Koch Industries, conservative mega-donor Charles Koch’s Kansas-based manufacturing and energy behemoth, announced on Wednesday that it will continue operating in Russia, even as hundreds of corporations worldwide pull operations from the country in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Dave Robertson, the president and COO of Koch Industries, said in a statement the conglomerate’s glass-manufacturing subsidiary Guardian Industries would “not walk away” from its roughly 600 employees in Russia—stating it would only put them “at greater risk and do more harm than good”—or “hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government so it can operate and benefit from them.” Guardian has two glass-making plants in Russia that make up a small fraction of the roughly 14,000-person Koch subsidiary. Robertson, cited a Wall Street Journal report that Russian prosecutors have warned Western companies that their assets could be seized if they withdraw from the country. Robertson did condemn Putin’s “horrific and abhorrent aggression against Ukraine” in his Wednesday statement, calling it “an affront to humanity,” adding that the company has provided “humanitarian aid” to Ukrainians and those affected in neighboring countries. Koch Industries, which employs more than 122,000 people worldwide, is complying with all applicable sanctions and regulations, according to Robertson’s statement.
Robertson’s announcement came the same day Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy implored all American companies break away from Russia during his address before U.S. Congress. “Peace is more important than income,” he said, urging Western brands to “leave their market immediately because it is flooded with our blood.” Zelenskyy then told U.S. lawmakers to take actions that will ensure “Russians do not receive a single penny that they use to destroy people in Ukraine, the destruction of our country, the destruction of Europe.”
Koch Industries’ decision to stay in Russian is consistent with the positions others in Charles Koch’s network have taken. Earlier this week, Stand Together, Koch’s nonprofit, warned against completely severing the West’s business ties with Russia and called for “targeted sanctions against Russia.” “We also believe that sanctions are a legitimate tool of statecraft. However, broad-based economic sanctions rarely achieve their desired policy outcomes,” Dan Caldwell, the nonprofit’s vice president of foreign policy, wrote in a Monday statement. He went on to question the effectiveness of “overly-aggressive” sanctions, saying they do more to strengthen authoritarian regimes—and punish civilians—rather than actually weaken adversarial governments. Will Ruger, president of the American Institute for Economic Research, a Koch-backed think tank, also argued against U.S. sanctions in Russia, as did the Koch-backed organization Concerned Veterans for America.
Koch is running afoul of the P.R. stance taken by brands like Apple, McDonald’s, Adidas, and Disney, which have said they will halt operations or sales in Russia. Likewise, Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil have said they will pull out of the oil-rich nation. That said, several major Western corporations are seemingly ignoring the public pressure campaign to cut Russia off from the rest of the world. According to a list compiled by Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Halliburton, LG Electronics, and Authentic Brands Group’s Reebok have not disclosed publicly any plans. The United States, alongside allied countries, imposed severe sanctions on Russia, and on many of the country’s Kremlin-allied business leaders. The sanctions have crippled Russia’s economy and put increased pressure on the country’s top leaders.
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