’ll need a divorce to be able to marry them. That should be easy, though, because it would be…ummm…uncontested. I bet The Economist had a tantrum when French farmers dumped millions of liters of milk into fields adjacent to one of France’s most popular tourist sites, because they were not making enough profit. What? No, apparently they didn’t mention it.
Well, why didn’t Russia just give that food to the poor? Shocking, is what it is. I’ll tell you why, Economist; because an embargo means the entry of that fancy European food into the Russian Federation is illegal. If Russia were to confiscate it and then give it to the poor, The Economist and other silly pseudo-analysis publications would have a field day proclaiming that Putin cannot feed his people, and has to steal from Europe to feed the starving multitudes. If Russia paid for it and then gave it to the poor, European vendors would reap the profits, which would only encourage them to new heights of creative lawbreaking, such as trying to smuggle prohibited food products by shipping them without labels, or false labeling suggesting they originated in a country not affected by the ban.
The Economist is registered in London and New York. How do those countries react to the discovery of food products whose vendors try to slip them into the country as contraband? Well, “Imports of animal origin coming into the European Union are subjected to import checks by veterinary officers at designated ports. Advance notice of the shipments is required, documents are inspected and a percentage of consignments physically examined. These costs are met by the importer.” In fact, if The Telegraph is to be believed, more than 10 tons of smuggled meat and animal products are intercepted at Heathrow in an average year. In the USA, dogs help customs inspectors sniff out contraband food products, which are confiscated for health reasons and destroyed. Nobody asks these countries if their health regulations are politically motivated, or why they exclude products from certain countries. Similarly, nobody suggests that food confiscated for public health reasons should be given to the poor.
Judging by the pages and pages of outrage directed at Russia for destroying this prohibited food – said destruction to be recorded to prevent local officials from simply feasting on it instead or reselling it for their own profit – the European Union is pretty ticked off about it. Probably because it will prove to be an effective deterrent to European marketers who have continued to realize profits by smuggling contraband food into Russia. Which is the purpose of an embargo. I’m sure it is political. So what? Europe is a big boy, and can take responsibility for its own actions as well as accept their consequences, which devolve directly from letting itself be pushed into sanctions against Russia by Washington, using the expedient of accusing Russia of having shot down MH-17. Despite zero credible evidence having been offered that such was actually the case, Ukraine – the prime suspect – is accorded full access to all of the evidence, a veto over the release of any results of the investigation, and is permitted to run the disciplinary investigation which will theoretically find and punish the guilty party. When that wasn’t enough, Joint Investigative Team (JIT) members Australia, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Belgium floated the idea of a UN Tribunal, which would be empowered to review ongoing investigations and make a determination of guilt, pass sentence and award punishment although the UN has no judicial powers whatsoever. This was obvious grandstanding calculated to push Russia into vetoing it. Which it did, opening a floodgate to a torrent of lurid press asserting this must mean Russia is guilty, otherwise why would they want to impede the investigation, bla, bla, bla, oblivious that refusing to accept a judgment awarded by its enemies as an excuse to stop investigating is in no way an impediment to investigation continuing.
After a visit to India, President Bush lifted a 17-year ban on the American import of Indian mangoes. Evidently there was no health reason for the ban, and lifting it was a quid pro quo for India’s relaxation of the restriction on the import of California almonds. Seven years later, the EU banned import of Indian mangoes and some other fruits and vegetables, stating that some shipments contained the tobacco whitefly, which could threaten the UK’s tomato and cucumber crops. Nobody wrote articles suggesting the move was political and that the UK government was just making up some phony excuse to punish India. Stuff like that happens, all the time. The Economist said not a dickie-bird about mangoes being burned in India because they had lost market share.
Get used to it, Europe. Russia is not letting itself be rolled by the European Union, and if European markets suffer from sanctions against their agricultural products, tough tit. If you can’t muster up the sack to stand up to Washington, instead letting Uncle Sam run his hand up the back of your pyjamas and move your mouth, the economic relationship is only going to get tougher. You have yourself a nice winter, now.