The IKEA Corporation’s slogan is: “Impossible prices!” That’s in the outside world. Where Vladimir Putin’s benighted, barbaric country is concerned, the slogan is now: “Impossible Russians!”
One might think that in an environment of massive economic collapse, where the national currency has lost a third of its value, half the currency reserves have been depleted and the stock market is down three quarters, with both inflation and unemployment soaring, the Russian government would become at least slightly more solicitous of any idiotic foreigners still stupid enough to want to invest money in the country. The World Bank has declared that the Kremlin should be providing “crisis” aid to its vast population of poor people in order to avoid massive social unrest as the economy contracts at a frightening 4.5% clip this year. But thinking such things where Russia is concerned is always an exercise in futility.
On Monday, the Moscow Times reported that IKEA had been forced to lay off 250 employees in Samara because the government would not give it permission to open a store that had been ready go for more than two years.
You read that right: Two years.
Not surprisingly, this outrage has wider repercussions. IKEA, which has invested more than $3 billion in the Russian market, opening 11 retail locations, now says it is is “questioning future IKEA investments in Russia due to unpredictability of the administrative processes in some regions.”
As well it should. In fact, IKEA’s decision to invest in Russia was idiotic from the start, and it has got exactly what it deserved. Only now does IKEA finaly see what we have been warning about for years, Russia’s unalterable hostility towards foreigners and the hopeless corruption of its government. Caught between these two fundamental elements of Russian society as between the two closing jaws of a massive vice, IKEA’s only answer is to flee with all possible dispatch, and never to return.
Let’s be clear: By investing billions in Russia, IKEA has contributed to the consolidation of the Putin dicatorship. It has helped to undermine democracy in Russia, and given cover to brutal actions like the assassination of Politkovakaya and Markelov. Therefore, we could not have less sympathy for IKEA’s predicament, and would urge our readers to reconsider shopping there as long as IKEA continues to maintain its presence in Russia.
As the Nike commercial has it: Impossible is nothing.