Baltic states lead in alcohol exports to Russia despite the international sanctions

Since the beginning of 2023, Latvia has become a prominent figure in the field of whiskey exports to Russia throughout the year 2023.

This remarkable feat, achieved amidst heightened diplomatic strains between the two nations in the wake of Moscow’s aggressive war against Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions, speaks volumes about the intricate dynamics of global commerce.

There has been a staggering surge in Russia’s whiskey imports, totaling nearly €244 million during the period from January to September 2023, marking a nearly quadruple increase compared to the corresponding timeframe of 2022.

The lion’s share of this influx originated from Latvia, with exports amounting to €177.4 million. Following closely behind was Latvia’s Baltic neighbor, Lithuania, contributing €26.9 million to Russia’s whiskey imports.

Beyond the realm of alcoholic beverages, Latvia’s economic ties with Russia witnessed robust growth, with total exports surpassing €1.1 billion in 2023, as highlighted by data sourced from the Latvian government and cited by the German news agency DW. Notably, a significant portion of Latvia’s exports to Russia comprised beverages, spirits, and vinegar, reflecting a dynamic trade relationship between the two nations.

In a surprising turn of events, Latvia surpassed even Italy, a renowned in wine-maker, exporting €73 million worth of wine to Russia the previous year.

Behind these statistics lies a complex narrative of economic intermediation, wherein Latvia assumes the role of a conduit for Western enterprises seeking to navigate the delicate geopolitical landscape amidst ongoing conflicts and international sanctions.

Local economists, including Matiss Mirosnikovs from the Bank of Latvia, shed light on this phenomenon, emphasizing Latvia’s historical role as a facilitator for Western companies. Mirosnikovs noted a discernible uptick in the re-exportation of Western goods through Latvia following Moscow’ full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

This dynamics of trade, however, raises questions about accountability and transparency. Mirosnikovs suggests that Western companies, eager to circumvent direct association with Russia amidst geopolitical tensions, utilize Latvia as a scapegoat, obscuring their involvement in transactions involving Russian markets.

In light of these revelations, Mirosnikovs asserts Latvia’s innocence in contravening sanctions imposed against Russia in response to the Ukrainian conflict, portraying the nation as an unwitting participant caught in the crossfire of global commerce.