When Russia first imposed a massive embargo on pretty much all Western food imports, many a politician scoffed, claiming the reactionary measure would be little more than a short-lived attempt to flex Russia's muscles. They were wrong—the sanctions have been in place for almost two years now. And the latest is this: Russian President Vladimir Putin just signed a decree that prolongs the sanctions throughout all of 2017. That means, with few exceptions, no fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, milk or dairy imports into Russia will come from the EU, Australia, Canada, Norway, or the US.
The sanctions imposed by Russia came as a tit-for-tat response to sanctions that the West imposed on Russia after it intervened in Ukraine back in 2014. Russia's steadfast approach to keeping the sanctions in place thus far has led to some spectacularly insane happenings.
After all, how in the hell else would we get to witness mass cheese burnings, smugglers stuffing a casket to the gills with caviar and transporting it via hearse, and crocodile meat being sold in supermarkets in the place of traditional meats?
But the sanctions haven't been all fun and games. Trade between Russia and the European Union alone has dropped over $180 billion between 2013 and last year. The losses to the US have been less significant, according to the Congressional Research Service. Still, some American food producers are feeling the pain, among them Alaska's seafood industry and Washington State apple and pear producers.
Some heads of state, like Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, would like to see the whole sanctions thing go away. He recently said he would urge his colleagues in the EU to discuss their next move. But despite Western voices like Renzi's calling for an end to the stand-off, the EU is expected to extend the duration of its sanctions against Russia through the end of the calendar year. No official decision by the EU has been made yet, though.
Russia's decree says it is aimed at "protecting Russia's national interests." It further states changes to the terms of the sanctions will be made "when necessary."
Looks like it's shaping up to be another year of insane stories and pretty terrible losses for European and American food producers.