As companies clamor to announce that they, too, will be pulling out of Vladimir Putin's Russia rather than support a regime now shelling Ukrainian cities in a war of attempted conquest, the stragglers are becoming more noticeable by the day. Now a Yale University team has produced a spreadsheet of those stragglers, and there are some very familiar American names.
In an interview with The Washington Post, professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld highlighted the fast-food giant McDonald's as a "screaming anomaly" for its decisions to keep its Russia locations open, even though 85% of those locations are owned by the company itself rather than as franchises. McDonald's has the power to close at least 85% of its locations whenever it wants to—but isn't.
Only hours after the Post's story went up, however, McDonald's announced a public change of heart. It now says it will be "temporarily" closing all its Russian locations.
McDonald's likely won't be getting the praise that earlier corporations garnered for their actions, given that it took being singled out in one of the most powerful newspapers in the world before the company roused itself to action. The companies that announced they'd be pulling out of Russia as sanctions clamped down on the nation's economy were rewarded with public praise, but in the last few days the reactions are already beginning to shift to and what took you so long?
The list of big companies that are sticking around includes, again, some of the biggest consumer brands on the planet. Philip Morris seems to be staying put, possibly because Russia amounts to 8% of its total revenue. Tire giants Bridgestone and Pirelli are still there, as are Hilton and Hyatt. Mars, Nestle, Pepsi and Coca-Cola continue their reputations for being generally evil for the sake of evil, and we can probably expect that Papa John's won't be abandoning Putin's Russia anytime soon.
And there are companies that are trying to split the difference, like the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. Yum! Brands has announced that it will be suspending investment and development in Russia, but that language notably doesn't appear to include any pledge to shutter existing locations. It's only an announced pause on building new locations inside the Russian kleptocracy.
That's not exactly a bold stance. There's likely no company on the planet foolish enough to want to expand its exposure to the collapsing economy of a murderous strongman who just launched a new European war. It should also be noted that the pandemic that drove the rest of us into isolation also saw corporate profits absolutely skyrocket, in many sectors, as companies jacked up prices with excuses ranging from "our lowest-tier workers are demanding minor raises" to "we screwed up our own supply chains but don't plan on letting that impact our actual profits."
There's a debate to be had about whether denying Russian consumers essentials like toilet paper, tires, and artery-clogging burgers amounts to unnecessary cruelty, but Sonnenfeld correctly points out that inflicting economy-breaking suffering is precisely the point here. Putin has launched a war, is murdering civilians, and is attempting to annex a sovereign democracy through violence; the goal is to remove his ability to do so through a blockade that makes the war impossible to sustain. Losing access to international brands and products is a minor price to pay compared to what's being inflicted on Ukrainian families right now, and each bit of it becomes a new problem that Putin's incompetent team of thieves must now solve if those leaders intend to maintain their war efforts.
The fight to push Russia out of Ukraine is one of authoritarianism versus democracy, and any corporate entity that can't be bothered to take a stand is not one that American consumers should be supporting in any capacity, either now or after the war ends. This is basic stuff, Our Betters. There's a limit to how much amorality and raw cronyism your pandemic-exhausted, insurrection-watching customers can stomach.