A few weeks ago, when the US announced the first set of sanctions against Russia, we jokingly commented that among the possible retaliations would be a Russian explusion of that global US permastaple, McDonalds. As it turns out, yet another "joke" may be on its way to becoming the truth.
The reason: overnight, newly Russian citizens in the Crimea discovered that they will have to live without Big Macs for a while after McDonald’s suspended operations on the Crimean Peninsula after it was annexed by Russia. In response, infamous Russian nationalist member of parliament, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, has demanded that every McDonald’s restaurant in Russia should be closed and the business evicted from the country.
Japan Times has more on the first part of the story:
The omnipresent U.S. fast-food chain said in a statement, posted on its Ukrainian website and taped to the front doors of its shuttered restaurants, that the decision was taken “for manufacturing reasons beyond the company’s control.”
The news hit 21-year-old Lilia especially hard because she had been happily employed at McDonald’s until Thursday and had no suspicion that she was about to be out of work.
“They told us that we would be closing because Kiev was no longer sending us any ingredients,” she said as a blond girl next to her pulled at the restaurant’s locked door in vain.
Yet the move out of Crimea by the world’s biggest hamburger maker reflects a much broader uncertainty among Western firms about their positions in Russia following the Kremlin’s military intervention in Ukraine.
McDonald’s insisted that it wants to reopen the stores “as soon as there is an opportunity.”
So, the official version is that Kiev was no longer in the pink slime processed meat delivery business when it comes to newly annexed territories? Perhaps JPM was also not in the money transfer business for all companies east of the Volga river, because Kiev wouldn't supply the cables?
Joking aside, Russia was not only quick to see through the real reason for the shutdown, but did what it has done all along in the relentless Tit-for-Tat when it comes to the future of Ukraine: it re-escalate. From Telegraph:
The fast food chain became embroiled in the fall out of the worst diplomatic crisis in years when it closed its three Crimean chains.
McDonald’s announced the temporary closure of its outlets in Simferopol, Yalta and Sevastopol, due to what the company called “operation reasons beyond McDonald’s control.”
The company offered its Crimean staff jobs at any other outlet in mainland Ukraine and has promised to reopen the restaurants as soon as possible. But as far as some of the more hawkish elements in Moscow are concerned, the damage has been done.
“McDonalds closed their outlets in Crimea. Very well. We’ll close the rest. I’ve given instructions to all city divisions of the Liberal Democratic Party to hold pickets at every McDonalds,” Mr Zhirinovsky said on Friday.
“It’s muck, why poison our citizens,” Mr Zhirinovsky added in the outburst.
Well... he is right, as "court jesters" usually are.
While Mr Zhirinovsky is widely viewed as the court jester of Russian politics, his trademark outbursts are occasionally used as trial balloons for schemes that do eventually become policy.
If this is one of those cases, other iconic American food brands may also have to watch out.
Mr Zhirinovsky suggested that after closing every McDonald’s restaurant in the country, he would move on down a hit list of brands.
And after the Bolshoi Mak is gone? "Then we’ll deal with Pepsi" Zhirinovsky said.
Russia aside, considering America's own problem with runaway, pardon the pun, obesity and spiraling healthcare costs, isn't it time Kiev also halted sending ingredients to US-based McDonalds restaurants?