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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Fodder Aid Is Bad Luck Diplomacy




Russia has its own standards for measuring the quality of wheat. And it turns out that the wheat that America and Europe have been sending as humanitarian aid - wheat that they consider perfectly fine - technically qualifies under Russian standards as, well, animal fodder.


This is not as bad as it sounds. Bread-making involves mixing high- and low-quality grains. Bakeries making bread from the Western aid wheat are simply having to add in more high quality Russian wheat than they had planned. Getting that high-quality wheat this late in the day is difficult, but bakeries are figuring it out.


Even so, it is highly embarrassing for all involved. This rubs against so many sore points. It plays to Russia's defensive relationship with the rest of the world ("look, they think we're skot, livestock!") And it plays to the well-documented historical arrogance of the West when dealing with places like Russia.


Fodder-as-food aid could easily become one of those ?bermyths about the Russian-American relationship. Consider an incident a few years ago when Japanese video-recorders imported to America reportedly had their clocks set to December 7, 1941, the date of the Japanese attack on the U.S. navy at Pearl Harbor. In both cases, the story has such strong appeal that the realities - of the American-Russian relationship or the Japanese-American relationship - are secondary to the myth.


Knowing this full-well, The Moscow Times broke the food aid-is-fodder story with something of an ambivalent sigh.We have repeatedly criticized almost every aspect of the food aid programs in this space; we think the food aid is mostly useless and is feeding corruption; we think it damages Russian agriculture just to give a negligible boost to American agriculture. We think it's ridiculous for Russia to borrow more money - remember, this "aid" is actually a loan that must be repaid - so that it can buy expensive American wheat. Russia doesn't need wheat - it exports wheat. Hunger in the provinces is about poverty, not a food shortage.


But we also don't think that anyone in the West intentionally sent low-quality animal fodder as aid.


These days the U.S. Embassy has been quietly repainting its walls now that Yugoslavia-inflamed emotions and protests have faded. It would be a shame if lurid tales of animal fodder aid further complicate Russian-Western relations.


But, as the saying goes, you reap what you sow. If such tales turn public opinion against the aid programs, it will be one of those bittersweet cases where the right thing happens for the wrong reason and in the wrong way.