For many of the 1,271 Americans under Russian sanctions, it’s a point of pride

A Harvard astrophysicist. A Silicon Valley billionaire. Hollywood actors. Convicted murderers.

These are among the select but slowly growing list of Americans living under a strange penalty, that has proved a source of pride, bafflement, and in some cases, consternation: Russian sanctions.

Some 1,271 U.S. citizens have made Moscow’s “Stop List,” posted online by Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

Washington has increasingly used sanctions on individuals as a foreign policy tool of choice, wielding the U.S. financial system as a sledgehammer or scalpel to cut off its enemies, or those of its allies. Russia has come under crushing U.S. sanctions since it invaded Ukraine in February: Washington has imposed sanctions on more than 1,300 Russians in recent years and on more than 1,000 Russian legal entities. Sanctions keep designees from doing business with U.S. companies or individuals and often come at a steep penalty.

In an act of apparent diplomatic desperation, or perhaps for the theater of it, Russia has an attempt to respond in kind – and come up against the harsh one-sidedness of U.S. economic power. Russia’s Stop List is a fundamentally asymmetric response, and it’s not weighted in Moscow’s favor.

Americans who have found themselves under Russian sanctions include celebrities: Ben Stiller, Sean Penn and Morgan Freeman, all of whom appear to have drawn Moscow’s ire over expressions of support for Ukraine.

Politicians, including President Biden, are also on the list, as are executives, such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

But most of the names included are far less familiar, and in some cases, confounding. While some come with descriptions justifying the designation (Freeman, for example, is dubbed a “well-known film actor” who, the Russian Foreign Ministry says, criticized Russia in 2017), three dozen on the list are simply described as “U.S. citizens.”

“To the best of my knowledge . . . I’m still the only astrophysicist that’s been sanctioned by the Kremlin,” said Benjamin Schmitt, a project development scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Some names on the list appear to be misspelled. Some people included, it seems, are no longer alive.

Unlike Russian oligarchs, known for travel and dealings in the West, U.S. citizens rarely have assets in Russian territory to be seized. Indeed, there are no public reports of anyone on the list having assets in Russia frozen.

Annie Froehlich, a lawyer with the firm Cooley who works on sanctions and exports controls (but who is not, as the Stop List says, a former employee of the Treasury Departments’s Office of Foreign Assets Control), said that while U.S. sanctions served policy aims, it wasn’t clear that Russian designations could do the same.

“It strikes me as just trying to cast a very wide net,” said Froehlich, who added that while she was unsettled by her inclusion on the list, she was pleased to be one place behind Freeman.

Many on the list scoff at its impact.

“It’s generally an honor to be on the sanctions list, so it’s not going to affect me negatively,” said Francis Fukuyama, a public intellectual and senior fellow at Stanford University who had been singled out by Moscow.

“What an honor,” Michael Carpenter, the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation, wrote on Twitter in June. D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who pushed to name a street after a murdered Russian opposition politician, has also said she was “honored” to be included.

There was some affront – albeit largely sarcastic. Rob Reiner, the director of the film “This Is Spinal Tap,” told Deadline earlier this year he was “heartbroken” to be included.

The list, lack of punch aside, does serve as a rundown of Moscow’s grievances against the United States.

It names politicians from across the political spectrum – but not former president Donald Trump or many of his close allies – and their family members, as well as U.S. officials connected to the imposition of sanctions on Russia. Alongside them: U.S. officials and former soldiers linked to Guantánamo Bay detention camp and the abuses at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison – sanctions announced by Moscow in 2014, in apparent retaliation for human rights sanctions imposed by the United States at the time.

Others include law enforcement officials, lawyers and judges involved in high-profile cases against Russian citizens. There are also names linked to Chabad, an ultra-Orthodox branch of Judaism that has been labeled a cult by Moscow.

Roughly 30 names on the list are connected to cases where a child adopted from Russia faced alleged abuse. Moscow banned American adoption of Russian children in 2012, naming the law after a child who died of heat stroke in a car in Virginia.

Some included are serving time in prison, with no immediate hope of release. It is unlikely they were planning a visit to Russia anytime soon.

“Being sanctioned came as a pretty big surprise to me, since I haven’t ever held a job in the U.S. government, as most others on the list have,” said Kathryn Stoner, a scholar from Stanford University who has extensively researched Russia for decades. “One of my kids said jokingly, ‘It’s always nice to be noticed, Mom.'”

“Yes, it’s me” on the list, said Rich Eychaner, a Des Moines-based entrepreneur who works to support LGBTQ rights around the world. “LGBTQ activists are very scary to the Russians.”

Some don’t know why they face Russian sanctions. “I can’t think of any explanation that makes sense at this stage of my life,” Leon Spies, an Iowa-based attorney, told the local politics blog Bleeding Heartland in May. “I was anti-communist as a kid when nuclear annihilation was an everyday nightmare, but most everyone was.”

Fukuyama is among the most well-known academics on the list. The political scientist, famous for his theory of the “end of history” with the collapse of the Soviet Union, found out he was included via Twitter. He believes he was included because of his work with the Stanford Sanctions Group, which is led by the Obama administration’s ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, and also includes Stoner.

Like Fukuyama, many view their inclusion on the list as a minor inconvenience, if not an honorable sacrifice.

“I’ve been a strong critic of Putin and his regime since 1999,” said Alexander Motyl, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “So, it’s high time for the Russians to have recognized my work!”

Kristina Hook, a genocide scholar who is among those under Russian sanctions, said Ukrainians are the ones seeing real ramifications for defying Russia.

“The consequences of failing to speak out and to use my technical knowledge of the subject of genocide to advise decision-makers would be far worse for me than anything the Kremlin can do,” Hook said, noting that she had been among those sharing the argument that Russia’s actions in Ukraine meet the scholarly and legal definitions of genocide.

But others have feelings that are more mixed. Some journalists, including the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser, The Post’s own David Ignatius and BellingCat’s Aric Toller, are on the list. “Some Americans might regard permanent exclusion from Russia as a treat, but I’m not one of them,” Ignatius wrote last year. “I’ve visited the country a half-dozen times, starting in the early 1980s, and enjoyed every visit.”

“This is a country that fascinates me, and that has been at the center of my entire professional life,” Stoner said. But “it won’t stop me from writing or saying what I want about Russia, just as I always have.”