by Constantin Duhamel
Thursday, 24
March 2022
Dispatch
16:00

Post-sanctions life in Moscow is… not that different

The effects have not kicked in for ordinary Russians — yet
by Constantin Duhamel
Life ain’t so bad in Moscow. Credit: Getty

Moscow

‘Send money to loved ones in Ukraine with Western Union’ used to be the most common advert of my morning commute on the Moscow Metro. That, along with Chanel cosmetic products and Apple Pay, disappeared overnight after 24th February. My foreign bank card also quickly stopped working. Now, Telegram channels are bursting with tips on how to emigrate. The door to globalisation, it feels, is closing on Russia.

Over the last month, Western staples like McDonalds’, Levi’s and Adidas also stopped retail operations, as did Ikea and Starbucks. But living in the city has not become that much harder for the average Russian. Paid a stable wage by a state-owned company and usually unaware of the world beyond the former Soviet Union, Turkey and Thailand (two popular holiday destinations), slight inflation is the only real sign of discomfort. The likes of Louis Vuitton’s now-empty stores and Ladurée’s macarons were never really a luxury they could afford anyway.

Following the sanctions, Russia gave companies wishing to leave three choices: stay in Russia for business as usual, wind down the business and transfer the risk to a local partner, or leave abruptly and face potential nationalisation.

On the surface, most Western companies have yielded to some governments’ and social media calls to ‘cancel’ Russia by suspending operations in Russia ‘indefinitely’. Yet this is not to say they are leaving the Russian market altogether. For some, suspending operations is necessary to re-organise the supply chain and update pricing mechanisms. In fact, it is estimated that over 450 companies are withdrawing from Russia (169 of which have fully exited), versus 221 ‘keeping their options open’ or scaling back and 93 firms defying the call to leave. Many plan to re-open if and when the dust settles and profit margins are re-established.

In reality, it has mostly been American and British companies that have announced their plan to leave for good. Once hailed as Russia’s largest foreign investor by obtaining a 20% stake in state-owned Rosneft, BP announced on February 27th that it will sell off its equity interest. Competitors Exxon and Shell, all major international banks, Big-4 consultants and Magic Circle law firms — the crème de la crème of western capitalism — have followed suit. Only a handful of unknowns in oil and gas, industry and telecoms remain, such as Calfrac, Manitowoc and Fortive.

But while businesses from the Anglosphere have preferred a quick exit, European firms have, for the most part, stayed put. Though some French firms like Renault have announced they are stopping production, they have not actually left yet. Most other continental companies have preferred to keep quiet about their plans. Banks like Italian UniCredit and French Rosbank remain in-country, “committed to…clients” and “staff” all while managing and “limiting risks”. International transfers are still possible in euros, which is a lifeline for the myriad of expats present locally and Russian businesses with interests abroad.

Perhaps it is the continental companies playing the smarter game here. Currently, Chinese authorities are encouraging its businessmen to swoop up devalued assets in Russia — the very ones some Western countries are letting go of so rapidly. Russians may have to wait a while longer until AliBaba and UnionPay entirely replace the void left by a good chunk of the West, if at all. But in their eyes that does not really matter, so long as day-to-day life does not become unbearable.

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Matt M
Matt M
6 months ago

So the French, Germans and Italians are still buying oil and gas from Russia at the same rate as pre-war; their blue-chips are still trading there and the lethal aid they promised Ukraine has never materialised. Apparently only a 1/5th of the missiles Germany pledged were delivered. The rest were too old. Oh and they sent some old helmets (they probably dusted off the ones with spikes on top).

Meanwhile Marcon pontificates, EU no-marks criticise Boris for saying Brexit was about freedom and our homegrown Remaintards fantasise about an EU army!

Last edited 6 months ago by Matt M
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
6 months ago

A bit like post-Brexit UK then. Areas of inconvenience but not the sort of drastic difference trumpeted by the MSM in each case.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
6 months ago

This statement – how only the British and Americans have reacted – is so normal that it makes me feel sick sometimes.
There was an old story from our EU days: when a new rule came from Brussels, the first to sign in and agree were the Italians. The last to agree were the Brits. Then the other countries just found ways to keep their options open and cheated whilst the Brits followed the rule to the letter.
We have burnt our boats with the Russians. Significantly, we are the only country following the agreements with the environment. You can just see a time (hopefully I won’t be around) when no country is talking to us, we have no fuel to keep us warm, no industry because it is polluting, no new roads, no trains, no health service, no flights bringing in tourists, no doctors.
But we will have the 30th year of ‘Strictly’, the Rugby six nations championship, Ant & Dec, people living in communes, repeats of Dad’s Army, the first dog playing Dr Who (nickname Dr Woof), the fattest people in the world, the greatest number of people with mental health issues, the greatest number of Psychiatrists, never ending discussions about Caroline Flack, a black Fiona Bruce, 100% of people with degrees – even unborn babies could get degrees.
And I’ll miss it !!!!

R Wright
R Wright
6 months ago

Yet again continentals are nothing but hot air. Embarrassing.

R S Foster
R S Foster
6 months ago

…Anglosphere doing the heavy lifting in defence of freedom? Whoever could have imagined such a thing…