Scott Tibbs

It's OK to be Russian

By Scott Tibbs, March 18, 2022

When Mitt Romney called Russia our number one geopolitical foe in 2012, he was roundly mocked and ridiculed by the very same Democrats who decry Russia now. But Romney saw then what Barack Obama did not see: That Vladimir Putin is a KGB thug who has long dreamed of re-forming the Soviet Union - a genocidal Evil Empire that massacred tens of millions of innocent civilians. While Russia's invasion of Ukraine has more nuance than most people want to admit, it is also true that Putin has long had aspirations to re-form the Soviet Union and has pursued an imperialist foreign policy for years.

But whatever you think of Putin, the Russian people are not to blame for his behavior. Punishing them is an action of pure spite, one that will have almost no impact on Russia's war effort. The Russian people have lost access to their banks. Multinational corporations stopped doing business in Russia, throwing tens of thousands of Russians out of work. Our corporate leaders are cowards who would rather punish people living hand-to-mouth than offend an ultra-rich, spoiled Hollywood actor.

Russians cannot use their bank cards, and both Apple Pay and Google Pay have been turned off in the country, leading to a run on banks to get cash. Cutting off the Russian people from banking should scare all of us. Whatever you think of Vladimir Putin, de-banking 144 million people is an ominous warning of things to come. This is a test balloon to see how it will be tolerated on a large scale domestically, and this is already being done to people such as Mike Lindell. Corporate America is literally implementing the "social credit system" used in Communist China.

Anti-Russian sentiment, as with many forms of bigotry, ensnares innocents. In France, a restaurant chain that opened in 2017 has had to repeatedly explain that they have nothing to to with Vladimir Putin, despite the fact that it is actually named after a dish created in the 1950's when Russia's president was a small child. In an age where we have an incredible amount of knowledge available through powerful computers that we literally carry in our pockets, people cannot spend two minutes looking up the origin of a particular style of loaded French fries before accusing a restaurant of sympathizing with a KGB apparatchik.

Furthermore, despite the fact that there have been a number of Russians who have opposed Putin at significant risk to their own lives and freedom (and the fact that some Russian dissidents have been murdered by Putin's government) bigotry against ethnic Russians has been spreading across Europe. Even Russians who have openly opposed the invasion of Ukraine have been harassed and threatened.

We have experience with this kind of bigotry here in the United States. The most glaring example is the treatment of Japanese Americans in World War II, but Germans were treated with contempt and distrust during World War I. This is when we got names like Liberty Burgers, Liberty Sausage and Liberty Cabbage to expunge German names from the language. This was Patriotic Correctness, which we would see when French Fries were renamed Freedom Fries nearly a century later. Treatment of Russians in Europe and elsewhere has not reached that level (yet) but stigmatizing an entire people group based on their nation of origin is the same rotten fruit of the same bigoted tree.

It is fine to despise what the government of Russia is doing, and this invasion of a sovereign nation is indeed wrong. But the Russian people are not to blame for those policies. Mistreating ethnic Russians because of the behavior of the Russian government is no different than racism and is just as sinful. Protesting the Russian government's aggression toward Ukraine and seeking to economically damage the Russian war effort does not require open bigotry against the Russian people.

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