When Vladimir Putin threw out the first snowball in opening the Winter Olympics at Sochi, I hope some brave apparatchik holding his shirt took the opportunity to whisper in his ear about closing other games less popular.
Between gay rights, the suppression of Ukraine, support for the Syrian dictator, and prosecution of political opponents, many commentators would say that the line for that possibility starts around the block.
Yet the Russian game-playing I have in mind has probably fallen off many radars monitoring acceptable international behavior. Nevertheless, it's a selfish, manipulative sport that deserves to be forever consigned to the penalty box.
I'm referring to Russia's ongoing ban on U.S. beef and pork exports, a capricious sanction as out of touch with science as leeches and palm reading.
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According the trade data just released, U.S. beef exports in 2013 totaled 2.58 billion pounds (carcass weight), 5% greater than the previous year. After importing approximately 151 million pounds from the U.S. in 2012, Russia purchased virtually no beef last year.
Had Russia accepted the same amount of product in 2013 than it did the prior year, total U.S. exports would have exceeded the prior year by 11.5%.
On the other hand, U.S. pork exports in 2013 totaled 4.99 billion pounds (carcass weight), 7% smaller than the previous year. After importing approximately 275 million pounds from the U.S. in 2012, Russia purchased no more than 17.2 million pounds of pork last year.
Had Russia bought the same amount of product in 2013 that it did the prior year, total U.S. exports would have fallen short of the prior year by only 2.7%.
I'm really not an unreconstructed cold warrior who enjoys Russia-bashing. Surely we have enough problems keeping our own house in order to worry about Pussy Riot's fight with the Kremlin.
But if Russia wants an equal booth at the international marketplace, then it must be required to play by globally acceptable rules. And while Russia has recently agreed to begin accepting U.S. meat once again (first turkey, then beef, and maybe pork somewhere down the road), can we really be sure that it has ended the anti-free-trade games for good?
Shame on me, but I just can't clear my memory of a Soviet female shot-putter in 1964 who refused to be tested for sex.
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