More than 200 major companies have withdrawn from Russia so far in response to the country’s unprovoked war on Ukraine, further hobbling an economy already devastated by Western sanctions.
A rapidly changing list of the companies compiled by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management, shows representation across a broad range of industries, from Apple to Exxon, McDonald’s to Maersk.
McDonald’s decision Tuesday to “temporarily” close its restaurants and pause operations in Russia is particularly symbolic. The burger chain was among the first Western brands to begin operating in the former Soviet Union in 1990 under Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika.
At the end of last year, McDonald’s operated around 850 restaurants in the country, 84% of which were operated directly by the company as opposed to franchisees.
The company employs 62,000 people in Russia and serves millions of customers there each day. McDonald’s said Tuesday it would continue to pay the salaries of its Russian and Ukrainian employees.
Sonnenfeld’s list is more than just a tally of companies wary of Moscow, however: It also inventories the companies doing business in Russia that have so far chosen to remain.
Among them are big names like Coca-Cola, Kraft Heinz, and Pepsi, all of which are facing increasingly loud calls to take action.
While a humanitarian argument can be made for consumer brands like these choosing to remain in operation, Sonnenfeld isn’t convinced.
In an article comparing the current economic sanctions to those imposed on South Africa in the 1980s in an effort to dismantle apartheid, Sonnenfeld argued economic pain is kind of the point.
“Reagan’s argument [in 1986] was that sanctions would in fact hurt South African Black people and not solve the problems of Apartheid, while we lose positive influence,” he wrote. “Those are the same counterarguments echoed today about not hurting Russia’s population. The purpose of sanctions, however, is to impose pain without the violence of war.”
“Vladimir Putin, the most vicious autocrat of this century, rules through tyranny and fear. As he continues to fail, people will lose their fear and he will lose his power,” he added.