UK billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson has shared his thoughts on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine in a blog post published on Jan. 27, calling on world business elites to “come together” in defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Branson, whose net worth is estimated to be around $3.7 billion, founded the Virgin Group conglomerate the 1970s, followed by dozens of other companies in various fields, from media and art to space tourism.
In his post, Branson expressed dismay at the possibility that in 2022 a country could bully and intimidate its neighbors with a massive invasion force, and established his anti-war bona fides by citing his participation in protests against the Vietnam War in 1968 and his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Branson recalled his 2014 efforts to mobilize Russian and Ukrainian business elites to push for a peaceful resolution of the then-flaring up war between the two countries.
“I remember numerous insightful meetings and calls with leaders and experts in politics and business, and we developed a much better understanding of the power dynamics fueling this conflict,” he said.
“We also learned quickly that none of our Russian contacts, while privately opposed to Russia’s military intervention, were willing to raise their voice publicly.”
Branson highlighted the “immense harm and suffering” civilian population will have to endure, should Moscow decide to proceed with its plans for a further offensive against Ukraine:
“Syria’s bloody civil war, in which Russian troops and mercenaries have been playing a terrible role, is a stark reminder of what’s at stake.”
A full-blown war in Ukraine is “not a conflict President Putin can win in the long run,” according to Branson.
Evoking an image of an “inevitable” insurgency of Ukrainians defending their homes, the billionaire drew parallels with the ill-fated Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, as a warning to the Kremlin.
According to him, now is the time for the titans of industry to lend their considerable strength to Ukraine’s defense.
“For business leaders, this is the moment to come together and stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” said Branson.
“Even if it comes at a price, all of us should 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.”
Branson’s rallying cry comes at a time when business circles in some western countries, such as Germany, are worried about the impact new sanctions against Russia could have on their bottom lines.
Since the end of Oct. 2021, Russia has been massing troops close to the Ukrainian borders. Russia has since deployed more than 127,000 troops and offensive weapons near the Ukrainian border and in temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories, according to the latest intelligence estimate from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine provided to CNN on Jan. 18.
International media have speculated that Russia may invade Ukraine in early 2022, in an operation that could involve up to 200,000 Russian soldiers.
The situation on Ukraine's eastern border is a matter of deep concern for both U.S. and EU officials. According to U.S. President Joe Biden, the White House is looking at a range of options to dissuade Russia from a potential attack on Ukraine.