Foreign companies exiting Russia echo the pressure campaign against SA’s racist apartheid system

Starbucks is also on its way out.
McDonald’s is leaving Russia after three decades of operating there. Image: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

McDonald’s provided many Russians with their first taste of capitalism three decades ago. Now, the global fast-food giant is exiting the country. Starbucks is also on its way out.

All told, about 1,000 companies have decided to depart Russia so far, according to a running tally by Yale management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.

We are scholars of human rights, political economy and international relations. In our view, this concerted corporate action demonstrates how businesses can leverage their bargaining power in foreign countries – just as countries, including the United States, and nongovernmental organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch try to do.

Making the invasion more costly

On top of pressing Russia to exit Ukraine and cease its targeting of civilians there, foreign companies are urging Vladimir Putin’s government to stop cracking down on Russian citizens who are protesting against the war.

Through a combination of withholding funds, selling assets and refusing to do business with Russian clients and companies, global corporations and investors are making Putin’s Ukraine invasion and domestic repression more costly. Even after the conflict ends, there could be larger shifts in investments, making it harder for Russia to recover.

This is especially true given Russia’s reliance on oil and gas exports. The invasion of Ukraine is spurring importers of Russian fossil fuels to find alternatives.

Overall, recent estimates point to job losses in the hundreds of thousands for Russians because of this upheaval.

South African precedent

This kind of pressure from the private sector that’s intended to improve human rights conditions isn’t new.

One clear precedent arose when anti-apartheid movements sprung up globally to protest the racist system in South Africa. Spearheaded by people in the U.K., these movements brought about widespread boycotts of South African goods in the 1970s and 1980s.

Notable results included the banning of white South Africans from participating in international cricket and rugby events and forcing Barclays Bank out of South Africa. We see echoes of that campaign in the banning of a prominent Russian gymnast for wearing a Z, which symbolises support for Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Many governments imposed sanctions during the 1970s and 1980s, led by European countries. U.S. involvement, through a law passed in 1986 over President Ronald Reagan’s objections, added to that economic pressure.

Many of the blows to South Africa’s economy, however, came from divestment campaigns largely led by anti-apartheid groups on college and university campuses.

These groups sought to pressure higher education institutions to sell off stocks and other assets in their endowments tied to companies doing business with South Africa. By 1990, more than 180 American colleges and universities had divested at least some of those assets. These efforts then spread to local and state governments and the private sector. More than 200 businesses cut their ties to South Africa.

What tech companies are doing

International efforts to place pressure on abusive regimes to stop violence have evolved since the anti-apartheid era, reflecting the growing role of technology in business and society.

Tech and social media companies have also sought, in both Ukraine and Russia, to protect civil and political rights.

Snapchat, for example, turned off the heatmap capabilities of its users located within Ukraine to prevent the Russian military from being able to locate groups of Ukrainian civilians.

In Russia, however, at least some of these efforts could be backfiring.

The Russian government opted to block civilian access within Russia to both Facebook and Twitter, after those platforms blocked Russian state media on their websites. These are key platforms that dissidents use to document and share rights abuses by Russian officials swiftly and efficiently to global audiences. Further, Russian opponents of Vladimir Putin were increasingly using social media to coordinate their protests and dissent before the war on Ukraine began.

Cutting off these services greatly diminishes the ability of Russian citizens to plan protests and share footage of these events.

New cracks in Putin’s support at home

Global pressure campaigns are generally better at preventing the onset of violence than ending a deadly conflict. However, even when that pressure begins in wartime, it can limit the severity of the most extreme types of violence, like genocide, researchers have found.

This approach appears to work best when outside pressure is coupled with demands from domestic groups, especially secular, cultural and religious organizations that aren’t engaged in politics but generally aim to benefit society.

While these organisations are generally weak in Russia, the country does have an organised – albeit repressed – political opposition. In February and March 2022, over 14 000 people were detained for protesting the war, according to OVD-Info, an independent protest monitoring group.

The largest mass arrest in post-Soviet Russian history occurred on March 6, 2022, when authorities detained 5,000 people across almost 70 cities who were peacefully protesting the invasion of Ukraine.

And new cracks in Putin’s support are showing up.

Russian business leaders, like the self-made tycoon Oleg Tinkov – who founded one of Russia’s biggest banks – are speaking out, as are government employees and members of the military community.

Boris Bondarev, a diplomat at Russia’s permanent mission in Geneva, also resigned, saying “I simply cannot any longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy.”

These acts of defiance suggest that there’s a growing campaign within Russia to stop the violence in Ukraine at a time when global corporate pressure is surely stinging Putin.

