Georgian wine and produce may again be appearing in Russian stores after Moscow lifted its seven-year long embargo, but the products remain the potential victims of regional politics. Case in point the recent news that a top Russian official has warned that the presence of a United States-funded bio research lab in Georgia could have a "limiting effect" on the import of Georgian wine.
The $150-million lab, the Richard G. Lugar Center for Public Health Research, was opened several years ago and is designed to help Georgia do research on infectious diseases. But Russia's "chief sanitary doctor" sees it differently, suggesting that cases of Georgian wine might also come with cases of African Swine Fever and other illnesses. Reports the Civil.ge website:
Just few months after Russia dropped embargo on Georgian wines and mineral waters, its chief sanitary doctor warned that presence of the U.S.-funded bio lab in Tbilisi would have “sharply limiting effect” on bilateral trade ties.
Gennady Onishchenko, head of Russia’s state consumer protection agency RosPotrebNadzor, which ordered ban on import of Georgian products to Russia in 2006, told Interfax news agency on July 20 that the laboratory represents “a powerful offensive potential.”
“Russia deems it to be a direct violation of BWC [Biological Weapons Convention],” Onishchenko was quoted by Interfax.
Russian Foreign Ministry’s July 19 statement, released in rebuttal of the U.S. Department of State’s annual report on arms control and nonproliferation, contains what might be a reference to the U.S.-funded biological research laboratory in Tbilisi outskirts. The Russian MFA’s statement says: “Biological-related activities of the U.S. Department of Defense close to the Russian borders also cause our serious concern.”
Onishchenko also told Interfax on July 20: “With the broadening of contacts and shipments of Georgian wines and agriculture products into Russia, our alarm over presence on the Georgian territory of the powerful laboratory of the U.S. Navy, which is out of the Georgian authorities’ control, will be more and more increasing.”
“RosPotrebNadzor notes with satisfaction the positive development of relations with the Georgian side over resumption of economic ties. Soon shipments of the Georgian wines into Russia will reach one million liters. But the presence on the Georgian territory of the military laboratory of the U.S. Navy will have sharply limiting effect,” Onishchenko said.