Pause Before Pouring Out Your Vodka

Businesses in United States and Canada have started pouring out their stores of Russian Vodka in solidarity for Ukraine because “every small thing makes a difference”, states a Fox News article, with a slew of pictures and stories of business owners pouring out Russian manufactured vodka.

While I do believe it is important to stand in solidarity with Ukraine during this attack fueled by Russian greed, pouring out your vodka should be pretty low on the list.

If you think that your mission to end human suffering, an unprovoked attack on Ukraine citizens, is solved by pouring out an alcoholic beverage, a non-essential food item, is your greatest plan to end a war, as this article suggests, please don’t pat yourself on the back yet.

On the macro-scale, “The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation removed Russian products from its shelves and website because of the ‘terrible events taking place'” and “British Columbia [has] ceas[ed] imports on Russian alcohol” states the article. Canada and United states have started an embargo on Russia, an economic sanction. Not only is this embargo targeting liquor, it is targeting all Russian-made exports, the most important of those being crude oil, which nets the Russian economy $300 billion dollars per year.

And while we might cheer for the Russian economy to be starved so that the war ceases, and we might like or even post videos of pouring out vodka as some form of “humanitarianism”, an embargo is not starving President Putin, nor the Russian billionaires who line his pockets and have lead to this war.

The Russian people are not our enemy. These are people who may not even want their country to be at war, but found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Let’s talk about what this article does not discuss: the implications of an embargo on Russian goods. A good starting point of understanding would be assessing the embargo of North Korea and Cuba. The United States embargo has caused pain, suffering, and starvation in these countries. North Korean citizens are receiving food rations that are below the “survival ration” that has been deemed by the United Nations. This has lead to 300,000 to 800,000 North Koreans dying each year from starvation. In Cuba, the United States denied medical supplies, food, and fuel. Because of the sixty-year embargo, the country is unable to build an economy and is living in a crumbling physical and economic infrastructure with no means to support their citizens. Do you think that their authoritarian dictators care about if the people they rule over are dying of starvation? These regimes have done little to reverse their stance on political issues, so how can we say that an embargo is working, or would work?

So yes, you can choose to read the article put out by Fox News, and as a business owner or a private entity, you can pour out your vodka and give yourself a pat on the back. But this, dear reader, is lulling you into a false state of humanitarianism. As one business owner stated in the article, “He said he stood to lose a few hundred dollars over the spilled vodka – but said the protest was worth it to him”.

A few hundred dollars for lost liquor and praise on social media, while the implications of an embargo will lead to universal human suffering and starvation not limited to Ukraine, but also in Russia. Is that worth it to you?

I am not condoning military actions against Russia by the United States, nor am I condoning violence. What I am imploring of you, dear reader, is to read articles and consume media cautiously. Be aware that what might be trending can actually be harmful if you do not know the real life implications. Don’t subscribe to this kind of humanitarian illusionist journalism — instead of offering ways to truly help the Ukrainian people, or even the Russian who people find themselves in a conflict they do not want, look for sources that will educate you on the full story, or tell you how to get involved. We must not be hoodwinked by these posts; we must hold world leaders accountable for taking actions to decrease the likelihood of human suffering, rather than small, meaningless actions that don’t really, in the scheme of things, do anything.

A final note: what I am asking of our world leaders is that we impose sanctions or operate our governmental posturing with the most attention to prevent human suffering as possible. I know that’s a big ask — the United States hasn’t got it right with Cuba or North Korea, or even immigration and refugees, and has just began to look at the human suffering inflicted in our own country. We must stand by Ukraine’s innocent civilians as well as Russia’s. I am asking you to be swift in your decision making, decisive, and lead us on a path that will lead to the least loss of human life. Hold Putin and his allies accountable, not innocent people.

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