As President Biden and allies have continued to unleash financial sanctions on Russian banks, companies and certain individuals in response to the country's war on Ukraine, here in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine has decided to hit the Russians on another front: vodka sales.
In a tweet over the weekend, DeWine declared he had told Ohio Department of Commerce to "cease both the purchase & sale of all vodka made by Russian Standard" and that Ohio Liquor Control will "pull Green Mark Vodka and Russian Standard Vodka" from the shelves of the state's nearly 500 liquor agencies.
Russian Standard and Green Mark, the brands mentioned by DeWine, are produced by the Roust company, which is owned by Roustam Tariko, a Russian oligarch who also founded the Russian Standard Bank. As DeWine mentions in his tweet, Russian Standard is the "only overseas, Russian-owned distillery with vodka sold in Ohio." According to Roust's website, it is Russia's largest vodka exporter.
.@OhioLiquor estimates that there are approximately 6,400 bottles of vodka made by Russian Standard currently for sale in Ohio's 487 liquor agencies across the state. Retailers have been asked to immediately pull Green Mark Vodka and Russian Standard Vodka from their shelves.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) February 26, 2022
DeWine isn't the only one banning Russian vodka. Governors in other states, including New Hampshire and Utah — plus the Liquor Control Board of Ontario in Canada — also have ordered the removal of Russian-made or branded spirits from state liquor outlets. In addition, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has asked all of the state's retailers to "voluntarily remove all Russian products from their shelves," not just vodka.
And while a vodka boycott in solidarity with the people of Ukraine is a meaningful gesture, multiple news outlets like CNN and NPR say it's unlikely to have much of an impact on Vladimir Putin. Only around 1% of vodka consumed in the United States is imported from Russia, per a 2021 report from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Russian Standard Vodka is part of that percent, but Mark Schrad, an associate professor of political science at Villanova University who also wrote the book Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy and the Secret History of the Russian State, told NPR, "even (Russian Standard's) sales in North America make up only a minuscule amount of their global sales. So even if you start mixing your martinis with Absolut or Ketel One instead of Russian Standard, it is really not going to make much of a difference, especially when compared to some of the big, country-level economic sanctions that have been levied on Russia."
On Sunday, the Washington Post published a list of vetted organizations where Americans can donate to support Ukraine.