The Russian Crusade Against the Golden Arches

Under the guise of enforcing hygiene standards, Vladimir Putin continues his push against McDonald's franchises.

Following the Russian annexation of Crimea earlier this year, the three McDonald's outlets in the erstwhile Ukrainian peninsula were shuttered. At least one of the stores was taken over by RusBurger, the nationalist Russian hamburger chain, which boasts Czar cheeseburgers instead of Big Macs and pear lemonade instead of Coca-Cola.

In the ensuing months, as tensions have flared between the United States and Russia over the (still) ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the Golden Arches have become a casualty in the battle. The oldest McDonald's in Russia, which for decades sat on Pushkin Square in Moscow, was among the four stores that were forced closed for "numerous violations of the sanitary code” back in August. According to The Times, it had once been the busiest McDonald's in the world.

On Monday, word spread that Russia had expanded its crackdown on McDonald's, closing nine more outlets and opening investigations against 200 others (or nearly half the McDonald's franchises in Russia). According to Bloomberg, McDonald's said it plans to fight the closures.

While Russia claims its investigations of McDonald's are either for hygienic or financial reasons, the campaign against (perhaps) the most symbolically American brand has coincided with an international escalation of sanctions against Russia.

In August, Russia declared bans on agricultural imports from the United States and the European Union. This most recent effort against McDonald's coincides with a new extension of a Russian ban on animal fat imports from the European Union, which Russian officials claim have to do with harmful substances.

Despite the posturing, Russia's actions against McDonald's seem destined to hurt Russia in the long run. Writing of the McDonald's closures and audits over at Vox, Zack Beauchamp notes:

In purely economic terms, the war on McDonald's is, like so much of Russia's recent lashing out at the West, mostly self-defeating. There are give-or-take 437 McDonald's in Russia and they purchase about 85 percent of their supplies from Russian companies.

As The Guardian points out, McDonald's also employs more than 35,000 Russians.