Staunton, Oct. 4 – According to the Russian Finance Ministry, 19.6 percent of all alcohol products Russians now consumer consists of surrogates, often with health and life-threatening impact. This is the result of declining imports as a result of sanctions and, after years of falling, rising demand for alcohol (oka.fm/new/read/social/Dolya-kontrafaktnogo-alkogolya-v-Rossii-dostigla-20/)..
The demographic consequences of this pattern are enormous, but a new survey by Viktoriya Pavlova of Novyye izvestiya reports that while everyone agrees this is a dangerous threat to Russia, neither the expert community nor the government has reached a consensus on what to do (newizv.ru/article/general/04-10-2022/alkogolnyy-vopros-chto-rossiyane-teper-budut-pit-i-skolko-za-eto-zaplatyat).
Some favor parallel supplies, consisting of alcohol imported without legal authority; others support work to promote import substitution including higher protectionist tariffs; and still others favor a crackdown. But unless the authorities come up with a plan that they are prepared to implement across the board, alcohol-related illnesses and deaths are likely to soar in the coming months.
That will hit working-age men hardest, driving down life expectancies and the birthrate and completely excluding any chance that current Kremlin demographic targets will be met. Given that such health problems will hit those Putin hopes to mobilize, this development will have immediate and serious national security implications.
The Kremlin’s failure to decide upon and then impose a single position on the government on this issue is another sign that the Putin regime is in trouble administratively and even politically, and that in turn suggests that this kind of chaos is likely to spread to other issues as well.
Window on Eurasia — New Series