My Story with Imperia Vodka

Imperia Vodka

With the disgusting invasion of the Ukraine by Russia, a number of politicians ordered banning the sale of vodka produced in Russia. I’d like to talk about that today. I’m more of a whiskey and gin drinker but before covid one of my favorite neighborhood hangouts was Sub-Zero Vodka bar.

The thing I’d like to address today is if banning the sale of Russian Vodka is an appropriate response by various parties, the government, a tavern, my friends, and myself. It’s an interesting question for a Libertarian from the perspective of its legality and usefulness.

How I met Imperia and Hammer and Sickle Vodka

Ah, the good old days of Sub-Zero. My favorite bartender, Cailyn, introduced me to two premium vodkas, Imperia and Hammer and Sickle. Both are produced by Russian Standard. They accurately belong in the category of actual Russian vodka, unlike many of the brands being boycotted.

I spent many a pleasant hour snuggled up to the second bar sipping on icy-cold Imperia, or Hammer and Sickle when the aforementioned wasn’t in stock. The second bar because the ice top to the main bar proved more of a nuisance than a benefit, and the side bar was generally Cailyn’s station.

What if Sub-Zero was Still Open?

Sadly, Sub-Zero closed but what if I could still walk over? Would I order an Imperia? Do I think the mayor of St. Louis or the governor of Missouri should ban Russian vodka? Should the owners of Sub-Zero refuse to sell the vodka?

As complex as the question might be, my answer is pretty simple. I’d find a Ukrainian vodka to drink. That being said, if the owner continued to sell Imperia and Hammer and Sickle, I’d still patronize that establishment. I suspect, knowing what I know, they would likely stop selling it but that’s their business. I also wouldn’t give anyone else a dirty look or yell at them if they chose to order Imperia or Hammer and Sickle.

One of the important lessons I learned in my four years at the University of Idaho was not to criticize the way someone else goes about their business.

On the other hand, there is no way local, state, or federal government needs to get their sticky hands involved in the situation. It’s just not the business of government to tell me which vodka to drink or a business owner which vodka to sell.

This is what small government means. Sub-Zero can refuse to sell a brand of vodka or refuse to let me in if I’m not wearing a mask. They are a private business and the government has no business telling them what they can or cannot sell or telling them how to enforce a dress code.

What if Russian Standard hates Putin?

This is an important question. What if the owners of Russian Standard oppose Vladimir Putin and his amoral war? What if by not drinking their vodka, I actually help Putin by bankrupting those who oppose him?

This is the general problem with feel-good boycotts. When a boycott becomes some Cause Célèbre it ends up hurting many of the people it is designed to help. Meanwhile the self-righteous boycotters pat themselves on the back for a job well done. It’s a false sense of doing good when often you’re doing harm and it’s prevalent on both the Republican and Democrat sides of the aisle.


It’s entirely possible by not drinking Imperia or Hammer and Sickle I might be hurting a manufacturer that doesn’t support Putin. It’s also possible they are ardent Putin backers. I don’t know and I don’t care. I find what’s happening to be disgusting and wrong and I’m not drinking Russian vodka because of it.

Maybe I’ll never drink another glass of Imperia or Hammer and Sickle. That’s my business, not yours and not the government’s.

Tom Liberman

Russian invasion of the Ukraine and the S400

turkey purchases Russian S400 missiles

The apparently starting invasion of the Ukraine by Russia is in the news. There are a lot of reasons why it’s happening but I’m going to argue today that Turkey’s purchase of the S400 anti-aircraft system is perhaps the main catalyst.

Now, that being said, it’s a complicated situation to say the least. That fact is Turkey, a member of NATO, purchased the Russian anti-aircraft system and installed it. It’s been tracking advanced US planes ever since. I wrote about this purchase back in 2017.

The Role of Air Power in Containing Aggressive War

Air Power is integral as a deterrent to offensive war. If you do not control the skies, it is incredibly difficult to make any sort of invasion. If Vladimir Putin isn’t at least moderately convinced the S400 and the newer s500 can suppress the United States Air Force, he is unlikely to invade the Ukraine.

Basically, a nation that controls the air can fly over the battlefield and destroy advancing invaders nearly at their leisure. This power serves as an enormous deterrent. The fact that Putin, just a few short years after the S400 went into to Turkey, is suddenly posturing so aggressive is not a coincidence, at least not in my opinion.

I’d be remiss if I tried to make this a simple issue. The United States allowed Turkey to purchase and install advanced Russian anti-aircraft systems. This in turn gave the Russian military all the data they needed to suppress the US Air Force in future conflicts. Thus, the invasion of the Ukraine. It’s hardly this simple and I’m not going to make that case. Therefore, I’m going to mention several of the other factors although I remain convinced the S400 sale is integral to current events.

