I’m interested in stories that go uncovered and undercovered. Fewer stories are less obscured today than life in Russia under Western sanctions. I’m especially interested in stories that are so imbued with spin and propaganda that the news media has abandoned all pretense of objectivity. That’s certainly true about the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
I spent last week in Moscow to check things out for myself. Now I’m in Saint Petersburg. If you’ve never been to Russia, Moscow feels a bit like D.C. â€” streets and plazas on a scale hostile to pedestrians, impressive metro, intimidating government buildings raised by and for the political class. Saint Petersburg is more like New York, the country’s intellectual capital, steeped in history, sophisticated and hip rather than utilitarian and brutalist.
Friends worried about my safety. Their concerns could not possibly have been more misplaced.
Some worried that I’d be detained like the WNBA player Brittney Griner, who got caught at a Moscow airport with vape cartridges containing cannabis residue yet is being portrayed as a political hostage of Vladimir Putin. I wish Griner the best and hope she doesn’t go to prison, but I don’t understand the assumption of Americans that they don’t have to obey the law when they visit a foreign country. Foreign prisons are full of Americans convicted on drug charges; American prisons host many foreign nationals. If you can’t conform to local legal norms, stay home.
I don’t vape or use cannabis, so no worries there.