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Letter: Russian sanctions hurt ordinary people

Smith writes, "It is worth reminding people that Russia is not a democracy. The people have no say in what their government does. If any politician stands up against Putin, they risk being assassinated; some already have been. Hurting Russian civilians does not help Ukraine."

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In response to the Ukraine invasion last month, much of the western world imposed sanctions on Russia. While some of these sanctions are justifiable, many of them are not. It’s perfectly fine for people to target the Russian government and oligarchs for what they have done; I don’t oppose that. My issue is two-fold: targeting the Russian population for something they have no control over, and targeting people outside of Russia just because they happen to be Russian.

Several corporations have quit doing business in Russia: McDonald's, Starbucks, Coco-Cola, Netflix, Disney, just to name a small handful; there are many more. It stretches the imagination to say this hurts the Russian government, or will do anything to convince Putin to pull back. All this does is hurt the quality of life of ordinary people. You can argue losing those companies are just minor inconveniences, fine, but the real kicker is losing essential services such as from Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and PayPal. These are payment processors. Losing these services mean ordinary families cannot buy groceries from their local store. They cannot buy a bus ticket to get to work. It is worth reminding people that Russia is not a democracy. The people have no say in what their government does. If any politician stands up against Putin, they risk being assassinated; some already have been. Hurting Russian civilians does not help Ukraine.

Second, there is such a fervent push to disassociate with anything and everything Russian that it has extended beyond Russia’s borders. Bars across the world have stopped serving Russian vodka (not actually produced in Russia). The city council of Newark, New Jersey, voted unanimously to suspend the business of Lukoil, a gas station that’s locally owned with American employees, just because the franchisor is headquartered in Russia. Alexander Malofeev, a musician, was kicked out of his orchestra in Canada just because he happens to be Russian, despite him condemning the war. Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space, who is long since dead, had his name removed from a US-based fundraiser. Using sanctions to cripple Russia’s economy is one thing, but this has devolved into madness. It is very reminiscent of people going after Muslims and Arabs in general immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

After World War 1 concluded, Germany got stuck with the reparations bill in the Treaty of Versailles. This financial debt was exceptionally harsh that held Germany’s economy down. The Nazi Party used the mistreatment of the German people rise to power.

Today, the Treaty of Versailles is widely blamed for setting the stage for World War II. History is very clear that treating an entire ethnic group as the enemy causes nationalism to skyrocket. Putin used nationalist rhetoric to justify his invasion of Ukraine, claiming the Russians there were being mistreated. At that time, he was wrong. But at the rate we’re going, he’ll be able to make that argument for Russians across the world, and this time he’d be correct.

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William Smith lives in Fargo.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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