Foreigners over the centuries have found it easier to enter Eastern Europe than to extricate themselves from it. Vienna–based Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is learning this painful historical lesson anew.
Austrian banks naturally leapt at the chance to expand eastward after the Berlin Wall and Soviet Communism fell. Erste Bank and Bank Austria (since acquired by Italy’s UniCredit) dueled Raiffeisen for market share across the former Warsaw Pact. But RBI ranged farthest and most aggressively of all, establishing itself as the largest foreign bank in both Russia and Ukraine, with the former as its top profit center.