Department of Uh-Oh

by on August 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm in Food and Drink, Law, Uncategorized | Permalink

When it opened in 1990, the McDonald’s on Moscow’s Pushkin Square was a symbol of thawing relations with the U.S., attracting long lines and later becoming the fast-food chain’s most visited outlet world-wide.

On Wednesday evening, it stood empty, closed by Russia’s consumer-safety regulator amid the Kremlin’s most-serious confrontation with the West since the Cold War. The agency cited sanitary violations as it said that it had closed four McDonald’s Corp.’s restaurants in Moscow.

Analysts said the move was more likely the latest shot by Russia in response to U.S. and European sanctions over Moscow’s role in the armed conflict with its former Soviet neighbor, Ukraine.

Food inspectors “have been instruments of Russian foreign policy for years,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He cited earlier bans on Moldovan wine and U.S. chicken.

There is more here, there is some context here.

1 Jay August 21, 2014 at 1:11 pm

They do realize it is Russians working in those restaurants right?

2 JasonL August 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Since when has that ever mattered? Increased misery of Russians is a primary motivator of Russian politicians.

3 j r August 21, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Basically, Putin is doing his Keyser Soze routine. Throwing Russian citizens under the bus to demonstrate his will to the US and EU.

And anyway, Putin’s is only ostensibly accountable to the Russian people. It’s the oligarchs that he has to keep happy, which is why I’d bet he won’t be shutting off gas and oil sales anytime soon.

4 John Schilling August 21, 2014 at 4:11 pm

“It’s the oligarchs that [Putin] has to keep happy”

You mean like the way he kept Mikhail Khodorkovsy happy? I think you are about a decade out of date on the balance of power in Moscow – the remaining oligarchs are either firmly dedicated to making Putin happy, or are living in more or less permanent exile in London.

There’s a Yakov Smirnoff Post-Soviet Russia joke in there somewhere…

5 Go, Kings Go. August 21, 2014 at 2:17 pm

You should read up on how the Russian leadership fought WW2.

6 indisguise August 21, 2014 at 5:27 pm

You are somewhere in the West, I suppose? Now that Russians refuse to eat your food, are you shedding bitter tears of remorse yet? Make an educated guess as to who has taken the blow, or look here for a clue: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28849726. “The St Petersburg government’s economic policy chief, Anatoly Kotov, said the pork price had risen by 23.5% and chicken by 25.8%.” That was less than two weeks into the embargo. In the meantime, “On Monday, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he did not expect the ban on food imports to lead to price rises or shortages in the shops.”

By the way, remember what I said about grocery shopping trips to Finland? Well, here you go: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28888494.

7 Vanya August 22, 2014 at 2:59 am

I am told here in Poland that food producers are simply shipping to Belarus instead – from Belarus it is fairly simple to re-export to Russia, and they get to take a little margin (or lot of margin). Sounds like Lukashenko will benefit the most from the current crisis.

8 The Other Jim August 22, 2014 at 8:56 am

And Russians eating there, and taking their kids there, and driving the trucks there, and doing construction and repairs there.

But hey, it’s all worth it when you consider the devastating impact to the bottom line of the McDonalds corporation when 4 stores close. Not to mention the chilling effect it has on American GDP and consumer confidence.

9 Hadur August 21, 2014 at 1:13 pm

I went to Moscow a few years ago and if this is the famous McDonalds that I remember, it was so crowded at all times that I never even considered going there. However, right next door to it was a Sbarros that was consistently deserted. I ate at that Sbarros a lot, half because there were no lines and the food was familiar, half because I felt sorry for it.

10 Dan Weber August 21, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Food, folks, and fascism.

11 Ray Lopez August 21, 2014 at 10:31 pm

And what, the US government is any better? Do you recall the attempt to rename “French Fries” as “Freedom Fries” back in the days after 9-11, when the French wisely would not support the USA in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars? Like they wisely advised JFK to stay out of Vietnam?

12 Nyongesa August 22, 2014 at 1:09 am

What U.S. government tried to rename French Fries?. This was an effort by Neocons to vent their spleen in the congressional cafeteria. Moreover nobody took them seriously, and to this day the consumption of french fries in the U.S. roars onwards and upwards. And taking the advice of the french government on foreign policy is the deepest and loudest hypocritical whine that can be produced by any member of this planets family of nations. It is one the sickest jokes anyone can crack in my circle of friends and family, which is heavily comprised of AFRICANS!!!!!

