“Business leaders around the world have watched with great concern the buildup of Russian troops and equipment on the Ukrainian border. This conflict has been simmering for many years, with occasional flare-ups, such as the illegal annexation of the Crimea by Russia in 2014.
“But never in recent years has the risk of an all-out war on European soil been greater – a war which, like so many before it, serves no just or legitimate purpose. (It’s hard for any of us to hide our exasperation at this point. In 2022, what’s a country doing amassing tanks on another country’s borders?)
“I spent much of my adult life fighting what I saw as the unjust wars of our time. In March 1968, I joined tens of thousands of young people in London’s Trafalgar Square demonstrating against the Vietnam War, a rapidly escalating conflict that cost countless lives, paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children and adults and ended in a humiliating defeat for the United States and its allies. 35 years later, I was one of millions around the world who took to the streets to protest the invasion of Iraq, a warmongering and reckless endeavor that destabilized the Middle East and made the world less secure. .
“Eight years ago,” Mr. Branson continues, “when Putin’s intentions in Ukraine became more apparent to the rest of the world, we launched an effort to mobilize Russian and Ukrainian business leaders to become advocates for a peaceful resolution between their countries. I remember many insightful meetings and calls with political and business leaders and experts, and we developed a much better understanding of the power dynamics that fuel this conflict. We also learned quickly that none of our Russian contacts, though privately opposed to Russian military intervention, were prepared to speak out publicly. We issued a trade statement that Western and Ukrainian business leaders were happy to sign, but we failed to get a single Russian signature because their fear of reprisals from the Moscow regime was just too great.
“Yesterday and today, however, those I spoke to were unanimous in their opinion that any war between Russia and Ukraine would have devastating and terrible consequences. For starters, it would further isolate Russia and its president from the rest of the world and destroy the Russian economy. And of course it would cause immense harm and suffering to people, young and old, trying to live in peace on both sides of the border. As so often, it will be the civilian population that will bear the brunt of the aggression. The bloody civil war in Syria, in which Russian troops and mercenaries played a terrible role, is a stark reminder of what is at stake.”
Mr. Branson goes on to say: “This is not a conflict that President Putin can win in the long run. While he seems to care little about what the world thinks of his geopolitical ambitions, he should care a lot about the future prospects for his own country. At some point, ordinary Russians will realize that they deserve better, especially if the situation reaches such a point that the inevitable uprising of Ukrainians defending their homes, villages and towns brings back the haunting specter of Soviet failure. in Afghanistan and its murderous record. about Russian sons, brothers and fathers.
“For business leaders, this is a time to come together and defend Ukraine’s sovereignty. Even if it comes at a price, we should all send a clear message that unilateral aggression is always unacceptable and that the global business community will support the full range of sanctions against any nation that seeks to violate the sovereignty of another.