Sanctions Are An Act of War

The United States is at war with Russia. Without a vote in Congress, a specific announcement by the president, or even meaningful awareness on the part of the bulk of the populace, the United States has stumbled into conflict with another nuclear power. 

True enough, American “boots on the ground” are not yet (openly) engaged in combat in Ukraine. But the devastating sanctions put in place unilaterally by Joe Biden on Russian property constitute an act of war nonetheless. On Tuesday morning, Biden announced he was unilaterally banning the importation of Russian fuel and oil products into the United States. This decision is a direct attack on the Russian economy. It is designed to dictate a certain political outcome to the Russian government. 

Such a dramatic act, therefore, constitutes participation in armed conflict against the Russian regime. It is an act of war. 

Emer de Vattel, the famous international law jurist, gives the classical understanding of neutrality in his magnum opus, The Law of Nations, in Book III, “Of War.” There he observes, “Neutral nations are those who, in time of war, do not take any part in the contest, but remain common friends to both parties, without favouring the arms of the one to the prejudice of the other.” Vattel goes on to spell out what this means in practice:

As long as a neutral nation wishes securely to enjoy the advantages of her neutrality, she must in all things shew a strict impartiality towards the belligerent powers: for, should she favour one of the parties to the prejudice of the other, she cannot complain of being treated by him as an adherent and confederate of his enemy.

By leveraging financial and trade sanctions against Russia, the United States is not acting in “strict impartiality” toward the Ukrainian and Russian participants in the current conflict. The United States has become a belligerent on the side of Ukraine and against the Russian government.

This is unconstitutional. Under the Constitution, only Congress can declare war. At most, the president can respond to a direct attack or invasion. But Putin has not attacked the United States. Yet Biden has unilaterally abandoned neutrality against the Russian government. 

No matter. Biden is not concerned with such niceties like the “rule of law.” And why should he be? The American people have not lived under the Constitution for well over a century. According to Dr. Benjamin Coates, associate professor of history at Wake Forest University, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the Trading With the Enemy Act unilaterally to declare a domestic bank holiday in 1933—even though the United States was not at war. FDR then used that act to sanction the German government in 1940 while America ostensibly was still neutral in the war in Europe. 

Those sanctions, as well as American lend-lease aid to the British and the Communist Soviet Union, constituted active participation in the European war of 1939. Hitler’s declaration of war against the United States on December 11, 1941, makes more sense in this context. To German eyes, Hitler was only making official the de facto state of war that already existed between the United States and Germany. On September 11, 1941, for instance, FDR had already declared that American ships would fire without warning upon any German ship in waters “deemed necessary” to American defense. Those acts, combined with restrictions on German finance, made the United States a belligerent without an official declaration of war. 

The American people, not FDR acting alone, ought to have determined whether the United States should go to war in Europe in 1939 or 1940. If the war was justified, then why couldn’t the D.C. class entrust the people’s representatives with the decision to pursue it in line with the fundamental law of the United States?

This rejection of the basic principles of republican government was wrong. Autocracy is not a proper response to autocracy.

This precedent of unaccountable decision-making has set the stage for the current crisis. 

America has no real interest in the Ukraine fight. Ukraine is a separate country with separate interests. So is Russia. Yet, D.C. intervenes anyway.

The Russians do not want NATO’s nuclear missiles in Ukraine in much the same way the United States did not want Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba in the 1960s. The West ignores such logic, clamoring for Ukraine to enter its own orbit and not Russia’s. In 2008, George W. Bush argued that Ukraine should join NATO. In the years since, the vitriolic attacks on Putin and Russia as part of the Russiagate hoax have made it increasingly clear that the West views Russia as an enemy.  

The best course of action for the U.S. government would have been to stay neutral, to give Putin no cause to fear the placement of foreign armies near his borders. What, precisely, is wrong with Russia desiring a Monroe Doctrine of its own for its near abroad? 

Moreover, there is no reason for the United States to meddle in Eastern Europe. Kyiv is many thousands of miles away from Washington, D.C. A protracted conflict on Ukrainian soil would only serve to immiserate the innocent civilians of that country. Even if we admit that the United States has an interest in preserving the lives of innocent Ukrainians, how does encouraging Ukrainians to throw their bodies in front of Russian tanks, as Biden did in his State of the Union Address, accomplish this task?

America would have been better off following George Washington’s advice to avoid “foreign entanglements” and that of John Quincy Adams to “[go] not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”

America’s war against Russia, launched by the D.C. establishment and Joe Biden, will harm ordinary Americans. Gas, food, and durable goods will continue to skyrocket in price, far outpacing wages. Instability abroad threatens social stability at home. Americans who spent two years under restrictive COVID measures deserve peace, vacation, and a return to normal life.

The American people are tossed and turned from one crisis to the next, none of which are of their own making. Americans did not vote on sanctions. They did not vote to de facto declare war on the Russian regime. Even if Putin is in the wrong, who made the United States judge, jury, and executioner of justice for the world? Ironic that the same people who pushed for the aggressive “war of choice” in Iraq now want to condemn Putin for allegedly doing something similar! 

Humility is in order, to say the least.  

Congress should intervene immediately in order to prevent the United States going further down the path of war with Russia. We have given the Russians casus belli against us. This is idiotic in the extreme and almost certain to lead to direct armed confrontation between Americans and Russian forces (or allies) in the very near future.

No president should be able to drag the nation to war without a vote of the people’s representatives. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God! 

America should strive to protect its territory and people while respecting the rights of other nations to defend their interests. As the Declaration of Independence states: all nations occupy a separate and equal station upon the earth. That means Washington, D.C. doesn’t get to be the global arbiter of good and evil.

The Russians deserve the right to manage their foreign and internal affairs with the same eye to their interests as Americans, Iraqis, Frenchmen, and Israelis. This equality of nations conforms to the foundational American commitment to the consent of the governed. Russia and Ukraine have not consented to make Joe Biden a global hegemon for the purpose of settling their disputes. If they had, then those countries would be a part of America. 

The American people certainly deserve a say in matters that affect their interests and happiness. The Constitution, no less than the law of nature and nature’s God, makes this clear. 

War in Asia will be a disaster for the American people. Indeed, it already is. Biden’s war of choice against Russia is not justified by America’s most fundamental laws. Every concerned patriot should speak out against such warmongering misbehavior. Enough with D.C.’s wild and unconstrained longing for imperial dominion in the name of Democracy™. We need real liberty and democracy here at home. Biden should pull the log from his own eye before trying to pull the splinter out of Putin’s.

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About Josiah Lippincott

Josiah Lippincott is a Ph.D. student and a former U.S. Marine Corps officer. You can find him on Telegram at https://t.me/josiah_lippincott or subscribe to his Substack here.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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