If for some reason you’ve been planning a trip to Russia this year, you might want to hold off on those plane tickets and hotel reservations. For one thing, there have been recent reports of some military drones dropping their payload on cities inside the country. But that may not be the biggest reason to forego a clambake at the Kremlin. It’s because you might actually be banned from entering the country in the first place.

There’s a growing list of names that are persona non grata in Putin’s paradise. The eclectic list apparently includes people such as former President Barack Obama, talk show host Stephen Colbert, actor Morgan Freeman, Facebook guru Mark Zuckerberg, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Plus, over 900 others. Each of these named ne’er-do-wells are evidently accused of Russophobia, aiding Ukraine, or committing other unspecified offenses (like maybe claiming things such as, “gin is better than vodka”).

Given the wide variety of persons on the banned list, it’s very possible you’re one of them too and don’t even know it yet. Having made one or two acerbic comments here in this space about the Russian troops and their (ahem) lack of progress in Ukraine, I’m wondering if I should contact the Foreign Ministry in Moscow to see if I happen to be on the Not Welcome list. (There’s nothing worse than getting stopped at the border and being told to turn around. Just ask the thousands of folks that showed up in El Paso this week.)

The ban reportedly also includes more than 40 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, a handful of other senators besides South Carolina’s Graham, and one or two former ambassadors to Russia. Graham might be unique among all the participants in the proceedings because Russian officials actually announced a warrant for his arrest. It seems the Senator accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine and was quoted as saying U.S. military aid to Ukraine was “the best money we’ve ever spent.” Mr. Graham has called Russia’s bluff by saying he’ll submit to judgment of the International Criminal Court if Russia will. No word yet on whether Putin and his posse intend to take him up on that offer. (Best guess? Don’t hold your breath.)

The ”You can’t come here to play” list also includes President Biden himself, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Really? What did Pete do? Threaten to send trains carrying hazardous materials to St. Petersburg?), Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and the one and only Hunter Biden.

One name that seems to be missing from the banned list is familiar to everyone – Donald Trump. But if I had to guess, I’d say he’ll find a way to get included. I mean, shoot, being on that list is pretty much a badge of honor to most of the rest of the world right now, isn’t it? Reports say there are already a couple dozen Canadians listed (including the wife of Prime Minister Trudeau). Surely some heavy hitters from Europe will be added shortly.

If you’re a politician, being on Russia’s stay-away directory might play well during any upcoming campaign with which you’re involved. Kind of like when Richard Nixon’s band of merry men compiled an “Opponents” or “Enemies” list back in the early 1970s. I’m pretty sure it was White House Counsel John Dean who spilled the beans about the existence of such a document during the Watergate hearings. The memorandum contained names of people the authors (basically special assistants to the President) felt were a threat of one kind or another to a re-election campaign. It was suggested that the “available federal machinery” be used to, shall we say, thwart “political enemies.”

In some cases, there were suggestions next to the names about what action might be taken against them. For example, the idea of “a scandal would be most helpful here” was offered as a possibility at least once. A television correspondent was considered “a real media enemy.” Like the diverse Russian list of today, the Nixon list included the names of journalists, congressmen, businessmen, entertainers (e.g., Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, Steve McQueen, Gregory Peck, and Barbra Streisand), and Democratic Party donors.

As with today’s members of the Russian list, those on Nixon’s basically said they were kind of pleased to be on it and let it go at that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if someone running for office next year who’s already on the list doesn’t use the slogan, “Proudly banned from Russia” on his or her campaign literature. Never mind if he or she hadn’t been the least bit interested in going to Russia in the first place.


©MMXXIII. William J. Lewis, III  – Freelance Writer