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Vincent Cassel (left) and Viggo Mortensen in the Russian mobster thriller "Eastern Promises" (directed by David Cronenberg), which opens Fri., Sept. 14 at Pacific Place.

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Russian Mafia to Become Dangerously Overcaffeinated!

Be careful whom you partner with, Howard Schultz.

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Vincent Cassel (left) and Viggo Mortensen in the Russian mobster thriller "Eastern Promises" (directed by David Cronenberg), which opens Fri., Sept. 14 at Pacific Place. (Photo by Peter Mountain/Focus Features)

So Starbucks has finally expanded into Russia, as the company yesterday opened its first store in Moscow, following a nasty five-year legal battle with a trademark squatter who claimed the brand name as his own. Rather than pay a $600,000 bribe to retrieve its green mermaid logo, Starbucks somehow prevailed in court. Um, Howard—that’s company chairman Howard Schultz—didn’t anyone ever tell you that’s not how business is done in post-Soviet Russia? You don’t waste time and money in court. You just send out a goon to whack the guy, Putin-style. Problem solved for the price of a few bullets.

And another friendly bit of business advice, Howie: Be careful as you build all those new stores you have planned for the Wild, Wild East. If you get too big, Russian president Vladimir Putin might view you as a threat, like former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and throw you in the slammer. (Or, a few bullets in the back of the skull—depending on his mood.) It’s not like pushing flabby Seattle politicians around, or buying and selling basketball teams for fun and profit. The New Russia has ways of dealing with pushy entrepreneurs. Permanently.

But, Howard, if you should end up chilling in a Siberian gulag with Khodorkovsky, and if Putin asserts control over Starbucks—as he has with larger companies like Yukos oil—there might be one benefit for us coffee drinkers back in Seattle. When patrons order an extra shot—it’ll be straight vodka. And if those tips aren't generous, the baristas will be packing heat.

 
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