I ran into a quote (or a paraphrase) in a book that I couldn't ever attribute:

A state that is not able to feed itself and is dependent on food imports cannot be considered a formidable foe.

While the book itself is fiction, it has 20-30 other quotes/paraphrases used in similar manner that are, indeed, accurate, even when unattributed; and not a single other case of made-up quote. This leads me to believe that the line above is indeed from a real historical statement.

However, my Google-fu produced almost nothing.

The only remotely close thing was from "Another Sheaf", by John Galsworthy, discussing the decline of agriculture in England:

Consider the town-ridden, parasitic condition of Great Britain—the country which cannot feed itself. If we are beaten in this war, it will be because we have let our industrial system run away with us; because we became so sunk in machines and money-getting that we forgot our self-respect. No self-respecting nation would have let its food-growing capacity and its country life down to the extent that we have.

Question: Was there another statement closer to the one quoted by me made by a historical figure or in literature?

As a note: The scope is unfortunately somewhat unlimited as the author is very well read and the quotes in the book are from all over the place geographically, chronologically and source-wise... but the likelyhood is that it was said either in English or Russian.

  • 7
    The downvote here really makes no sense, it's a perfectly good question. Some people have serious issues.
    – o0'.
    Feb 27, 2012 at 13:30
  • @Sardathrion - while the tone sounds Sun-Tzuish, I am failing to thing off the top of my head of any power in his time that would not be able to feed itself.
    – DVK
    Feb 27, 2012 at 16:30
  • 1
    @Sardathrion - the context of the quote is this being a cause of war, not a consequence.
    – DVK
    Feb 27, 2012 at 17:58
  • While it sounds good, the city of Athens, Rome and Constantinople for much of their heyday all fit this category. Food Importing isn't really a big issue for major powers as long as they can keep the imports coming.
    – Oldcat
    Jul 22, 2015 at 0:18

1 Answer 1


This quote is being attributed to Winston Churchill, e.g. here: http://runmen.mmm-tasty.ru/entries/3465785. The Russian text on that page is literally the one you asked about (and the book you were reading is apparently this one). While it sounds like something that Churchill could have said given the British WW2 history, all the citations have a newer date (starting around 2010) and I couldn't find anything resembling the English original. It seems that the quotation from the book has been recently attributed to Churchill in the public debates on Russia's WTO membership to give it more weight.

What seems more likely to be the origin of your quote is this speech held by Stalin in 1920. There is no single quote that would be similar to yours but the overall meaning of the text is just this.

In general, I would definitely look for this quote somewhere between the world wars - that's the period where the economical ties between the countries got strong enough that they were an issue in a war. It's unlikely to be something said after WW2: while the economical ties got even stronger then, the political landscape changed and the same thought would have been justified with defense rather than aggression.

  • Last Ring-bearer, correct. There's a fairly good English translation made last year somewhere on the interenets as well
    – DVK
    Feb 27, 2012 at 16:26
  • One other possibility could be Japan as a topic, but their resource constraint was more industrial than agricultural.
    – DVK
    Feb 27, 2012 at 16:28

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