The Price of War?

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Brussels (3/12)

Governments may be doing great while the people suffer. Bombing of the Nordstream 2 pipeline, carrying cheap Russian natural gas to industry and consumers in Europe, is exerting a cascading effect on companies and employment, eventually to be reflected in rising places and sharpening inflation. 

Russia is steadily experiencing price increases for a variety of goods and services, Russian media report. Is there obviously not a link to the sanctions placed on Russia and the seizure of Russian funds and savings abroad? Punishment for Russia’s “Special Military Operation” to purportedly protect Russian-speaking citizens in eastern Ukraine from state terrorism and neo-Nazis – and the firm conviction that the attempt by NATO to continue its “containment” and “encirclement” of Russia has become an existential matter: President Putin has vowed that Ukraine, traditionally neutral, will never be allowed to join NATO. 

Those with a historical bent might smile, seeing this as an echo of the rise to power of Fidel Castro, his embrace of communism, and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which nearly started World War III. Nuclear weapons are being waved in warning once again, as they were 60 years ago. “History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

Now the average Russian, far from the battlefield, is beginning to feel the effects of the pressure being brought by western countries on their lives. Russian media report that producers of street fast food warn of a possible increase in the average price of shawarma up to 300 rubles ($2.36) and a 10-15% rise in the price of pizza and burgers, the result of an increase in selling prices of products such as meat, vegetables, fruit and eggs.

Well, considering how Russia imported $169 million worth of fertilizers, mainly from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Spain, Belgium, and Lithuania In 2021, this is no surprise. With the probable exception of the first two of those countries, exports of fertilizer have been halted. 

As the Russian government has introduced policies to increase the availability and use of pesticides in crop production, including increased imports, that will also drive prices upward; according to a report by Deutsche Welt, Russia has been increasing its domestic food production in recent years, with the aim of becoming self-sufficient, with new construction of manufacturing plants, and subsidies to farms for purchasing pesticides.

Gadgets are also up: iPhone prices rose an average of 32% in the first half of the year, and another 20% increase is expected by the end of the year. Prices of Samsung, Xiaomi and Readme products are also rising significantly. 

Tourism has become pricier: tour operators warn of a possible 10-30% price increase for winter vacations to popular destinations such as Egypt, UAE, Thailand, Maldives and Cuba. The cost of tours in Russia may also increase by 15% or more. Is this simply price-gouging, using the sanctions as an excuse, or are there other factors driving up prices?

That air travel has become more expensive is not surprising: Russian airlines prefer European or American jetliners, for obvious reasons, and now they find to their chagrin that they cannot buy spare parts for these maintenance-intensive airplanes directly, instead having to import on the sly through dummy companies, with a roundabout route through the Middle East or the PRC – which would naturally add on to already high prices.

Gas, automobiles and real estate has also been reported to have soared in price, bearing in mind that Russians are historically accustomed to shortages and long lineups for consumer goods.

2022 saw “Black Friday” – style fistfights and struggles for – get ready for it – SUGAR! Yep, the infamous “sugar wars” followed a shortage of sugar in Russia. That may well have been succeeded in turn by a miraculous recovery of citizens’ health – Russians historically being an unhealthy sort of folk, just like their enemies the Americans – since sugar can wreak damage on the body. Not just on teeth either: cancer tumors are said to love the taste of sugar, and feed on it merrily.

The above report should by the way be considered judiciously, as it came from one “Anton Gerashchenko” who describes himself as a “Ukrainian patriot. Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. Founder of the Institute of the Future. Official enemy of Russian propaganda”. Not the most objective sort of fellow, one would imagine.

OLD SOVIET JOKE ALERT!

(This is apropos to the subject at hand.)

The august Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1964 until his death in 1982, and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, was scheduled for a “photo-op” visit to a Moscow kindergarten.

Chairman Brezhnev, smiling broadly, greeted the sea of children’s faces and intoned “So very happy to see so many of you wonderful children.

“We are happy because in Russia the children wear beautiful clothes, have fine, delicious food to eat and lots of exciting toys to play with –”

His talk was cut short as a little girl in the front row suddenly started wailing, burst into tears and stomped her little feet.

Brezhnev looked shocked and the teachers, flustered, gathered around and shouted “Natasha! Natasha! What is the matter with you?”

Natasha, bawling: “I want to go to Russia!”