Major US and European companies operating on the ground in Ukraine said on Friday they had contingency plans ready in the event of a Russian invasion but had so far not ordered the relocation of employees.
Even as Western leaders have issued warnings that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin may order an attack on Ukraine, leaders of multinational corporations, for the most part, do not believe Russian troops will follow through with an invasion. land, said Anna Derevyanko, deputy director of the European Business Association.
“Companies have contingency plans in place, but they don’t believe anything terrible is going to happen,” said Ms Derevyanko, whose association includes Nestle, BASF, ArcelorMittal, Bayer and more than 1,000 European companies that employ more than two million people in Ukraine.
“If you ask business people, they think a physical invasion is a low-risk scenario,” she added. “There is no sense of panic.”
The prospect of cyberattacks, on the other hand, is more worrying. Government websites, state-owned banks and parts of the country’s infrastructure have battled online invasions by hackers, believed by Ukrainians to be Russians, seeking to disable computers and steal data. European and American businesses in Ukraine see digital attacks as one of the top threats they face and have taken steps to strengthen their cybersecurity, Derevyanko said.
the Ukrainian Computer Association, which includes local and international tech companies, such as Sigma Software and video game giant Ubisoft, said the industry’s presence in the country has grown steadily since Russia’s devastating 2014 invasion of Crimea.
Tech companies, currently worth $6.8 billion, have made plans to ensure the safety and security of their employees in the event of ’emergencies’ as part of their business strategy, a the association said in a statement.
“The Armed Forces of Ukraine have accumulated forces, gained combat experience and are ready to defend the country and its people,” the statement continued. In turn, he said, tech companies’ response plans “aim to protect talent and the continuity of their business processes.”
More than 90% of tech companies surveyed this month rated the risk of the conflict escalating as low to medium, the association added, noting that none had prepared for a full relocation.
the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine said its 633 members, including 3M, Toyota and Citibank, continued to do business but had contingency plans to keep working in the event of an emergency.
Most member companies developed their plans a long time ago but continue to update and revise them, said Andy Hunder, president of the trade association.
Ms Derevyanko, from the European Business Association, said Ukraine was counting on continued foreign investment to help keep the economy stable. Multinationals are established throughout the country in the fields of agro-industry, pharmaceuticals, technology and logistics.
Ukraine’s economy had only begun to recover in recent years from a debilitating blow after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and pro-Russian rebels have taken over swaths of the eastern Donbass region in Ukraine. Since then, Western allies have seeded Ukraine and the companies operating there with more than $48 billion in bilateral and multilateral economic support.
“For now, the companies say they plan to continue business as usual,” Ms Derevyanko said. But the situation could become even more complicated, especially if the main seaports and airports are blocked, hampering exports and dealing a further blow to the economy.