Opinion: Are German companies in Russia war collaborators? | Reviews | DW

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Many Western companies have already left the Russian market due to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Investments worth billions that had been accumulated over 30 years were wiped out in a matter of weeks. The East German Business Association is asking for financial support for the companies affected.

Where appropriate, aid should only be granted to companies which have ceased doing business with Russia and left the market. There must be no state aid for companies such as Ritter Sport, Metro, Globus, Bayer, Henkel or Knauf, which continue to make money in Russia. With their tax payments to Moscow, they help finance Russia’s inhumane actions and have become war collaborators. Just like the French companies Leroy Merlin, Total or Auchan.

These companies continue to cling to the Kremlin, often using flimsy excuses, such as blaming Russian employees, who are not personally responsible for the bloodshed.

But here’s a question: Are these employees who, at least in large part, voted for the Putin regime? Or those Russians who support the so-called special operation in Ukraine? State propaganda cannot be used as an excuse for everything, because a good part of the Russian population supports Putin.

Miodrag Soric by DW

Companies that continue to engage in Russia face a moral dilemma: do they continue to make profits and thereby secure the company’s economic future or do they accept losses and put jobs at risk ?

But anyone who looks into the eyes of the dying mothers in Mariupol or the hundreds of thousands of desperate children on the run should quickly realize what needs to be done: economic pressure on Russia is not an end in itself. It serves the purpose of ending the killing in Ukraine. Values ​​such as humanity or respect for life cannot be acquired for free.

Western companies wishing to remain in Russia also have a responsibility towards their employees in Germany and the European Union. After all, who wants to work for a company that does business with war criminals? Therefore, sooner or later, all Western companies will leave Russia.

So far, there have been no calls in the West to boycott these same companies. But preparations have been underway for a long time. Moreover, the Kremlin’s countersanctions ensure that Western companies have no future in Russia: corporate profits can no longer be exported in hard currency. And who needs worthless paper money with the word ruble on it?

A graph showing the sales of a number of German companies in Russia

Learn from the historical mistakes of others

It is also clear that with a ceasefire, for example, economic conditions will become even worse. To survive, Putin must return to a planned economy, full control of political, economic and cultural life. This will favor national companies, as was the case in the Soviet Union in the past. Russia, which depends on the export of raw materials, will become China’s cheap gas station. Beijing will relentlessly exploit Putin’s empire – a process that could take decades.

In the meantime, there is little hope that the Russians will somehow overthrow this regime. Anyone who believes this is naive and has never lived in Russia. The majority will silently withdraw into their private lives or emigrate, as in Soviet times. As long as every family has a dacha, no one will go hungry between Kaliningrad and Vladivostok.

Putin’s dream of a resurgence of the Soviet Union could come true for a few years. But Western companies must not contribute to this dream. On the contrary, they should learn from the historical mistakes of others: IBM and Ford did business with the Nazi dictatorship in Germany until 1938. Later, they had a lot of uncomfortable explaining to do.

This piece was originally written in German.

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