Weekly megathread for news/updates/discussion of Russian invasion of Ukraine - July 28
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@NoblePath asked in a previous thread. Posting here for posterity:
I'm well. The work permit I'm waiting for is still in progress, hopefully resolved within the next week or two. I don't post on Tildes anymore: just browse for aggregate links every now and again.
Russia is much the same as it was when I last commented, except now it's becoming difficult to buy Coca-Cola, local fast-food franchises can no longer sell any of the Western sugary drinks, and import replacement is going bananas.
Supplies of the original Coke are dwindling to a point where smaller stores simply have none, and in larger stores that one shelf is nearly empty every time I visit. (All other shelves, including Pepsi and Russian sodas, are well-stocked.) There's an abundance of sugar-free and "taste" Coke (Vanilla, Lemon etc.). I have a bottle in the fridge, which I intend to open whenever the work permit gets issued. "Taste of the West" and whatnot.
(Conversation I'd overheard about a month ago, in a hypermarket: mother and her young – 9 years old or thereabouts – daughter. The daughter looks at the nearly-empty Coke shelf, turns to her mom and says: "Mom, our Cola is running out!". Mom, in a typical permanently-tired-of-everything Russian-mom voice, tells her to get a Russian import-replacement cola drink. "And is it the same as our Cola?", asks the girl. "Yes, yes, it's the same", responds the mother. NARRATOR: It very much wasn't.)
The soda difficulties with fast-food chains here probably amount to complete and utter inability to acquire the syrups. You can still buy it from third parties on Craigslist-like platforms in Russia, but I imagine it's unsustainable for large food chains like Burger King and KFC. Transition to local-drink syrups has only happened within the last few weeks. I imagine this alone would reduce the amount of customers for the franchisees: people will see it as the franchise failing in quality.
Import replacement is not a solution for Russia, with its regularly-poor food-production sector. These recent soda brands in particular aren't awful – and will be one of the very few options if you're, say, a child with little pocket cash – but the Western options are just better. This extends to many other recreation foods. (Sustainance food has always been okay.)
I had the pleasure of trying a pack of St. Michel cookies, produced in France and imported here probably well before the war. (Not unpopular, just not a hot product to begin with, for reasons of pricing.) The local pack costs something like 5 USD (using the current propped-up RUB rate), while in Paris it goes for slightly over 2.40 EUR. The quality of these was simply incomparable: the texture was smoother, the taste was richer, the size was bigger, and the whole thing didn't even fall apart inside the packaging. I quipped to my Polish friend that day: "I get now why Western Europe has such high quality of life. If I were to get to eat cookies like that on the [relative] cheap, I'd feel much happier too".
Some media spin the everyday "normalcy" in Russia as people not caring about what's happening. Take a walk outside, though, and you'll hear people discussing war or some aspect of it now and again. These are people who are scared but aware how far away are they from a position of leverage against a power-hungry lunatic. You can blame this weakness against the ruling apparatus on self-victimization, and you'll have a point. It's a historical trauma Russians will have to overcome eventually.
The state-controlled media in Russia have used this sense of "always someone else's fault" effectively, to subdue the population, to render people complacent, though not obedient. Campaigns to recruit mercenaries within Russia have to promise astronomical wages to the would-be soldiers – money that could clearly have been put into better health care or education before the war – to even have a chance to lure them in. (The unspoken promise of looted stuff, including fuckin' dildoes, add an allure of its own.) The government's trying really hard not to have to resort to general mobilization because that would tank the madman's inflated approval score very quickly. (Just google
fire recruitment center russiaif you need any proof.)
Anyway, I talk too much.
Huh. I wouldn't have guessed that flavored sugar water would be the thing people miss? And one brand of it at that? Whatever works, I suppose.
The equation is very simple:
You have a thing that symbolizes a Western kind of prosperity. It means maybe Russia has made it to the big leagues.
Most of the things Russia makes to "compete" are objectively crap by comparison. They're an option if you can't do better.
Suddenly, that symbol of prosperity is taken away from you. All you're left with is the crap that has no prospect of improving.
It's that simple.
No matter how you feel about these people, your dismissal of sodas and brands does nothing to alleviate their concern of being stuck inside a time machine that goes into steadily the past.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announces mandatory evacuation from Donetsk region
Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 30
Graham, Blumenthal call to designate Russia state sponsor of terrorism: ‘Putin is sitting on top of a state terrorist apparatus’ (The Hill)
For 1st time since Russia's invasion, Ukrainian grain ship leaves port of Odesa (AP via CBC)