Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine is reverberating across the world. We asked our experts from different countries and sectors what they think our clients should be following at the moment. We are closely monitoring the war in Ukraine and will continue to analyze the conflict and its repercussions from different points of view.
Risto E.J. Penttilä 4.3.2022
Putin may win a few battles, but he has already lost the war. His dream of Greater Russia will not be realized. Hearts and minds will win over guns and tanks.
The ferocity of the ever-widening Western sanctions and the Ukrainian resistance seem to have caught the Kremlin by surprise. Fighting in Ukraine goes on despite ceasefire negotiations, with increasing reports of civilian targets being bombed. The Russian economy is in a freefall, and predictions for the European economy vary from a short-lasting disturbance to a “stagflationary shock” with high inflation, low growth, and rapidly increasing unemployment.
What could change the grim outlook? All eyes are on China. Will it decide to broker a peace between Ukraine and Russia?
Henrique Laitenberger 4.3.2022
The European Union is at the forefront of the crisis response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Not only is it the primary forum for EU Member States to coordinate their action, but the European Commission has shown remarkable initiative in preparing measures to counter and contain the Russian aggression. Internationally, it is assuming a leading position within the democratic world to assist Ukraine, especially at a humanitarian level.
To begin with, the EU is conceiving, coordinating, and implementing the sanctions on Russia and Belarus: including denying the Russian central bank access to its international reserves, (partially) excluding Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system, as well as prohibiting Russian commercial and private planes from entering EU airspace. Further action – including a ban on energy imports from Russia – is still on the table and may be deployed should Putin escalate the war in the coming days and weeks.
Perhaps even more remarkably, the EU has proceeded to provide military aid to Ukraine: on 27 February, the European Commission announced that it would disburse €500 million in funds through the so-called “European Peace Facility” to finance the Ukrainian defence effort.
The EU is also playing a key role in coordinating humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees. At the time of writing, over one million people have already fled Ukraine in search of safety.
The EU has shown that it can act with great speed, ambition, and determination if it is willing to do so. It can act not only with view to economic, but also geostrategic interest. Without a doubt, the brazenness of Putin’s challenge to peace in Europe and the admirable resistance of Ukraine have reinvigorated the EU’s belief in the strength of its own liberal, democratic values and the merits of European unity.
Going forward, the key challenge for the EU will be to maintain this unity and determination as the war continues and the collateral effects of sanctions start to impact its citizens.
Tiina Kiesiläinen 6.3.2022
On March 4th, President Sauli Niinistö flew to Washington D.C. and met with President Biden and other key US officials. After the meeting Niinistö said that Finland and the US have agreed on deepening their bilateral (and trilateral with Sweden included) defense relationship, and they had also talked to the Prime Minister of Sweden, Magdalena Andersson, during their meeting. On March 5th, the Swedish Prime Minister and Minister for Defense visited Finland and discussed this further.
Laura Kuokkanen and Emilia Uljas 4.3.2022
The war in Ukraine has increased the public discussion around foreign and defense policy in Finland. The public follows closely the reactions of President Sauli Niinistö and the Finnish government, led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin, to the conflict. The Russian aggression has accelerated the discussion around the question of Finland’s NATO membership and for the first time the majority of the population is in favor. Without a doubt, defense policy will be an important topic in the upcoming Spring 2023 parliamentary elections as well as the question of NATO membership.
The crisis is expected to also have profound economic effects. Whilst some can be seen already, an elongated crisis is expected to deepen the economic impact. This in turn will affect the annual negotiations on state spending limit, held later this spring.
Even though the attention of the media and the decision-makers is in Ukraine, it does not mean that the government administration and work stop. Instead, the show must go on: laws are still being prepared and committee meetings held. The crisis affects various ministries and their work differently. As media attention is being directed elsewhere, initiatives that would normally attract public interest might now go under the radar. Thus, it is important to continue to keep an eye on ongoing policy initiatives.
Niklas Nordström and Laura Kyyrö 4.3.2022
Sweden is affected the same way as all European countries and people. Companies, different organizations and governmental agencies are all preparing for a situation that we did not expect nor plan for. Unfortunately, the fact that a European neighbor has been invaded will change our ways of living and affect the economies for households, companies and the society at large.
