Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Nearly every major American and European company has imposed its own form of sanctions on Russia even if they sometimes consist of pointless virtue signaling for the social justice set.
Lego announced a pause on shipments of toy bricks to Russia. Nike has closed all its stores preventing Muscovites from purchasing $75 t-shirts made by Vietnamese slave labor. Airbnb will no longer rent dachas, Netflix won’t allow Russians access to its library of social justice pedophilia, and Blizzard has announced Russians can’t battle orcs in World of Warcraft.
It’s unclear that denying Russians access to Disney+ or Hitachi TVs will end the war. The average Russian has less say in his country’s politics than the average Disney employee. And if Vladimir Putin really wants a pair of Nike cleats or a chance to watch The Batman then, like other sanctioned tyrants, he will have plenty of options for getting hold of them anyway.
The sanctions have even escalated into cultural boycotts of Russian artists, performers and writers, including those who, like Dostoevsky, are long dead.
Volodymyr Zelensky has virtually toured world governments urging harsh sanctions on Russia.
Zelensky demanded that the Senate ban Russian oil imports and revoke Russia’s most favored nation status. According to Alaska’s Senator Dan Sullivan, Zelensky argued that “stopping the purchase of Russian oil and gas around the world would be one of the most powerful sanctions possible.”
In his virtual session with the Japanese parliament, Zelensky told legislators that it was “necessary to remove companies from the Russian market so that money does not go to the Russian army.” In his abrasive address to Israel’s Knesset, the leader of a country that remains a major trading partner of Iran stormed, “Why has Israel refrained from sanctions on Russia? Israel needs to give answers to these questions and after that, live with them.”
A more elementary question may be why is Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state owned gas company, continuing to transport millions of cubic meters of Russian gas to Europe each month.
One answer is that Russia continues paying billions to Ukraine to transport its gas.
Ukraine earns about $2 billion in transit fees from the Russian use of its pipelines to move gas to Europe. Russia, and Putin’s cronies in particular, obviously make even more than that.
Russia cashes in an estimated $400 million a day from its gas exports to Europe.
$400 million a day would buy a whole lot of Lego bricks, Netflix fees, and Nike sneakers.
The Ukrainians claim that they would love to cut off the flow of Russian gas, but the Europeans are dependent on it. And the Europeans promise to build more windmills and solar panels to eventually one day kick the Russian gas habit, but it’s exactly that kind of green nonsense that addicted them to reliable energy supplies from Russia and helped bring on the current war.
Meanwhile Americans are expected to accept higher prices while Ukraine’s state-owned company collects billions from Russia. Zelensky stages Zoom calls with foreign governments accusing them of funding the Russian military if they don’t pull out of Russia while enabling Putin’s regime to make hundreds of millions of dollars a day. That’s a little awkward.
“If Europe continues importing gas from Russia, why shouldn’t Ukraine benefit from it?” asked an expert quoted in a media story spinning the situation.
If Russia is going to continue to watch bad movies, why shouldn’t we benefit from it?.
The European-Ukrainian hypocrisy has Russia and Ukraine making billions while Americans are expected to shoulder the burden of higher prices on everything from gas to wheat.
Meanwhile Russia’s state-owned energy company is paying Ukraine’s state-owned energy company in “hard currency”.
Without the energy exports, Russia “wouldn’t be able to finance the current war, pay salaries to its soldiers and all the crowds currently supporting Putin. It will immediately impact the regime’s support, which is why they don’t want to disrupt this revenue stream,” Naftogaz’s CEO said.
Wouldn’t that be a more useful form of sanctions than boycotting Dostoevsky?
Ukraine does have the ability to cut off the flow of Russian gas any time it wants. Naftogaz claims that the Russians would just use other pipelines, but then why aren’t they doing it now?
Why is Russia paying billions to a country it’s invading that can be used to finance its defense?
Why would Russia put its economic lifeline and massive amounts of gas at risk by using a country that it’s currently bombing with all the adroit aim of a drunk in a toilet as a transit point if it could be easily replaced? Neither Europe nor Ukraine are prepared to kick their addiction to Russian gas. Putin knows it, which is why behind the scenes business is going on as usual.
The pettiness of the sanctions and the cultural boycotts are a distraction from the reality that it’s easy to pour some vodka down the drain or skip the ballet, but a lot harder to stop the gas.
Europe’s support for Ukraine is conditioned on the flow of Russian gas through the country.
Putin understands that very well which is why he’s demanding that Germany and other European countries pay him for gas in rubles. Considering that the Europeans have already paid Russia some 13 billion dollars for his gas since the war began, he’s calling their bluff.
Meanwhile Ukraine’s energy people keep urging everyone else to boycott Russian energy.
Naftogaz’s CEO had told BBC News that Europe “should make this very clear choice to get rid of this dependency on Russian gas and oil.”
Naftogaz’s former head met with Senate members and told them that Putin believes that “the energy supply is so important to the West” that “they’ll always be forgiven, that Western countries will crawl back on their knees asking for their oil and gas.”
He’s got a point, but Ukraine has the power to change that. All it has to do is pull the plug.
Europe and Ukraine are asking Americans to make sacrifices while they keep on doing business with Putin.