Just What Russia Needs: Floods of Whiskey

By Luke Walker 01/25/12

The alcohol-plagued nation's upcoming WTO membership will greatly increase the availability of foreign liquor.

Alcohol kills one in eight of Russia's
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New dealings in Russia, a country long plagued by alcoholism, have opened the door to more, cheaper foreign booze. Vodka's supremacy is set to be challenged by Russia’s upcoming membership of the World Trade Organization, which has caused a flood of anticipatory new trade deals with foreign distilleries. WTO membership will mean legislative oversight in trade negotiations between partner countries, lowering tariffs and reducing other trade barriers which have long stifled the foreign liquor market. Scotch and bourbon are catching on in a big way among the legions of Russian drinkers: from 2010-2011 the importation of Scotch shot up from 17 million liters to 29 million. Billionaire entrepreneur Roustam Tariko has now spotted an opportunity and rushed to sign a five-year contract with British distillers King Robert II and Hedges & Butler Royal De Luxe whisky, and many more such deals are expected. Availability of more, cheaper liquor is hardly going to halt a steady decline in Russian health. By 2007, one in eight deaths—and 52% of all deaths of Russians aged 15-54—were attributed to alcoholism or alcohol-related illness. Life expectancy in Russia is just 60.

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