The amount of money donated to different charity organizations has reached record levels in Sweden in the past days. For example, the Swedish Red Cross has collected over 9 million euros in just six days. The support for the Ukrainian people and cause has been unprecedented. The Swedish Government has decided on military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and has been very determined to take action. There has also been a surge in Finnish-Swedish co-operation and the two governments seem extremely aligned and coordinated in all key actions.
Our advice to clients is to actively monitor the situation and prepare for different scenarios. Companies are already following the lead from the European Union and our governments in breaking ties to Russia. We can support with advice on public affairs and strategic communication, as well as crisis management and related communications as necessary. We will all be affected in one way or another, now is the time to prepare and train for different scenarios.
Sandra Kamilova 4.3.2022
From the very first moment the Estonian Government unequivocally condemned Russia’s military attack on Ukraine and declared that Estonia stands with Ukraine, providing support in any way it can, politically, diplomatically, materially.
“The Estonian Government unequivocally condemns Russia’s military attack on Ukraine. In a telephone session, the Government decided to trigger NATO consultations under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and other Allies,” Estonian government stated at the day of the attack. See for full statement here.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that the most effective response to Russia’s aggression is unity. Estonia does strongly believe in NATO and its readiness to protect the region if needed, though Kallas confirmed there is no direct military threat to Estonia’s security and the country’s external borders are calm.
As a result of Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine last Friday’s NATO summit decided to strengthen the alliance’s eastern flank, so additional forces have arrived to Estonia. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Estonia on Tuesday, March 1st , where they delivered a live joint press conference together with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas from Tapa Army Base. The press conference can be watched here.
Estonians and Estonian entrepreneurs have been active in supporting Ukrainian state and people through different channels possible. One the biggest Estonian companies Bolt has announced, that they are donating 5% of every Bolt order in Europe over the next two weeks to support Ukraine. This will amount to over €5 million, and they transferred the first €1 million immediately after announcement.
As the conflict emerged the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) has ordered telecomms companies to end broadcasting four Russian, plus one Belarusian, TV channels on Estonian territory, on the grounds that they had been disseminating Kremlin propaganda, in the run-up to last week Thursday’s military attack on Ukraine.
On Monday, 28 February, telecomms companies Elisa and Telia suspended the Russian-language channels PBK Eesti, Dom Kino Baltic, Karusel, Muzõka Pervogo, Vremja, Telekafe, Bobjor, Dom Kino Premium, О!, Pojehali!, REN TV.
We must keep in mind that the Russian-speaking population makes up roughly more than a quarter of the Estonian population, who have been used to using Russian channels as a main source of information. No major protests have arisen as a reaction towards suspending transmission of these channels yet, but time will show, how it will influence habits of Russian speaking populations in terms of consuming information.
Marta Mackevica 4.3.2022
Situation in Latvia still is very pro-Ukraine and more and more politicians and public figures are condemning Russia. At the beginning of March most stores don’t sell Russian and Belarusian goods. The Latvian society is very active in supporting Ukraine: protests are taking place, people are donating money, food, and everyday necessities. The first refugee families have already arrived in Latvia. The company “Gaujas koks” has donated 1 million euros, and many other companies have donated 100,000 and similar amounts. Cooperation with Russia is also suspended by companies for which Russia has been a one of major export markets, such as the food producer “Food Union”. On social media, the society is sharply attacking influencers who work with Russian products, such as the company “NL”.
What has been happening in Latvia regarding the Russian war and crisis in Ukraine so far:
There is huge support for Ukraine, and each day there are more and more bans on Russian companies, language, finances etc. Small part of Russians that live in Latvia (mostly seniors that use only Russian media) support Russia and Putin. They strongly believe that Putin is fighting against Nazis.
Kristiina Helenius 4.3.2022
In the U.S., focus is on cybersecurity and protecting critical assets. As a market, the United States is far less exposed to the developments in Russia than Europe is. It is also less exposed than Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. Thus far, Nordic companies have not reported disruptions in the U.S. market.
