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Trick or Treat - a Look at the Latest Ghoulish Russia Sanctions

Live pigs are now no longer allowed to enter Russia from the USA, Norway and Liechtenstein – with or without a visa.

Halloween diplomacy is here. In these current times it takes work to keep a straight face with all the political trick or treating swirling all around us. A handful of sweet sanctions here, some sour ones there, a sanctioned rasher of this, and a cone or two with extra sanctions sprinkled on top in the hope that suspicion and allegations might one day be proven. Here's to hoping that this is just another bizarre moment in our political history like Joe McCarthy’s blacklists, but don’t count on that… it is a slippery slope on which we’re slipping & sliding again.

The White House last week sent Congress a list of Russian organizations to top up the American sanctions list for their designs in Eastern Europe, support in Syria against ISIS, and the alleged interference in the presidential elections in the United States in 2016. To call them "new sanctions" is not entirely correct: on August 2 this year, President Donald Trump signed with reservation a law passed by Congress on new anti-Russian restrictions.

These restrictions tasked several US agencies to prepare lists of persons and organizations deemed worthy of inclusion in the sanctions blacklist. This enhanced blacklist (probably because its Halloween) now finally includes the FSB, SVR, GRU and 33 defense related companies like the Mytishchi Carriage Works (which among other things makes trains for the Moscow metro), of course they got around to "Kalashnikov", United Aircraft Corporation and a nasty cabal of "others".

While the expanded document is still in works, given the willingness of Congress to approve all types of anti-Russian legislation, becoming the law-of-the-day is pretty much a populist slam-dunk. Under the skirts of this effort are aspects that may very well affect US, Russian and other citizens suspected of having any links with this "black list of legal entities". This will most certainly broaden the scope for persecuting any real or imagined "Russian agents". The trick to this treat will no doubt touch on freezing of export licenses, accounts and property, denial of American visas, and listening to, subscribing, or working for Russian media, and so forth.

The criteria by which someone is classified as "suspicious" are vague, and each case will be adjudicated at the discretion of officials in the State Department. As usual, even in these spooky Halloweenish times the principle of “follow the money” applies.

Sanctions for Washington have become the diplomatic method of choice, leaving dialogue way back in the dust. They enable the tricky treat to promote our economic interests in different parts of the world, for example, by ousting Russia’s defense companies from those foreign markets that have been included in this current “black list ". Unfortunately, these media-pleasing restrictive gestures serve to further limit any room for diplomatic maneuver and the restoration of relations for both sides. Seems un-American, in the idealized sense of the phrase.

On the other side of the pond, from Russia, horrendous blowback in response! Live pigs are now no longer allowed to enter Russia from the USA, Norway and Liechtenstein – with or without a visa. This ban will last until at least New Year’s Eve 31, 2018. According to this new law Russia has banned the import of live pigs (with the exception of pure-bred breeding animals), and any by-products derived from cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, horses, asses, mules or even hinnies (except for goods imported for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals).

In addition, under the products ban are included various types of animal fat. For example, pork fat "fresh, chilled, frozen, salted, in brine, dried or smoked" probably to pester epicureans with refined palates.

You can also no longer import into Russia fat from poultry, cattle, sheep or goats! Import of these products is now prohibited from the USA, EU countries, Canada, Australia, Norway, Ukraine, Albania, Montenegro, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Prior to the introduction of this ban, taken in response to additional US sanctions, the EU was the largest supplier of pigs and pork meat to Russia.

It is no wonder that some countries who are members of the EU feel rather more tricked that treated by Washington these days. Meanwhile Russian pig farmers and pork processors are already popping Champagne corks, or in this case Russian Sparkling wine as it is known locally. So Happy Halloween!

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