But, to be sure, he did take several steps to insulate Russia’s economy before attacking Ukraine, including stockpiling foreign reserves, reducing imports from Western countries and increasing trade with countries like China. That makes it too soon to know whether the growing corporate exodus will make a big difference in terms of ending Russian violence.The Conversation

Stephen Bagwell, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Missouri-St. Louis and Meridith LaVelle, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science & International Affairs, University of Georgia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Sanctions work eventually, but they are a slow and blunt instrument that cuts both ways. Who pays the price for the rising food, edible oils, and gas prices? Who benefits from the sanctions and who is paying for them? The Russian perception is that NATO on its doorstep and the USA in Ukraine pose an existential threat to Russian security. John F. Kennedy was in a similar position with the Cuban missile crisis. That situation brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war. The Americans should know better.

This war can only escalate from here. Nobody is backing down, and for Russia, it is a matter of life and death. Smart strategists will offer Putin an honorable way out. NATO should leave Ukraine as a neutral buffer zone and the war will stop today. The CIA should stop its policies of destabilizing the Donbas region and stop training and funding the fascists. While the USA wants to “install democracy”, they actually arm, train, and finance the fascists in Ukraine. The West is basically forcing Putin to consider the nuclear option. Rampant stupidity and overblown self-interest abound.

The USA is the only party that can bring a peaceful end to this war. The USA holds the solution, but at this early stage, they still prefer war. The USA is willing to fight up to the last Ukrainian. Maybe they will change their minds after 5 years and after Ukraine has been razed to the ground.

“Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.” – Sun Tzu.

Sensei: wow, did you visit Wonderland this weekend?

1. Ukraine voted 90%+ in a 90%+ turnout referendum that they don’t want to be part of russia. Saying that a few communists in the east (the russian separists) should be allowed to break off from Ukraine is like saying the AWB should be granted independence in Oranjia. If the putin worshippers love russia, they are free to move there.

2. Before the invasion, what did the CIA do in Donbas in comparison to what putin did overtly in terms of arming separatists inside Ukraine? It is completely irrational to begin to justify what russia was and is doing, in and to ukraine.

3. The NATO narrative is classic disinformation. Perhaps Germany should have preemptively invaded Belarus before it actually joined the russian version of NATO (the CSTO) and extended your favorite russian dwarf’s influence right up to Poland border? Ukraine has not even applied to join NATO, het Belarus serves as launch pad for russian invaders.

4. Why would EU and NATO expansion eastward threaten ordinary russians? The expansion of democracy, capitalism, personal freedom and the rule of law is a good thing. All of these are a threat to putin…

5. Putin will pay for Ukranian destruction by way of a 30% import tax on any russian product.

Putin should be given no space at all – sanctions should be absolute and harsh in order to avoid a five year result. That is how little egomaniacs become a problem as per with Hitler. Bullies only understand one language

Buys, the people of Ukraine and Europe will pay more than the people of Russia, that’s the way the US preferred this war by proxy.

It was that kind of hardline attitude that led to the deaths of more than 1 million soldiers at the Battle of the Somme. War is not about retribution or aggression. War is about strategy. Stupid generals fighting a stupid war on behalf of stupid politicians always end in disaster. Stupid people fight for emotional reasons. Putin is no angel but he is not stupid. The USA is even less of an angel, but they are stupid.

Explaining WHY putin invaded a sovereign nation is vastly different from saying putin is justified, which Maersheimer absolutely does not do in any event. If you call me an idiot, can I kill your family and burn down your house? Note that for example Maersheim also says Ukraine should have kept their nuclear weapons. Maersheim also says not taking action after georgia and crimea started putin’s momentum.

Explain two things for us :
One. is putin’s actual expansion of CSTO all fine but Ukraine’s possibly joining NATO is not?
Two. is putin’s destruction of Ukraine justified?

The rest of the world cannot back off russian sanctions because they are afraid what putin might do. WWII would not have happened if Hitler was shut down in 1938. What next – putin invades anybody he chooses to because the rest of the world has shown it will not engage? If China sees the world is weak what stops it from doing whatever it wants in its region?

Sure, Ukraine can (like Finland for decades etc) allign with the democratic and free EU without joining NATO. If that symbolic gesture (neutral Ukraine) makes putin happy he is a bigger idiot than anybody thinks.

Ironically, there was never an attempt to annihilate a people with apartheid, just develop separately.

There is more correlation with the organized programs of killings and driving original people off their indigenous lands by colonists in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Israel etc.

The author is clueless on history and the meaning of separate development.

End of comments.



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