By Dana Milbank
In his gut-wrenching address to Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked the United States for more — and more he will get.
U.S. leaders across the spectrum saluted Zelensky after he spoke to them Wednesday from Kyiv in his olive-drab T-shirt — part Winston Churchilland part Che Guevara. For all the cheap politics of the moment (Republicans reflexively blaming President Biden and refusing to applaud when Zelensky thanked Biden), Washington is uncommonly unified in purpose. Neither lawmakers nor the administration support a U.S.-led no-fly zone or any other troop commitment, and congressional hawks are successfully pushing Biden toward giving Ukraine whatever weaponry it desires, likely including aircraft.
But Zelensky made another ask on Wednesday morning, and it’s something all Americans can help with. We can stop buying the products of businesses that continue to fund Vladimir Putin’s war machine, even after its full horrors — indiscriminately targeting civilians, murdering children — are obvious to the world.
“All American companies must leave Russia. … Leave their market immediately, because it is flooded with our blood,” the young leader said, asking lawmakers “to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny that they use to destroy our people in Ukraine, the destruction of our country, the destruction of Europe. … Peace is more important than income.”
Most American companies get that. Some 400 U.S. and other multinational firms have pulled out of Russia, either permanently or temporarily, according to Yale’s Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who has kept the authoritative list of corporate actions in Russia. Oil companies (BP, Shell, ExxonMobil) and tech companies (Dell, IBM, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter) led the way, and many others (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coca-Cola) eventually followed.
But, according to Sonnenfeld, there are, at the other extreme, 33 companies (as of Wednesday afternoon) that form a “hall of shame,” defying demands that they exit Russia or reduce their activities there.
“They are funding the Russian war machine, and they are undermining the whole idea of the sanctions,” Sonnenfeld told me. “The whole idea is to freeze up civil society, to get people out on the streets and outraged. They’re undermining an effective resolution” and increasing the likelihood of continued bloodshed.
Those who want to stop Russia’s murderous attack against Ukraine should stop investing in or buying the products of these companies.
Koch Industries, whose owners gave to right-wing causes for years, is now financing Putin’s war. The people who make Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Quilted Northern toilet paper, Vanity Fair napkins and Georgia-Pacific lumber are abetting the spilling of Ukrainians’ blood.
Like Reebok shoes? They’re being used to stomp on Ukraine. Authentic Brands Group, which also owns Aeropostale, Eddie Bauer, Brooks Brothers and Nine West, among others, is in the hall of shame.