Failed Wars

American Adventurism in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria soured the public on the role of the United States as a police force in the world. The people of the United States are of an America First mindset these days. We don’t want to get dragged into another endless conflict.

Soft Power

All power isn’t military power. There is something called Soft Power. This is a complicated thing, and I wrote a blog about it some time ago. It largely involves a group of allies around the world who support your agenda. It comes from economic ties, shared education, and a number of other factors.

It’s quite clear the United States no longer pursues the policy of Soft Power with the vigor it once did. Russia and particular China are making allies around the world through various policies including the transfer of energy.

Europe depends on Russian energy. Russia is emboldened to do as they like.

The Big Stick

The United States possesses a large stick with which to intimidate nations into doing as we desire. This stick is based largely on economics, sanctions. If a nation behaves in a way we dislike, we impose sanctions.

The problem with the big stick is analogous to a threat in chess. The threat is more effective than the actual implementation. The United States has used the stick far too frequently and drained its power significantly.

Sanctions? So what? We don’t care. We’ve got other trading partners. You’re all about America First now and your sanctions are impotent. We’ve seen them in action and are ready.

Now, this isn’t completely true. Our economic power in the world is still tremendous and our stick is still heavy. Just less so and that’s a factor.


It’s complicated. That’s my conclusion. Anyone who tells you there are simple causes; it’s Biden’s fault, it’s Trump’s fault, it’s Obama’s fault, it’s Bush’s fault, or it’s anyone’s fault is simply deflecting blame for political gain. They want to manipulate you into a vote or an ideology.

There are a lot factors involved but if the Russians weren’t convinced they can suppress the US Air Force, we wouldn’t be where we’re at. That’s my conclusion. Turkey purchased and installed the s400 and this is the reward we reap.

Tom Liberman

Daniil Dubov Works with Magnus Carlsen and Causes Uproar

Daniil Dubov

Chess talent Daniil Dubov is from Russia. In the recent World Chess Championship, the reigning champion, Magnus Carlsen, played challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi. Nepo, as he is generally called, is from Russia while Carlsen is from Norway.

After the match concluded, with Carlsen’s fourth title defense and fifth overall championship, the champ revealed his team which included Daniil Dubov. One of Nepo’s seconds, as they are called, Sergey Karjakin complained that Daniil Dubov somehow betrayed Mother Russia by working with a Norwegian against a Russian.

Several Russian chess officials agree with Karjakin and made it clear they consider Daniil Dubov somehow a traitor to Russian chess and his future on the National Team is now in some jeopardy.

It’s a Contract

Daniil Dubov initially worked with Carlsen during the previous championship match against Fabiano Caruana. He contracted with Carlsen to continue working through this cycle even before Nepo won the Candidates tournament.

This leads me to my first, although least vehement, argument against forcing Dubov to change over to the Nepo team or at least leave Carlsen’s. A contract was signed. It is far worse, in my opinion, for Dubov to break the contract or ask Carlsen to void it than to honor it. Dubov clearly enjoys a good working relationship with Carlsen and for the champ to pay Dubov to continue their work together is high praise indeed. An honor.

Individualism is more important than Nationalism

Frankly, this out-of-control nationalism, my country first business, is incredibly dangerous to the world. I’m against it almost always. We are not nations. Nor are we religions. We are not a race, a creed, a color. We are individuals. I am Tom Liberman first. I identify with my family, my city of St. Louis, my state of Missouri, my country of the United States, my community of Role-Playing Game enthusiasts, but I am first me. An individual.

Daniil Dubov gets to choose with whom he works and those who criticize this choice do so not out of so-called nationalism but raw intimidation. They hope to coerce Daniil Dubov into doing their bidding by appealing to his nationalism. Daniil Dubov stands up tall, well, not really all that tall, no offense, Daniil, I’m height-challenged as well.

He stands up for his desire to work with Carlsen and understands it does not in reflect, in any way, on his patriotism or love for Russia. Good for you, brother!

What’s best for Daniil Dubov

My last argument is the one that strikes directly to why this story angers me so much. He must do what is best for Daniil Dubov. Working closely with the World Champion, arguably the greatest chess player in the history of the game, is objectively good for Daniil Dubov.

There is no question Daniil Dubov is a potential World Champion himself. He plays a creative game with flair and style but must learn discipline and caution in order to achieve this goal. Working with Magnus Carlsen is clearly the best way for him to improve his own game.


I found myself heartily encouraged by the comments sections in various stories about this issue. A rarity. It seems most people, many Russians included, side with Daniil Dubov. They think he is correct to work with whom he pleases and it in no way defines his patriotism.

The general tenor of the comments is that Russian officials are foolish if they ban him from the National Team but if they do, it’s their loss.

Daniil Dubov, you have a fan in me.

Tom Liberman