As BP, Shell, ExxonMobil Announce Cutting Ties to Russia, Oil Baron Charles Koch Remains Silent About His Sprawling Russian Operations
MAR 8, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAR 9, 2022
British Petroleum (BP), Shell, ExxonMobil and Norwegian oil and gas producer, Equinor, have all released statements indicating they are severing business ties with Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
But billionaire oil baron Charles Koch, who has sat at the helm of Koch Industries for more than half a century, has been unusually quiet about his plans for his sprawling Russian operations.
According to Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the world, three of its companies operate in Russia:
Molex, a manufacturer of semi-conductors, printed circuits, fiber optics and a multitude of other electrical components;
Koch Engineered Solutions, which makes process and pollution control equipment; and Guardian Industries, a glass and auto parts manufacturer.
Another unit of Koch Industries, Koch Supply and Trading, has a history of trading Russian oil.
Guardian Industries’ division, Guardian Glass, has two large plants in Russia: one in Ryazan and one in Rostov.
The Rostov plant was described as follows in a 2011 press release from Guardian Glass:
“The $220-million plant will be Guardian’s largest, producing 900 tons of glass per day, and will include a technologically advanced glass coater.
“The Rostov plant will produce Guardian’s high-performance, energy-efficient ClimaGuard(R) (residential) and SunGuard(R) (commercial) glass products for construction of homes, offices, retail, health-care and other facilities. The plant is expected to begin operation in mid-2012, based on fulfillment of all incentives and agreements with local authorities, and will initially create 300 new jobs…
“The location is a good fit for Guardian’s growth strategy to supply glass to Russia and neighboring countries….”
Should Charles Koch be supplying glass for “homes, offices, retail, health care” in Russia while Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the name of Russia, is bombing homes, offices and hospitals into rubble in Ukraine and ruthlessly killing innocent children and families?
In addition to imposing sweeping financial sanctions, both the European Union and the U.S. have imposed sanctions intended to strip Russia of technology that would allow its economy to advance while it bombs its neighbor and makes thinly-veiled threats about its potential use of nuclear weapons. According to the European Council on Foreign Relations, this is what those technology sanctions consist of:
“The long list of advanced technologies subject to de facto bans on exports to Russia includes semiconductors, telecommunications equipment, software (including that for encryption), lasers, aviation and space systems, and oil-refining machinery. While EU sanctions are limited to sales and exports to Russia from within the union, the US now prohibits exports to Russia and Belarus from anywhere in the world of any product created using American software or equipment. With other important tech players such as South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan having joined the blockade, Russia is largely cut off from the global high-tech industry.”
This raises the question as to whether products produced within Russia by U.S. corporations need to be separately sanctioned. Other major corporations did not need to have that spelled out and quickly announced that they were severing relationships with Russia. Koch, however, is not known for altruistic behavior. In fact, it is known for exactly the opposite.
According to ImportGenius.com, in the past eight years Koch Supply and Trading has purchased large amounts of oil from two Russian companies, Gazprom Neft and Surgutex. Koch Supply and Trading is a sprawling trading octopus that operates in the dark for the most part. For all anyone knows, it could be trading Russian oil on world markets, which could be propping up the price of Russian oil and helping to finance Putin’s brutal and murderous campaign in Ukraine.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the first-ever shipments of Russian crude oil purchased by the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve in 2002 were supplied by Koch Industries.
For the past forty years, Charles Koch has been involved in creating and funding a sprawling network of front groups that seek to shrink the federal government in order to gut it of its regulatory powers over corporations – particularly those involved with fossil fuels, like his own Koch Industries. Charles Koch, who is currently worth $53 billion according to Forbes, also holds semi-annual strategy meetings with like-minded billionaires and millionaires to plan how to sway election outcomes to candidates that will do their bidding in Congress.
In 2014, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Charles Koch and his brother, David (who died in 2019) of trying “to fix every election in America to their liking.” That was the same year that Koch Industries launched its first ever nationwide marketing campaign – which since that time has enriched media outlets with millions of dollars in ads for its consumer paper products division which produces such items as Dixie disposable paper plates, bowls, cups and Northern Quilted and Angel Soft bath tissue.
Charles Koch tried to distance himself in the media from Donald Trump’s reelection bid but he and Koch Industries were deeply incentivized to ensure that Donald Trump had another four years as President, because the first Trump administration had been packed with Koch-friendly operatives.
A Koch nonprofit front group that played a major role in the 2016 presidential election was Freedom Partners. (It shuttered in 2019.) It was hard to see where Freedom Partners began and Koch Industries ended. In 2018, we took a hard look at Freedom Partners’ Board of Directors. We found that all but one of its Board Members was a current or former Koch company employee. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Freedom Partners ended up with 12 of its former employees working in the Trump Administration.
Freedom Partners Action Fund, a related organization that pummeled Democrats in attack ads in the leadup to the 2016 election, had received at least $14 million from Charles Koch and his trust before it shuttered its operations.
Freedom Partners put their marching orders for the first Trump administration in a formal memo. The Trump administration quickly marched to the beat, from the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord to the massive tax cut for corporations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seen as an enemy by the fossil fuels industry, was handily dealt with by the Trump administration. He put industry cronies in charge. Koch Industries has been serially charged, including a criminal conviction, with dangerously polluting the environment. On January 13, 2000, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the largest civil fine ever imposed against Koch Industries to resolve claims related to its “more than 300 oil spills from its pipelines and oil facilities in six states.” The company agreed to pay a $30 million civil penalty and spend $5 million on environmental projects. Daniel Schulman documented Koch Industries’ history of environmental abuses in his 2014 book, Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty.
The activities of Charles Koch and Koch Industries are incompatible with a democracy. They have funded climate denial front groups for decades. They’ve turned much of the Republican Party into parrots of Ayn Rand. They own a political campaign services company with a massive voter database called i360 that works on behalf of Koch-approved candidates for both state and federal office. (How is it legal, by the way, for a fossil fuels conglomerate to function as a de facto political party/get out the vote operation?) And as we reported in January of last year, the money trail to the January 6 siege on the Capitol leads directly to Charles Koch and Koch Industries.
Last March, Daniel Lippman at Politico reported that Charles Koch had made a commitment to donate $4.5 million over five years to the think tank, the Atlantic Council. What happened next was that a pro-Russian article popped up on the Atlantic Council’s website. The co-author of the piece, Emma Ashford, had come from the Cato Institute. (For how the Koch brothers kept their ownership of the non-profit think tank, the Cato Institute, a secret for decades, see our report: Secret Owners of Cato Institute Surface as Koch Brothers Move to Take Control.)
The article on Russia at the Atlantic Council was so bad that 22 of the think-tanks’ staffers and fellows released a statement distancing themselves from the article. According to Lippman, “One person who signed the statement told POLITICO that they worried the article was, or might be viewed as, a shoddy work product influenced by a $4.5 million donation over five years to the Atlantic Council from Charles Koch, who advocates for less American intervention abroad.”
Something has gone incredibly wrong with U.S. intelligence and the U.S. national security apparatus for this Koch Industries structure to be tolerated in America.