In empty gesture, Gov. Greg Abbott asks Texas businesses to pull Russian vodka from shelves

Gov. Greg Abbott has asked Texas businesses to remove all Russian products from their shelves in solidarity with Ukraine. - INSTAGRAM / @GOVABBOTT
Instagram / @govabbott
Gov. Greg Abbott has asked Texas businesses to remove all Russian products from their shelves in solidarity with Ukraine.
It's never too late for political theater.

In a Saturday tweet, Gov. Greg Abbott urged Texas businesses to voluntarily remove all Russian products from their shelves. The request came with the hours ticking down ahead of the March 1 Republican primary, a contest in which he faces rivals who have questioned his conservative credentials.

“I’ve asked the members of the Texas Restaurant Association, Texas Package Stores Association & all Texas retailers to voluntarily remove all Russian products from their shelves,” the tweet read. “Texas stands with Ukraine. #StandWithUkraine”
Let’s break this down, shall we?

By directing his tweet to restaurants, bars and package stores, Abbott seems to be suggesting that they should empty their shelves of Russia's highest-profile consumable import: Vodka.

Here's the problem. Only 1.2% of U.S. vodka imports come from that country, according to data from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Sure, many vodkas sold in the U.S. bear distinctly Russian-sounding monikers — Stoli, Absolut and Svedka, to name a few — but, by and large, they're not produced in Russia.

Indeed, most Russian imports aren’t things U.S. consumers are likely to purchase for everyday use, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. We’re talking mineral fuels such as coal, along with precious metal and stone, iron and steel, fertilizers and inorganic chemicals.

So, it's unlikely that pouring vodka down the sink will impact Russia at all. The Russian products on U.S. shelves have already been purchased and subject to import taxes, so it stands to reason that Abbott's request would only harm small business owners who opt to trash products in solidarity with Ukraine.

Why, then, would the governor make a public plea for business owners to protest Russia in such an ineffective way? The move could be seen as a bid to sway last-minute early voters ahead of the primary.

“That's a different stance from before,” Twitter user @LeaHayesPolitic replied to Abbott’s tweet. “It must be election time.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine after authorizing, what he called, a “special military operation.” As of press time, the Ukranian civilian death toll reports at least 102, but is feared to be much higher, Reuters reports.

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