In early 2022, it often seemed like nothing could bring the world together. But Russia has now managed to change that. The country’s brutal attack on Ukraine is condemned across the board. It connects people, left and right, and across national borders.
This unit is good. The time for talking is long gone and effective action is required. “Meaningful dialogue of the kind we have sought before is not an option for Russia, which so blatantly violates international law, uses military force against an independent, sovereign nation like Ukraine, and is responsible for atrocities for which we suffer is happening every day in Ukraine,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.
The action so far has consisted of sanctions imposed by countries across Europe and across the Atlantic. Russian oil and gas is now taboo, as is most trade.
There are further steps ahead. “Plans are being drawn up in NATO and the European Union, in the State Department, Pentagon and allied ministries to enshrine new strategies in virtually every aspect of the West’s attitude towards Moscow, from defense and finance to trade and international diplomacy” , writes the Washington Post.
But as the sanctions begin to take down Russia’s economy and hopefully shut down its war machine, one European company disagrees with the policy.
“We do not think sanctions on imports are appropriate,” Airbus chief executive officer Guillaume Faury told reporters. “This will have little impact on Russia and will have a big impact on the rest of the countries and the industry. We therefore consider the no-sanctions policy to be the most sensible.”
Airbus, a major arms manufacturer, has an agenda here. It imports about half of the titanium it uses from Russia. It needs titanium to build its aircraft (titanium goes well with modern carbon frames) and wants to secure its Russian supply.
In other words, Airbus is focused on reaching out to Russia and staying on Putin’s good side to maintain its access to Russian titanium, even if that means turning a blind eye to the deaths of thousands of innocent Ukrainians.
Bloomberg notes that the policy works to this day. “Airbus, a major customer of the Russian VSMPO-AVISMA Corp., has so far been able to continue importing [titanium]not directly affected by a growing list of European Union sanctions aimed at punishing President Putin.”
That’s a big mistake.
Arms manufacturers should follow national policies, not the governments they work for. By relaxing sanctions, Airbus is endangering the entire sanctions regime while trying to expand business with the Pentagon by proposing to sell tankers to the Air Force.
Airbus is not the only European company flouting sanctions. The Christian Science Monitor reported May 2: “The French-owned giant Auchan hypermarket [in Moscow] has bulging shelves and full stocks of almost everything from toilet paper to fresh meats and vegetables, citrus fruits and bananas to a wide variety of local cheeses and dairy products.” Several American fast-food chains, such as Burger King and Subway, are still operating at some locations in Russia. While the bosses of these companies have wisely closed their shops in Russia, some franchise owners have kept individual restaurants open.
The sanctions have an international effect. “Russia’s annual inflation rate is nearly twice that of the United States,” economic columnist Sebastian Mallaby wrote in the Washington Post. “In combat, one takes casualties to inflict greater casualties on the other. Economic war is no different.” He calls for more and deeper sanctions, although some companies are calling for their removal.
These companies are on the wrong side of history. American politicians should take steps to limit their use of their products and focus instead on winning the sanctions war against Russia.