With a food import ban, Russian sanctions the sanctioners

August 7, 2014

Russia banned most food imports from major Western countries on Thursday. The move was made in response to sanctions attempting to punish the country for its actions in Ukraine. Reuters Polina Devitt and Sergei Karpukhin report that the move “isolates Russian consumers from world trade to a degree unseen since Soviet days.”

Reuters charts the degree to which different countries will be affected by the ban.


Bloomberg View’s Mark Whitehouse writes that  “judging from trade data, the hardest hit will be the former Soviet countries closest to Russia’s borders.” And that, he says, is precisely the intention. Russia is well aware that an import ban will not have a significant impact on major Western economies. But what it can do is harm its small neighbors who have supported the West. For instance, Whitehouse cites Lithuania, where importing now-banned goods into Russia accounts for 0.6 percent of gross domestic product.

The retaliatory sanctions may be effective in stunting Russia’s economy along with the neighbors they are targeting. Slate’s Joshua Keating notes that “Russia imports 40 percent of its food, and the countries sanctioned account for more than half of Russia’s imported meat and fish and 30 percent of its vegetables.” Keating thinks Putin is counting on nationalism to trump Russians pocketbook concerns. In the short-term, that’s probably not a bad bet.

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