Europe considering ban on Russia tourism

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist
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Europe is considering a ban on Russian tourism in response to the war in Ukraine. Four of the five EU nations that border Russia have already started blocking Russian visitors. Restricting travel would be the latest in a series of sanctions that have battered Russia since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion on Feb. 24. Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan says Europe enacting a ban on Russian tourism would aim to have the same goal as restrictions that hit South Africa when it was under apartheid. That goal? To let everyday Russians know they are not part of the civilized world any longer.

Excerpted from Peter’s Sept. 20 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

European nations are debating a potential Russian tourist ban, with the general theme being “you shouldn’t be able to visit our beaches and luxury shops while simultaneously supporting a regime declaring war against Ukraine (and potentially the West).”Europe being Europe, there are a range of attitudes expressed. The Scandinavians, Polish and Baltic states on the frontline with Russia are the most vociferously opposed to allowing any Russian tourism into their respective countries and the EU. France and Germany have been more circumspect. Given the number of Russian elite who vacation, send their children to live in, and shop in European cities, there are those that argue that such a ban will help further cleave Vladimir Putin from the small but crucial cadre atop Russia society

The template for this would be South Africa under apartheid. At that point, you had a country where 10 to 15% of the population basically imposed its will on everyone else.

Ugly system, and as a result, the Europeans and some other countries prevented South African passports from being used easily in the rest of the world. 

And the point here wasn’t necessarily to punish or force an immediate change. There was no way that an economic system as entrenched and beneficial to the minority such as we had under apartheid could be easily shifted just because of tourism. And that’s not the goal here with Russia.

 Instead it is to impress upon everyday Russians, just like they did with everyday white Africans, that you are no longer part of the civilized world. And you will not be treated as such and until such time as you start abiding by some really basic concepts when it comes to human dignity, you are not welcome in the advanced system. 

Everyone, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Lake Louise in Alberta. I thought today would be a great time to talk about tourism (laughs). 

Now you may have heard that in Europe, there’s a debate raging about whether or not they should ban all Russian passport holders from coming for tourist purposes or just make it more difficult. The argument really is over the degree of the restrictions and the easy visa policies that they negotiated several years ago have already been suspended. But there are a number of countries, most notably Sweden, Finland, Poland, and the Baltics, that want to make it a more extreme ban that just prevents Russians from coming regularly at all. 

The template for this would be South Africa under apartheid. At that point, you had a country where 10 to 15% of the population basically imposed its will on everyone else.

Ugly system, and as a result, the Europeans and some other countries prevented South African passports from being used easily in the rest of the world. 

And the point here wasn’t necessarily to punish or force an immediate change. There was no way that an economic system as entrenched and beneficial to the minority such as we had under apartheid could be easily shifted just because of tourism. And that’s not the goal here with Russia.

Instead it is to impress upon everyday Russians, just like they did with everyday white Africans, that you are no longer part of the civilized world. And you will not be treated as such and until such time as you start abiding by some really basic concepts when it comes to human dignity, you are not welcome in the advanced system. 

This is going to work both better and worse in Russia compared to South Africa. First, the worst. 

South Africa under apartheid was – if you were white – still a democracy. There was still a political pluralism system; there were still votes; they still mattered. None of that is the case in Russia. 

Russia is a single-party state where even the quote “opposition parties” are actually just arms of the ruling government. So the opportunity for political dissent and pressure from change from below is very, very limited. 

But it might all also work better because the Russians who do travel, the ones that are gonna be affected by this, are not your rank and file. South Africa had a much more robust middle class among the whites than Russia has. So the people who are now going to be losing access are the people who actually have access to money. And that means that opposition isn’t from below to a degree; it’s from above. 

Now this doesn’t spell political change. This potentially spells revolution. But one way or another, that is the future of the Russian Federation. The good question is whether it’s in the short term or not. 

Personally, I don’t think so, but this is the sort of policy that will nudge things in that direction. Okay. That’s it for me until next time.