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Boeing suspends operations in Russia, major titanium supplier in crosshairs

EVERETT, Wash. March 2, 2022 – Governor Jay Inslee announced on Monday, February 28, that state entities are to identify and sever ties with Russian institutions. Boeing is certainly not part of the state government — the company also relocated their headquarters to Chicago in 2001 — but the aerospace giant still remains a major employer here in Washington. For almost 25 years, Boeing has partnered with Russian titanium producer VSMPO-AVISMA and just renewed their agreement in November 2021. While there are currently few details, Boeing has taken steps to respond to Russian aggression.

Politico reporter Lee Hudson tweeted on Tuesday:

JUST IN: From Boeing, “We have suspended major operations in Moscow and temporarily closed our office in Kyiv. We have also suspended parts, maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines.”

As Boeing’s largest titanium supplier, it does beg to question what sort of ramifications this move will have. President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Stan Deal called VSMPO-AVISMA “a reliable and valuable partner” in the November press release. 

The Boeing 737, 767, 787, 777 and 777X airplanes all use VSMPO-AVISMA titanium, but the agreement with the Russian company goes beyond supplying titanium. The recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) had three main objectives: 

  • Increase utilization of their Russia-based Ural Boeing Manufacturing joint venture.
  • Increase R&D investment and continue to develop new titanium alloys and technologies.
  • Explore new opportunities to expand VSMPO-AVISMA’s role producing titanium parts and components beyond raw material or forging, for current and future Boeing commercial airplanes.

But responding to Russia in spite of economic repercussions has national bipartisan support. The state legislature amended their budget proposals to include $19 million for Ukrainian refugees. 

“If our state can put one brick in the wall around Putin, it will be a good thing, and we intend to do all that we can in this regard,” Inslee said. 

In the private sector, a plethora of organizations have taken action against Russia. Apple also recently joined the growing list of private companies and international organizations — Visa, Mastercard, Adidas, BP and Ford to name a few — that have taken tangible steps. There are some that argue that companies acting days into the conflict only do so because government sanctions are forcing their hand, but regardless, pressure is mounting on Putin and the Russian government. 

“I would say it’s going to be a lot worse for business if we end up in some type of armed conflict with Vladimir Putin,” Inslee said in his announcement on Monday. “Because he doesn’t get the message that we are not going to let him go into Poland and Bulgaria and Hungary and Latvia and Estonia. He needs to get that message.”

The Lynnwood Times is awaiting a statement from Boeing regarding its supply of VSMPO-AVISMA titanium and other impacts from the sanctions on Russia.

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