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Boycotting Russian vodka won’t do much, experts say, but here’s what may

U.S. governors and nationwide retailers have joined in boycotting Russian-made liquor as a way of showing disapproval for the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 9:10 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - U.S. governors and nationwide retailers have joined in boycotting Russian-made liquor as a way of showing disapproval for the country’s invasion of Ukraine, but many experts say Russia will feel little economic impact.

“A lot of this effort, I don’t want to say is wasted because it gives people a good, patriotic feeling, but most of this is not going to make much of an economic dent in Russia,” Jon Pevehouse, a UW-Madison professor focusing on international political economy, said. “To do that you’re going to have to turn off the gas and oil spigot, and that’s something that the Biden administration has not suggested it will do anytime soon.”

Woodman’s Food Market announced Tuesday it would discontinue Russian vodka. Kroger and Total Wine & More confirmed with NBC15 Thursday Russian products have been pulled from their shelves. Governors also joined in. Ohio’s Mike DeWine directed the purchase and sale of Russian Standard, the only Russian vodka sold in the state, to cease.

Pevehouse noted, “It’s rare to see it so systematic,” referring to the protest of a foreign product. He explained, other historical examples show a more “ground-up” and individual approach to boycotts.

He called oil and gas the “dagger” that leaders from the U.S. and Western Europe have over Russia.

“Putin made a gamble that we wouldn’t use that, given already the high place of fuel, given inflationary concerns, and he could be right,” he said.

While the U.S. does not buy much of its oil from Russia, Pevehouse said Americans could suffer blowback if Russian oil is shut off. He explained, this would mean supply gets cut back, demand stays the same and prices at the pump shoot up.

Calling the liquor boycott “largely symbolic,” Mark Copelovitch, UW-Madison political science professor, also argued, “The far more significant actions are the financial sanctions blocking Russia’s central bank and banks from participating in the global financial system.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers did not respond to our requests for comment Thursday, on whether he would consider making any moves to ban the sale of Russian liquor.

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