The consequences of war to the Russian economy have been swift and severe. As the invasion approaches its third week, they are growing in severity — and they’re coming from every direction, even graduate business education.
Since it began February 24, Russia’s war has brought near-universal condemnation from the world’s governments, mostly in the form of crippling sanctions that have hobbled the Russian economy. Its currency, the ruble, has dropped in value to less than one U.S. cent; energy and food prices inside the country have skyrocketed; it is almost totally isolated economically. Russia even had to shutter its stock market to prevent its total collapse.
Whether mandated by their own governments or their customer bases, corporations have not been idle: Major companies from McDonald’s to Apple to Disney to IKEA have suspended operations or left Russia altogether in response to its unprovoked attack on neighboring Ukraine.
As the business community wields its formidable economic cudgel, the brains that will some day lead those corporations have not been idle. MBA and other students at U.S. and European B-schools — many but not all of Ukrainian descent — have fundraised, launched petitions, and more. Today (March 8), in a move with perhaps less economic than educational and cultural significance, a leading global group of graduate business schools has suspended one of its own members, the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, in an expression of solidarity with the beleaguered nation of Ukraine — and at the request, interestingly enough, of the Russian school’s dean.
GNAM COMMITTEE CONDEMNS RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE
In a statement, the Steering Committee of the Global Network for Advanced Management condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and announced the suspension of Skolkovo from GNAM programming, dropping its membership rolls to 31 schools at least until the end of 2022. The Russian school has been a GNAM member since December 2019.
“The Russian government’s attempt to end Ukraine’s sovereignty is an awful example of callous brutality,” the committee’s statement reads. “Now engaged in indiscriminate attacks, the Russian military is destroying Ukrainian society and threatening millions of innocent Ukrainian citizens. Unanimously and without qualification, the Steering Committee condemns the Russian government and expresses our support of Ukraine.”
GNAM’s committee notes that the rector of MSM Skolkovo, Yuri Levin, released a personal statement on March 2 in which he expressed deep concerns about the situation in Ukraine, and a desire for an end to the violence. As reported by Poets&Quants,” Levin wrote, “I believe that any war is against human reason and human nature, especially when this war is between neighbours. With this message, I share my deepest concerns and condolences to all the people involved in this horrible conflict. Nothing can justify the violence and death of innocent people.
“I hope that this conflict ends as soon as possible, and both Russian and Ukrainian people go back to their families in peace.”
YALE DEAN CHARLES AMONG 9 MEMBERS OF GNAM STEERING COMMITTEE
Levin’s statement is “compelling,” GNAM’s committee writes. Perhaps even more compelling for the panel: Levin himself requested that Skolkovo be suspended from GNAM, while expressing a hope “that Skolkovo might be able to resume its participation at some point in the future.”
The nine-person committee — Jikyeong Kang of the Asian Institute of Management, Jörg Rocholl of ESMT, Kaz Ichijo of Hitotsubashi University Business School, David Bach of IMD, Alberto Trejos of INCAE Business School, Nida Bektas of Koç University Graduate School of Business, Chris Ogbechie of Lagos Business School at Pan-Atlantic University, Ted Snyder of Yale School of Management, and Yale SOM Dean Kerwin Charles — agreed, meaning the Moscow-based school will be excluded from participation from such GNAM programming as Global Network Weeks, Global Virtual Teams, and Small Network Online Courses. The suspension will be in effect until at least December 2022, when renewal of its three-year term is scheduled for regular review.
The move is “unfortunate,” the GNAM panel’s statement reads, because of the Russian school’s progress in recent years. “Since joining the network, Skolkovo has taken many steps to forward its worthy objective of developing Russian entrepreneurs who would engage globally. Those steps include participation in GNAM programming; in fact, earlier this calendar year, Skolkovo students joined others around the network in our Global Virtual Teams module. Skolkovo also has worked to further develop its faculty and was in the process of co-designing new degree programs with other member schools.”
INVASION SETS MSM SKOLKOVO BACK YEARS
The war in Ukraine occurs just as MSM Skolkovo is launching a 10-year strategy to coincide with its 15th anniversary. Since 2006, the privately funded school has graduated more than 3,300 through its MBA, EMBA, and HKUST-Skolkovo EMBA for Eurasia programs, in addition to its Practicum, Global SHIFT, and Startup Academy entrepreneurial programs; and more than 10 times that from its executive education programs for public and private sectors. As part of its 10-year plan, it has undertaken an overhaul of the MBA and embarked on a campaign to lure a small army of new professors to Moscow: Thirty percent of all the school’s teaching staff by the year 2025, and 50% by the year 2031, were to be new profs under Levin’s plan.
But the invasion of Ukraine, GNAM’s committee declares, has erased much of the Russian school’s progress.
“The very rationale for Skolkovo’s membership and its overall strategy are rendered invalid given that the Russian economy is on a path to become more isolated and less focused on the development of human capital,” the committee writes. “More practically, while we lack comprehensive knowledge of Skolkovo’s programs and operations, we expect the school to experience a substantial loss, if not an exodus of students, staff, and faculty. The straightforward implication is that Skolkovo will not be able to function as a viable member of the network. While we cannot be optimistic, we will remain steadfast in our hope that Russian and institutions like Skolkovo will be able to rejoin in the global economy.”
Notably, however, the GNAM committee also left open the possibility that individual member schools will continue to work with Skolkovo outside the parameters of the global network.
“The Steering Committee recognizes that it does not speak for all 32 member schools. Individual schools can decide whether to join in our condemnation of Russia,” it writes. “Moreover, GNAM has never prevented individual schools from pursuing bilateral or multi-lateral partnerships with other schools, whether they are part of GNAM or not. Each member school, therefore, has the right to decide how to engage with other schools, including Skolkovo. To the extent that individual schools can find ways to engage members of the Skolkovo community, the Steering Committee believes that such actions are consonant with GNAM’s mission to ‘drive innovation and create value by connecting leading global business schools, their resources, and their stakeholders.’”