Moscow Patriarchate welcomes Russian counter-sanctions
by Nina Achmatova
In response to punitive measures over the Ukrainian crisis, Russia yesterday imposed an import ban on fish, meat, fruit, vegetables and dairy product imports from the European Union and the United States. For the Orthodox Church, it is time to stop trying to meet "the standards of Western consumer."

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Moscow Patriarchate has welcomed the counter-sanctions Russia has imposed for year on imports of beef and pork, poultry, fish, cheese and dairy products, fruits and vegetables from Australia, Canada, European Union, United States and Norway.

"We need to learn moderation, self-control, and the ability to do with little," said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Synodal Department for the Cooperation of Church and Society of the Moscow Patriarchate, who spoke with Interfax.

Calling on his compatriots to stop "following the standards of Western consumers," he noted that the time had finally come "to choose between the West or Russia, [between] the free and independent future of our people or a situation in which we listen to the shouts in Washington, Brussels or Wall Street instead of the voices of our countrymen".

In his view, Moscow's embargo is a response to the "discriminatory" economic sanctions enacted by the US and EU, and could help accelerate the development of a new socio-political system in Russia, based on traditional values​​, and make the national economy less dependent on exports of energy and raw materials.

Russia imports 40 per cent of its food. In 2013, that came to US$ 43 billion. For the European Union, agricultural exports represented 9.9 per cent of its exports to the country. In 2013, food exports were worth 11.8 billion euros (US$ 15.8 billion).

Russian commentators were quick to point out that counter-sanctions could serve as "shock therapy" to boost domestic food industry. With vast areas of arable land, Russia could be a net exporter, but the absence of policies limited investments in a sector left fragmented, ill equipped and financially weak after the collapse of the Soviet Union. For daily Kommersant, counter-sanctions can help rapidly replace imports with domestic products.

It is no accident that the targeted products are those for whom there is a better chance of increasing domestic production or finding new suppliers.

In any event, analysts note that the Russian government is ready to face any legal wrangling at the WTO. What is more, trade disputes might drag on for years and provide enough time to domestic producers to meet market demands and local retailers to find new business partners.

The Russian federal agency for food safety Rosselkhoznadzor has already held meetings with the ambassadors of Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and Argentina to discuss food imports. Even Turkey has already lined up for new agreements with Russia.