Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Andrews: Canceling All Russians Is the Opposite of Clever

State of the Union: The West could have courted sympathetic and apolitical Russians; instead we demonize them for their ethnicity.

Screen Shot 2024-02-05 at 4.07.17 PM
Credit: WikiCommons

It took less than three weeks for Serbian actor Milos Bikovic to lose his job on the HBO series The White Lotus. Bikovic had been cast for a role in its third season, but the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs went after the Serbian actor for his ties to Russia and the company caved to their pressure.

The Ministry tweeted: “@HBO, is it all right for you to work with a person who supports genocide & violates international law?” According to Bikovic, they also conducted a “targeted campaign” urging HBO to fire him.


Bikovic is not political. He was granted Russian citizenship in 2021 and has visited the Crimean peninsula for work on several occasions since Russia took over the territory, which caused Ukraine to ban him from their country in 2019. He posted on Instagram on the day of the Russian invasion, February 22, 2022: “War and bloodshed on any side reminds us of how far humanity is from global unity and love. God save the lives of all those who are now in danger!”

This cancellation is an example of a tactical error the West has made since the war began: going after Russians and other Slavs simply on the basis of their ethnicity. If we were smart, we would have courted liberal-leaning Russians both here in the west and in Russia. If we were feeling extra sinister, we could have facilitated a brain drain of Russia’s most talented and ambitious minds. As long as we’re accepting millions of refugees from every other corner of the globe, why not include a few who will otherwise become Russia’s cultural and business leaders of tomorrow? Instead, we cancelled Tchaikovsky and hounded a Russian soprano from the Metropolitan Opera.

By going all-in on a version of events where Putin is a crazed dictator and anyone who doesn’t agree is complicit in genocide, we have harmed ourselves more than the enemy, and not just because we will lose out on some good acting.

As for Bikovic, hopefully his career flourishes and he can join Novak Djokovic in the pantheon of stubborn Serbs who endured the jeers of haters and succeeded in spite of them.