Want to Help Save Ukraine from Putin? Boycott Brawny Paper Towels
Putin’s game plan is clear. Terrorize the Ukraine, primarily with long range missiles and artillery, for as long as needed until enough Ukrainians flee the country. Then parade in unopposed. If this means ethnically cleansing 40 million people, so be it.
The latest examples: unspeakable atrocities committed to civilians in the city of Bucha and the bombing of a train station in Kramatorsk, which killed 52 and injured one hundred. The train station is the main evacuation point in Eastern Ukraine. Eastern Ukrainians are supposedly Putin’s biggest Ukrainian fans. But if you don’t stay to pay him homage, even if you are, say, age three, your punishment is being blown to bits. The missile that hit the train station was labeled “for our children.”
Once Ukraine is in Putin’s grasp, he’ll, no doubt, swap a piece to the Hungarians for agreeing to quit NATO and the EU. He’ll also cut a deal with Marine Le Pen to leave NATO, if she wins the upcoming French election. Either way, it will be on to “liberate” Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, and Poland — likely with Trump’s benign neglect if he’s re-elected.
It’s clear that negotiating with Putin, without including an explicit US guarantee of Ukrainian sovereignty, is a dead end. President Biden’s succinct descriptions of Putin — killer and war criminal are, to make a sickening pun, dead on. Putin’s is this century’s Hitler. As the Polish Prime Minister made clear, you don’t negotiate with Hitler. You either kill Hitler yourself or get his people to do so when they realize he’s not worth the price. And you make clear to his generals and other key consiglieres, that they will be dead within minutes of launching even a single weapon of mass destruction against Ukraine, the United States, or any of our allies. President Biden urgently and publicly needs to draw this red line.
The West is slowly, but surely raising the price of Putin’s war of aggression. Thanks to Biden and the leaders of other freedom-loving countries, Russia has lost access to the world’s financial system, lost, likely forever, the bulk of Russia’s massive foreign reserves, lost Aeroflot’s and other Russian airlines’ ability to fly through or land in much of the developed world, lost Russia’s ability to export or import a range of non-energy products to most of the developed world, lost Russia’s ability to export oil to the US and UK, and lost Russia’s ability to export coal to the EU.
Russia has also been forced to effectively default on foreign holdings of Russian debt and to copy Lenin’s playbook of nationalizing foreign-owned assets — an act that will chill interest for foreign investment in Russia years after Putin has been put to rest.
There is more. Putin’s close billionaire cronies have seen their foreign assets confiscated. Most will be stuck for life where they belong — in their beloved homeland, never to visit Paris, London, Rome, Prague, Berlin, New York, Zurich, Davos, Monte Carlo, and all their other beloved haunts. (Quick point. Not all the sanctioned oligarchs owe their wealth to Putin. NATO nations need to provide a sanctions-appeal mechanism with due process. We need to retain the rule of law, not blindly opt for the law of rule.)
The sanctions are working, at least in terms of damaging the Russian economy and the lives of ordinary Russians, who, we must remember, are not our enemies. They too are innocent victims of Putin’s villainy. Ordinary Russians are equally appalled by the war crimes “their” soldiers are committing or would be were they made aware of what’s being done to their Ukrainian friends and relatives in their names.
Russian GDP is in a free fall, with a 15 percent annual decline predicted for 2022. Hyperinflation — prices are now rising at an annual 20 percent rate — is the rule of the day. Bank capital controls mean that Russians will see the purchasing power of their only partially withdraw-able checking-account and other nominal assets fall by one fifth. And that’s just this year. Moreover, tens of thousands of Russians are being laid off. To be clear, a 15 percent GDP drop is five times the peak GDP decline in the Great Recession. The last time the US witnessed so large a GDP decline was during the Great Depression.
Pics of Russian grocery stores with empty shelves are circulating the web with Russians now comparing themselves to North Koreans. Over time, people will get tired of state propaganda and start asking questions. It took a while for the American public to understand the real story in Vietnam. Once it did, millions took to the street. Hence, Russia will increasingly become a powder keg. A few major factories go on strike, troops refuse to fire on civilian crowds, another Yeltsin climbs aboard a Russian tank and turns the turrets around … and Putin will be toast.
That’s the hopeful long run. But the long run is too late for Ukraine. Stopping Putin before he decimates Ukraine requires Germany and other EU countries to immediately ban their $100 billion in annual imports of Russian oil and gas, which is blood money, make no mistake. Yes, this would entail major hardship for the EU — a significant recession and high inflation. But Germany should remember the last time Russia paid it a visit and stayed for decades.
How to get the Germans to come around? How about embarrassment? Let me hereby call on Elon Musk to start a Go-Fund-Me campaign that pays the German government whatever has been collected conditional on its banning all Russian imports. My guess is that it will receive tens of millions of donations from around the world overnight. Surely, the embarrassment of everyday people from all over the planet, including Germany, paying for Germany to do the right thing will get it to quickly do the right thing.
But here’s my favorite proposal. We should all immediately stop buying Brawny paper towels. These are produced by Koch Industries, which is arguably the most prominent American company continuing to do business in Russia. If sales of Brawny paper towels plummet overnight, it will signal to all companies still operating in Russia that they too will face boycotts unless they pull out immediately. Indeed, Germany will get the message that German products will soon be the subject of boycotts should they continue to pay blood money for Russian fossil fuels. A particular brand of paper towels is easy to boycott. So too is boycotting the purchase of Volkswagens, BMWs, Porsches, and Mercedes.
But let’s start with Brawny towels and give our German allies a chance to see what they will likely face. And let’s really make this happen. But to get this boycott to work, this appeal needs to go viral. If each of you has 100 people on your email list and each person on your list emails 100 of their contacts and this chain continues for just 5 rounds, it will instantly reach essentially everyone in the country.
So, let me ask you to draft your own boycott message or use the button below to share my message with everyone on your email list. Here’s my message.