top of page

Profit comes with complex costs for multinationals operating in wartime Russia

As the war in Ukraine persists, western multinational companies operating in Russia find themselves in an increasingly intricate and expensive business landscape. Despite promises to minimize their Russian exposure following the country's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, many companies remain entangled in a web of sanctions, countermeasures, and legal battles. This analysis explores the challenges faced by these multinationals and the consequences of their continued presence in Russia.

The seven largest European banks by assets in Russia have reported a combined profit of more than €3 billion in 2023, a threefold increase compared to 2021. This surge in profitability has led to a significant rise in tax payments to the Kremlin, amounting to approximately €800 million in 2023, up from €200 million in 2021. These tax contributions, equivalent to about 0.4 percent of Russia's expected non-energy budget revenues for 2024, demonstrate how foreign companies remaining in the country inadvertently support the Kremlin's financial stability despite western sanctions.

Ironically, the very sanctions intended to pressure Russia have, in some cases, benefited foreign lenders. International sanctions on Russian banks have deprived their rivals of access to global payment systems, making western banks more appealing to clients in the country. Furthermore, the banks have profited from higher interest rates and funds that they cannot withdraw from Russia due to regulatory restrictions imposed in 2022, which prohibited dividend payouts from Russian subsidiaries to businesses from "unfriendly" western countries.

As western companies attempt to navigate the complex web of sanctions and Russian countermeasures, they increasingly face legal challenges and asset seizures. Russian courts have begun seizing assets of western companies in response to sanctions-related disputes. JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Volkswagen have all experienced asset seizures and legal battles, highlighting the growing difficulties faced by western companies operating in Russia.

The European Union's tightening of sanctions against Russia presents new hurdles for multinational companies. A loophole allowing these companies to provide professional services to their Russian subsidiaries is set to close in June, requiring them to seek authorization from national authorities for each type of service they offer.

While this change aims to provide European regulators with a more comprehensive view of western businesses' dealings in Russia, it may also push companies to switch to Russian providers or relocate services outside the EU. The pharmaceutical industry, in particular, has expressed concerns about the impact of these provisions on their ability to provide medicines to patients in Russia.

As the geopolitical landscape continues to shift, western multinationals operating in Russia find themselves in an increasingly complex and costly environment. Despite intentions to minimize their Russian exposure, many companies remain deeply entangled in the country's economy, inadvertently contributing to the Kremlin's financial stability through soaring profits and tax payments.


bottom of page