In rolling out more of the already unprecedented sanctions imposed upon Vladimir Putin’s Russia, President Joe Biden called upon “responsible nations [to] come together to hold these perpetrators accountable,” indicating that the U.S. “will keep raising the economic cost and ratchet up the pain for Mr. Putin and further increase Russia’s economic isolation.”
He said it himself and said it well. Sanctions are about pain. Pain of course stirs unrest amongst citizens, unrest jeopardizes regimes, and they must be supported wholeheartedly in letter and spirit by all, not just by governments. Corporations and investors from NATO countries in particular and even individual consumers have a moral obligation to play their part in order for sanctions to work in the most rapid and effective way possible.
According to statements and news reports, many Western companies — McDonald’s, Starbucks and Apple to name a few — have stepped up and shut down Russia operations altogether. Good on them. They are sharing responsibility and sacrifice and deserve credit. McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski’s statement on shuttering operations, “Our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine,” was simple, unequivocal and spot on. Thank you, Chris.
Others, such as Halliburton, Hilton and Burger King have announced they are phasing out, scaling back or pausing their Russia operations. Cute. Burger King apparently “wants to” suspend operations immediately but “can’t.” Meanwhile, according to the Christian Science Monitor just last week, Burger King and Subway are doing “roaring business” in Russian food courts. Hilton, (similarly to Marriott and InterContinental Group) claims to be drawing down on development deals and so forth, but you can book a night in a king deluxe room at the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya for the equivalent of $85 right now at Hilton.com. Go ahead. Click for yourself. Fail, Hilton.
And then there’s Halliburton. Sweet Halliburton. Under great pressure, Halliburton is now saying it will suspend future business in Russia and “wind down” operations there, whatever that means. We should be highly suspicious in this situation, considering CEO Jeff Miller’s appalling statement from a shareholder call on Jan. 22, 2022, which, really, is what’s what with them:
“Look, these are things we’ve seen and done before. Always unfortunate in so many ways for so many people. But from a business perspective, we’ve managed these sorts of things up and down for, I hate to say, nearly 100 years. So, these are the kinds of things that we would manage through.”
So yeah, Jeff. You just keep on keeping on with all that “winding down” you all are doing.
Finally, there are those I would call the genocide-enabling, sanctions-busting total losers. Companies like Airbus, Koch Industries and Nestle just can’t seem to quit Mr. Putin’s Russia. Airbus claims pulling out of Russia would “hurt aerospace.” Whatever. Boeing did the right thing and aerospace seems to be doing fine. Koch speaks of having 600 employees in Russia and “not wanting to walk away from them.” Sorry Charlie, unfortunate as it is if the Russian people don’t feel pain, the regime doesn’t feel pain. Pull your load. Nestle, bless their hearts, maintains that “food is a basic right amid war.” There is no shortage of food in Russia and no such thing on the horizon there, Nestle. Unlike Ukraine, where the food situation is desperate in many regions because of the Russian war criminal you tangentially enable. Nice try.
I wrote about Airbus a few weeks ago and called for the U.S. government to cease handing them contracts as long as they refuse to abide by the sanctions and stop doing business with Russia immediately. But the situation in Ukraine has grown so desperate and this war of aggression so vile I think companies who still haven’t announced their unequivocal plans to pull out 100% from Putin’s Russia must pay dearly. Of course the U.S. government should not do any business with Airbus as long as it persists in bucking sanctions. As no NATO government or NATO nation-affiliated airline should. And it should say so by calling companies out in the form of official statements, legislative resolutions and other typical means.
But it’s not just up to governments to punish those who enable Mr. Putin through commerce at this point. Citizens need to step up where they can as well. Keep an eye on which companies are in and which are out and act accordingly. It’s not hard information to find. Of course there’s little we can do directly about Airbus or Halliburton, but we can call them out on social media and by means like I am doing here and it helps. Other companies not playing along we can hold accountable by more direct action. Boycott them. Hold Nestle to account by skipping the Stouffer’s mac and cheese, as hard as that may be. Leave the Whopper and take the Big Mac. And so forth.
Corporations who want to do business with NATO governments and consumers must quit Mr. Putin’s Russia altogether and with haste. By not doing so, slowly or “kind of” doing so, they enable the Putin regime and delay the urgent end goals of a cessation of hostilities and withdrawal from all Ukrainian territory, followed by reparations and accountability for the heinous crimes committed against the Ukrainian people.
Western corporations must sacrifice toward these end goals, which will never be achieved without heaping economic pain upon Mr. Putin’s Russia. Fact.
• Christian Josi is a veteran political operative, writer and media consultant. He is the former executive director of the American Conservative Union and CPAC, and currently serves as managing director of C. Josi and Company, a Virginia Beach-based boutique media and public affairs consultancy.