Boeing relies on Russian titanium to build its aircraft, and McDonald’s and PepsiCo get around four percent of their sales from Russia and Ukraine. Yet, few direct consequences are expected. For American companies already struggling with supply chain issues and inflationary pressures the new crisis comes at a difficult time. The sanctions will inevitably increase the price of energy globally, further accelerating inflation. Also supply chains dependent on specific raw materials such as titanium or palladium of which Russia or Ukraine are significant producers will face new bottle necks.
Shutting Russia out of international cooperation may affect the U.S. market through
While there are no specific or credible threats to the U.S. homeland at this time, the U.S. cyber defense agency CISA is working to help organizations prepare for, respond to, and mitigate the impact of cyber-attacks against infrastructure targets and business assets.
Erik Bäckman and Sara Lindström 4.3.2022
The attention of various stakeholders on the role of companies in society is now perhaps stronger than in decades. Business interests are subject to rigorous ethical scrutiny if the business or its value chain is linked to Russia or Russian oligarchs.
The only choice a company realistically can make in this situation is: are we a frontrunner, mainstream or lagging behind? In all industries, rapid response and change in strategy is not possible, but “business as usual” with Russia or oligarchs is a strategy that no crisis communication guru can help defend in an interview with journalists — or in front of investors, employees and policymakers. Companies should make clear scenarios and steps to respond to the situation. Even if the company is an important employer or under threat of bankruptcy because of sanctions, everyone is now expected to join the historically common European and Western Front.
There is a reason to be careful in communication. We are not currently condemning the Russian people or formulating statements of global morality for each company. It is wise to relate our own strategic choices neutrally with the prevailing international and national sanctions and alignments. On top of that, you can build your own potential support and assistance for Ukraine, its residents and people fleeing war. If you communicate about this, do it compactly and factually, to try to get others involved. With advertising campaigns, you should consider three times the wording and style of expression.
Oona Kasslin 4.3.2022
When a crisis like the war in Ukraine takes over the news and social media, it is crucial to understand two things related to communications: relevance and tonality.
The wrong kind of message or a message in the wrong channel can have a negative effect to a company’s brand and potentially even lead to a reputation crisis. On the other hand, many of us are currently overwhelmed by the crisis news and content and need lighter messages and topics on our channels. Also, some stakeholders are probably expecting a company to make a statement. It might be hard to balance with these aspects.
As we all want to help in any way we can it might be tempting to communicate widely the efforts one has done, i.e. donations given. If a company statement is made it should always include a concrete action, the channel used needs to be carefully chosen and it is important to check the tone of voice. It is also important to think about the role a company could take here: could it for example share relevant information or amplify the voice of a relevant aid organization?
Before you act, think: Is this really relevant information in a time of an international crisis? Does this content bring something to the table?
Miikka Huhta and Anni Romu 4.3.2022
There are three aspects of internal communications that also in the midst of war need to be considered:
INFORM AND SUPPORT
Everyone is worried what kind of headlines they see next. There is a huge array of varying emotions and reactions within any organization. One way to support your people is by showing empathy and encouraging talking about thoughts and emotions related to the war. Arrange time and space for safe discussions especially inside the teams. Pay attention to the dynamics in the teams and the whole organization: you most likely have a more diverse workforce than you first realize.
You need to make clear choices on what kind of processes, benefits, and ways of working you highlight in your efforts to keep people motivated and well-being. The obvious ones like urging people to be in contact with their managers and the occupational health care provider are important reminders. Be mindful of what kind of stories and examples you highlight of the behavior you would like to see more of.
The leadership need to be role models of the desired behaviors. If you want people to talk about their feelings – you must show an example. If you want people to focus on something, their family or hitting this month’s sales target – tell them but be discreet when doing so. And you should never overlook peoples’ need for having a clear direction. Remind them again and again of the organization’s short and long-term goals. The recipe for success is being honest and consistent. Your own people will know or at least soon enough find out if you are full of corporate jargon.
If you have any doubt in your mind about what you should do, go to the most obvious source for information and sparring: your employees. Ask them. And whatever and to whomever you communicate – remember to be respectful, show trust in people and recognize our need for safety.
Our experts are monitoring the situation daily, and will be able to answer more detailed questions if needed. Make sure to also check our news about our New Context group. Please contact Tiina Kiesiläinen, tiina.kiesilainen(a)miltton.com, for more information.