Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
In a move that was equal parts escalatory, theatrical, and troll job, Russia announced Thursday it had instituted a travel ban on a group of 29 Americans, inclusive of politicians, business people, and journalists.
Featured on the list of the banished were Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, as well as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, “Good Morning America” co-host George Stephanopoulos, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Christopher W. Grady, Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby, and Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price.
“In response to the ever-expanding anti-Russian sanctions,” a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry reads, “under which the Biden administration brings an increasing number of Russian citizens – both officials and their families, as well as representatives of business circles, scientists, and cultural figures – 29 Americans are included in the ‘stop list’ from among the top leaders, businessmen, experts and journalists who form the Russophobic agenda, as well as the spouse of a number of high-ranking officials. These persons are denied entry to the Russian Federation on an indefinite basis.”
The release did not specify which individuals were permanently barred entry but the foreign ministry warned that so long as the United States continues to sanction Russia and Russians, the list will continue to grow. Russia has already banned President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the entirety of the United States Congress.
“In the near future, a new announcement will follow about the next replenishment of the Russian ‘stop list’ in the order of countermeasures against the hostile actions of the [U.S.] authorities,” the statement reads.
While Thursday’s list might at first blush seem like a grab bag of personages, the collection of names shows some deliberation by Russian leaders.
The list contained elements of petulance as, in retribution for U.S. sanctions of Putin’s adult daughters, Russia forbids entry to spouses of several American political leaders.
Emhoff was joined by White House Cabinet Secretary Evan Maureen Ryan, who is married to Blinken; Margaret Goodlander, adviser to the Secretary of Justice and wife of National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan; and Robert Kagan, a political scientist, and husband of Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland; on the banned list.
There also appears to be an element of Russia seeking to capitalize on the Western culture war. Not only did the foreign ministry employ the Western tactic of ascribing phobia to one’s enemies and rivals, but it also waded into the transgender debate.
Among the 29 names was who Russia identified as “Richard/Rachel Levine,” the transgender Assistant Secretary for Health who frequently is the subject of fierce debate in online spaces.
Levine has no direct connection to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and as a pediatrician and U.S. health official is unlikely to ever have such a connection. However, as a prominent transgender person, Levine was a natural target for the Russian leader who has previously made clear his view on transgenderism.
“I support the traditional approach that a woman is a woman, and a man is a man,” Barron’s quoted Putin as saying late last year. In the same article, Putin said he hoped Russia would defend itself against the “obscurantism” of transgenderism. Obscurantism is defined as the “practice of deliberately presenting information in an imprecise, abstruse manner designed to limit further inquiry and understanding.”
Overall, none of the newly banned Americans appear to be overly concerned about their fate. In a press conference, Price celebrated the news.
“It is nothing less than an accolade to have earned the ire of a government that lies to its own people, brutalizes its neighbors, and seeks to create a world where freedom and liberty are put on the run — and if they had their way, extinguished,” Price said. “Similarly, it is a great honor to share that enmity with other truth-tellers.”
Harris did not address the travel ban, even when asked directly during a brief press availability in San Francisco, but she did confirm that the U.S. intended to continue sanctioning Russia and providing material support to Ukraine.
“As @POTUS made clear today, we will continue to support the people of Ukraine,” Harris tweeted Thursday night. “He announced an additional $800 million in security assistance and we will continue to impose costs on Russia alongside our allies and partners.”
The remainder of the Americans banned from travel to Russia included Kathleen Hicks, first deputy Secretary of Defense; Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America; Kathy Warden, CEO of Northrop Grumann; Phebe Novakovic, president of General Dynamics; Michael Petters, president of Huntington Ingalls Industries; William Brown, president of L-3 Harris Technologies; Wahid Nawabi, president of Aerovironment; Roger Krone, president of Leidos; Horacio Rozanski, president of Booz Allen Hamilton; Eileen Drake, president of Aerojet Rocketdyne; David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute of Airspace Studies; Ryan Roslansky, CEO of LinkedIn; Matthew Kroenig , deputy director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategic Security; David Ignatius, journalist and expert at the Wilson Center; Edward Acevedo, a former member of the Illinois Legislature and expert at the Wilson Center; Kevin Rothrock, an expert at the Wilson Center and editor-in-chief of the English version of the Meduza, which is a counter to the now-defunct Russia Today; and Bianna Golodryg, an analyst at CNN.