Canceling Putin, Canceling Russians

ReasonHe works alongside a small-town Siberia contractor. After Vladimir Putin’s tanks rolled towards Kyiv in March, and there was a torrent of economic sanctions imposed against Russia by both public and private actors I began to wonder if it would be possible to pay my guy in bitcoin and what consequences that might have.

This issue contains the majority of There are reasons was already edited when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started, so this is the only place in these pages you’ll see mention of the potentially earth-shattering conflict involving a nuclear nation. has the latest news.

As this issue goes to press, however, it isn’t urgent to know if the U.S. will send soldiers to fight in a war elsewhere. Under current circumstances, President Joe Biden has explicitly ruled it out. It was a good decision and a good idea.

Instead, a whole host of other potential interventions—most of them cultural or economic—are forcing global politicians and businesspeople to do an even more complicated moral calculation.

The moment when a world consensus is formed against the violent occupation of another country in real time can be inspiring. However, which sanctions, boycotts and cancellations are appropriate and targeted against those state actors that are behind the attack against Ukraine and which are excessively punitive against ordinary Russians (many of whom aren’t supportive Putin’s actions)?

World Taekwondo’s decision not to honor the 9th place in its Honorary List Dan black belt it conferred on Putin in 2013, for instance, is extremely defensible, narrowly targeted, and frankly hilarious. It is less worth the associated edict to not “organise and recognise Taekwondo activities in Russia or Belarus.”

The vandals, who broke windows and took down flags outside Russia House (a nearby restaurant), are clearly unjustifiable. ReasonThe D.C. office is not even owned or controlled by Russians. It would seem that a restaurant that declared its profits would go to Russian war efforts would make it a good idea for hungry customers to take ten minutes walk to D Light Cafe, which is owned by Ukraine.

Both of these cases have relatively low stakes, making moral math much easier. In many cases, however, the stakes can be very high even though the grey area is large and murky.

The ex-ambassador of the United States to Russia Michael McFaul, a former ambassador, was slammed on Twitter early March for making the simplistic statement that there were no “innocent” nor “neutral” Russians. Everyone has to make a choice—support or oppose this war. Only 100,000 people, not just thousands, can protest this war. Putin won’t be able to arrest all of you! But this same thinking shapes the criticism of Valery Gergiev, a Russian conductor who was fired from his position with the Munich Philharmonic for refusing to “distance himself…from the brutal war of aggression which Putin is leading.” Although they may be admirable for their bravery, civil disobedience is not morally required.

Just days after the conflict began, Nike and Apple closed their Russian online shops. MSC, Maersk and other world-leading shipping companies have suspended shipping containers to Russia. Boeing and Airbus cut off support for Russian airlines by supplying no parts or manuals. It is the energy sector that has most to lose by cutting ties and working with the fossil fuel industry giant. However, Shell and BP have also stopped supplying parts to Russian airlines.

No doubt, the SWIFT system locking out top Russian banks will result in Putin’s oligarchs being unable to access the SWIFT payment network. Visa and Mastercard also blocked sanctioned Russian financial institutions out of their payment networks. The per capita Russian GDP is less than half the US. With skyrocketing inflation, and other economic cascades the Russian population may be unable to survive long before Putin’s close friends feel the pinch.

Also, there are economic systems which can operate independently from the state. Mykhailo Fedorov (Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine) has demanded that all Russian blockchain users be blocked by digital asset platforms. Hillary Clinton was interviewed by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. In it, she said that she was disappointed that not all crypto-exchanges comply with her request.

Binance, Kraken and other exchanges that still serve Russians include Kraken and Kraken. These companies argue that many of these users do not support the war and that freezing their assets as a result of state action would go against the ethos and spirit of the crypto movement.

It goes on. DirecTV is not required to provide RT, the Russian state propaganda channel. Netflix is refusing to broadcast RT in Russia, so the streamer will likely be blocked. Disney has pulled all Russian cinematic releases before they could be shown in theaters. What will it do for regular Russians to be cut off from the rest of the world and international markets?

This same question is a constant in the discussion about economic sanctions imposed by states. The U.S. has placed sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Cuba for many decades. These have had very little geopolitical consequence and come at a huge cost to ordinary citizens living under authoritarian regimes. Not to mention American producers and consumers. Although the Russian sanctions go further into the economy and are more severe than other sanctions, citizens may decide that the propaganda they receive is true and will make them the victims of a global conspiracy. This could have predictable consequences for nationalism and expansionism.

Editor: When to Use the Word We. Most people don’t know this. There are reasonsAmerican writers make up the majority of’s authors. The majority of our readers hail from America. However, we believe that citizens and governments are fundamentally different. Our Russian contractor is another example.

“We” do not go to war; governments go to war—sometimes conscripting an unwilling “we” to go along. We don’t buy tanks. Governments take money from us under threat of arrest and use it for munitions. We don’t exclude refugees. Governments block ports and borders with armed agents in order to keep people out, regardless of whether they would be welcomed into their homes.

Government is not, in fact, simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together, as former Rep. Barney Frank (D–Mass.) A dubiously-reported statement. In the pages of ReasonThis can make it difficult to understand the meaning of these terms. Sometimes we mistakenly use the term “the United States” to refer to “the U.S.” government.” However, it’s not.

Living in a democratic society is a great thing. The space between the citizens and the government is protected (although it isn’t always as good as I would like). Russia’s history has seen this space clogged up, squeezed under boots, overcrowded, and even crushed for centuries.

That’s no accident. Because of Russia’s highly corrupted private and public sectors it is nearly impossible for the outside world to see where Russia ends and Russia begins. Authoritarian regimes like it that way, because they treat citizens as means, not ends in themselves—as cannon fodder and cogs in a managed economic machine, not free people deserving of rights and dignity. Private citizens, who simply want to do their normal business, will be horribly affected by the government’s crimes.

Companies and countries often take punitive measures based on intuition, rather than principles. It is admirable to have a feeling that complicity with an oppressive regime is wrong. However, it’s also deeply wrong for innocent civilians to suffer economic loss. Millions of them live inside Russia’s borders.