The mass exodus of businesses from Russia — in the short-term Putin might benefit.

Alexei Sorokin
4 min readMar 8, 2022

This story will somewhat contradict my other recent ones where I talked about how the private sector completely abandoned Russia, in just a matter of days; how this was — I think — totally unexpected; how this destroys three decades of the country’s hard work to build business ties with the West. Wall Street Journal wrote on this topic:

However, the situation is dynamic. I say this because I have a few close friends in Moscow and London who I keep in touch with. We have a messaging group and of course, we are continuously discussing the unabating stream of news related to Russia’s war on Ukraine and how Russia is collapsing.

Whatever infographic there is (I had one in one of my recent stories) showing the brands that left Russia it’s becoming outdated with every passing hour, as more and more companies from every possible industry are abandoning the country.

Today, for example, among others — McDonald's and Starbucks.

Mcdonald's is perhaps the most iconic of all. In the winter of 1990 — I was ten then, I stood with Mom and Dad in a crazy line outside the first McDonalds on Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Ploschad (Pushkinskaya Square). It was sleeting heavily from the dark gray sky but, taking slow, patient steps, people approached by the thousands, as if the fast food outlet were a shrine. The experience we craved extended well beyond the food. The smell, the rustling wrappers, the bright colors, the liveliness, and the cleanliness — in addition to the taste — was dramatically new. We had tasted the West — maybe not the best of it, but surely better than any Soviet public dining experience.

Now thirty-two years later there will be lines to taste McDonalds one last time. I don’t know whether McDonalds is technically exiting Russia or pausing its operations but it’s not looking good either way. Russia’s isolation from the West, the result of Putin’s war on Ukraine, is profound this time.

Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day.