Guest Editorial Week Of 3/14/2022

Thomas Knapp

Who benefits from sanctions on Russian oil?
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on March 4, 80 percent of Americans support a U.S. government ban on the importation of Russian oil.
Meanwhile, Americans are also complaining about high gas prices, which reached an average of more than $4 per gallon over the weekend following the poll’s release, in large part due to U.S. and European sanctions on Russia.
While Russian oil constitutes only a tiny portion of U.S. petroleum imports, a complete ban certainly wouldn’t help hold U.S. gas prices down.
It also wouldn’t help with much else.
Believe it or not, Vladimir Putin and his oligarch cronies aren’t missing any meals due to the sanctions.
Yes, ordinary Russians are taking a hit to their per capita income of a whopping U.S. $7,000 or so per year. And most of them probably blame the U.S., not Putin, for that hit.
Just like Iranians mostly blame the U.S., not their theocratic regime, for the effects of U.S. sanctions.
And just like Cubans mostly blame the U.S, not their Communist regime, for the effects of U.S. sanctions.
Sometimes it seems like the only victims of U.S. sanctions who don’t blame the U.S. government are Americans.
Maybe it’s the differential effect. Abroad, U.S. sanctions can produce real poverty, malnutrition, even starvation or death by preventable disease. Here at home, they’re a minor inconvenience.
Maybe you’re canceling that road trip to Vegas and planning a stay-cation instead, but you’re probably not cutting your meat ration with corn meal to make it go further, looking up the symptoms of rickets, or trying to coax a 68th year out of your De Soto.
As to whom sanctions help, well, cross Ukraine off that list. Putin’s not going to call his troops back over economic sanctions. Europeans whose livelihoods are hit by being on the sanctioners’ side aren’t going to get any more anti-Russian or pro-Ukrainian. They’re just going to get poorer.
The only people helped by U.S. sanctions on Russian oil are American oil producers. Those sanctions bring them just a little bit closer to monopoly status, allowing them to jack up prices and knock down windfall profits at your expense.
If you want to give up vodka for Lent, or switch from Russian salad dressing to a vinaigrette, in the silly belief that doing so will make a difference for Ukraine, knock yourself out. But don’t demand an increase in the cost of gas and then whine about it.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (


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