“Some of you have reported on the lies upon lies that are spread on these mouthpieces of the Kremlin,” a Biden administration official told the press earlier this week while announcing new sanctions against Russia. “After today, no U.S. company can be in the business of funding or supporting the disinformation machine that masks the truth of Putin’s barbaric invasion behind lies and deceit.”
“Western companies were among the top advertisers on these stations last year — well above $300 million worth of advertising,” the official clarified about restrictions on doing business with Russian TV outlets. “A lot of these advertisers have announced since the invasion that they’re going to cut their business activity with these stations, but we want to make sure that decision endures and just send a broader signal that U.S. companies should not be in the business of funding Russian propaganda.”
This move is troubling even for those of us most strongly sympathetic to Ukraine’s efforts. The plight of a troubled yet functioning liberal democracy under assault from a brutal neighboring regime should involve the defense of freedom against those who would dictate terms to the unwilling. But sanctions have creeped from punishing the Russian state, to targeting the Russian people, to telling private firms and individuals in the United States that they can’t do businesses with the customers of their choice.