Thursday, August 7, 2014

You're supposed to be on Russia's side, Vlad

Even the often obtuse Deutsche Welle sees the problem for Vladimir Putin's latest foreign policy gambit; he's punishing his own people (will they notice?);
Western restrictions on technology transfer and financial transactions directly target those Russian companies that are close to the Kremlin. Putin's retaliation, on the other hand, is indiscriminate. His restrictions on Western products harm many private businesspeople who have nothing to do with the conflict. Trade in agricultural goods and food stuffs will suffer significantly, once the sanctions are in place.
But Putin's sanctions will be particularly harmful to Russian consumers. Supermarkets will have fewer goods on offer. Consumers will have to dig deeper into their pockets when buying food. Russian companies alone can't satisfy consumer demand. The result will be higher prices and a shortage of goods.
Putin wants to punish the West. But the Kremlin insists defiantly that the import bans allegedly also serve to stimulate the Russian economy. Some members of the Russian leadership don't even shy away from making the comparison to Soviet times. Russia did feed itself back then, too, after all, they say.
Of course, Russia did not feed itself back in the good ol' day. It had to import wheat from the West, even when it had Ukraine--the breadbasket of Europe--in its clutches.
Going on holiday, for example, is already not as easy as it used to be. This summer, booking numbers for trips to destinations in the West have already decreased drastically – partly because Putin banned government officials from leaving, but above all because many Russians have been finding themselves worse off financially.
Now, French cheese, Spanish olives, and German chocolate will not even be accessible at home for many Russians. Perhaps the situation won't get as bad as it was during Soviet times. But Europe is again becoming this far-away land for many Russians – just because Putin wants it that way.
Do the Russian people?

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