13 Ricardo August 22, 2014 at 2:00 am

That was, as they say, boob bait for the bubbas. Paul Bremer — who was appointed to lead the provisional Iraqi government — was a certified Francophile.

French-supported intervention in Libya seems to have been a factor in Jihadists overrunning Mali, which in turn led to a French military response in that country. France — to put it very delicately — does not have a history of prudent non-intervention.

14 dan1111 August 22, 2014 at 6:37 am

“And what, the US government is any better?”

Yes.

15 King Cynic August 21, 2014 at 1:24 pm

While I am certain that this is politically motivated, the claim that the health of Russian consumers could be harmed by eating at Macdonalds has a high degree of plausibility in and of itself.

16 enoriverbend August 21, 2014 at 1:39 pm

@King Cynic

Compared to the typical Russian restaurant?

Reminds me of the Bulgakov quote about being supplied sturgeon “of the second freshness”

`Second freshness – that’s what is nonsense! There is only one freshness – the first – and it is also the last. And if sturgeon is of the second freshness, that means it is simply rotten.’

17 Dan Weber August 21, 2014 at 1:50 pm

It can dilute the vodka.

18 Todd August 21, 2014 at 1:34 pm

This will also put a strain on Russia’s angioplasty industry

19 Radford Neal August 21, 2014 at 1:39 pm

“When it opened in 1990, the McDonald’s on Moscow’s Pushkin Square was a symbol of thawing relations with the U.S…”

Maybe. However, it was a Canadian McDonald’s.

20 collin August 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Russians ain’t going to eating freedom fries!

21 The Devil's Dictionary August 21, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Never underestimate the ability of Russians to use bureaucracy as a weapon.

22 Massimo August 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Combine the financial risk of a widespread food sanitation problem with McDonalds’ process efficiency expertise and you get very sanitary food. Their food may be unhealthy and low quality, but it’s very sanitary. Russians told me that when McDonalds first came to Russia, it brought a level of food pipeline sanitation that was completely foreign to the area.

23 indisguise August 21, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Russia is not the West in many ways. One of those ways is, you as an individual or a group of individuals can’t reasonably expect to be able to sue a restaurant. Thanks to the Internet, for international chains, worldwide reputation is at stake. At local eateries of any level, hygiene is questionable to this day. You’ve got food poisoning? Good luck proving it’s the restaurant’s fault.

Besides, in 1990 and for many decades before and for some years after, restaurants in Russia were something else entirely. They were few and far between, and you didn’t go there to eat: you went there to celebrate. And not just anything, only big events like a wedding, 50th birthday, or retirement, and even that wasn’t the norm. I guess you see where I’m getting with this. It’s apples and oranges, a hamburger at lunch time pitched against twenty-seven shots of vodka over four hours. Your stomach is inside out next morning? Yeah, sure, must be the food.

24 Andrew' August 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Global Revolutionary Communism fighting a scorched earth policy to starve out the Capitalist devil encroaching on its own soil. Give ground until Winter. Stalin would be proud!

25 8 August 22, 2014 at 4:24 am

USG is the revolutionary and Russia is the capitalist devil now, right?

26 andrew' August 22, 2014 at 4:43 am

I have no idea. Probably never mattered.

27 jtf August 21, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Welp, I guess this has the secondary effect of removing Russia from the Big Mac Index so we can’t see how good their PPP is unless we use some other inconvenient measure. Although this is probably a side effect, not an outright intentional manipulation like what Argentina did a few years back.

28 andrew' August 22, 2014 at 4:46 am

Let’s use the dollar menu index. It is pegged.

29 Sean August 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm

well, cant figure out why they didnt have the foresight.
“Russia’s agriculture minister warned Wednesday (Aug 20) that Moscow must spend billions of dollars in the coming years subsidising farmers in order to avoid a shortage caused by its ban on most Western foods”. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/international/russia-reveals-huge-cost/1322380.html

As if this wasnt worse, think about the implications on tax revenue, unemployment and FDI in general. This is self destruction. Oh, the folly.

After all, its no longer russia of the past, not a case of communism vs capitalism right?
http://qeducation.sg/economics-snippets/the-role-of-price-mechanism/

30 Barkley Rosser August 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm

This will not remove Russia from the Big Mac index. It is only the 4 in Moscow that are closed. There are still MacDonald’s in 111 other Russian metropoli.

31 anon August 23, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Oh NOOOOOO!

Closing the McDonald’s on Moscow’s Pushkin Square is gonna leave a mark!

Russia, a former superpower, is now reduced to closing McDonalds to show how tough it is.

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