‘So we just wait and see’

Russian CEOs hope for rapprochement with US this year

‘So we just wait and see’
Photo: kremlin.ru

Russian business representatives believe they can see a rapprochement between Russia and the United States in 2020 after years of tense relations. This year’s US elections and recent constitutional and governmental reforms in Russia are the key factors that may improve — or deteriorate — the relationship between the two countries.

In Russia, chief executives are hopeful that Moscow and Washington could reset relations this year despite President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and a dispute over Nord Stream 2, says CNBC. At the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Russian CEOs expressed hopes that President Putin’s new constitutional and parliamentary reforms can lead to improvements not only to Russia but also to its relations with other global powers, especially the US.

“We actually believe that this year could be a good year to improve relations with the US. [...] We can do a lot of things together,” said Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund. According to Dmitriev, there were also signs of a rapprochement between Russia and its neighbour Ukraine. “Europe already has given lots of signs that it wants to reconcile with Russia, and we see a lot of progress on Ukraine, and [Ukraine’s president] Mr Zelensky wants to have some compromises with Russia, so we believe that creates a very positive geopolitical backdrop.”

Meeting between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of the United States Donald Trump in Helsinki, Finland, July 2018. Photo: kremlin.ru

Putin’s changes to the cabinet could “lead to changes in relations [with the US], but “this is a two-way street”, said Sberbank CEO Herman Gref. “So it is also about trust, a lot would depend on the US elections. So if the relations between the leaders [of our two countries] are based on mutual trust, nothing would stand in the way of such a reset. We pin a lot of hopes on such a reset and businesses need it badly,” he added.

Meanwhile, Andrey Kostin, the chairman and president of Russia’s second-largest lender VTB Bank, was less optimistic. He told CNBC that the upcoming US elections in combination with President Trump’s impeachment trial (the US president is accused of abuse of power although he denies wrongdoing) could prevent the two countries from restoring their relationship. “I think the big obstacle is the domestic problem in America, because [...] Mr Trump can hardly talk to Mr Putin while there’s an impeachment inquiry,” Kostin said. “So we just wait and see.”

The relations between the US and Russia have been scrutinised since Donald Trump’s election to the White House in 2016. The American president, who has often shown admiration for his Russian counterpart, has been pressured by many US lawmakers to maintain and increase sanctions against Russia, says CNBC. In December, he approved new sanctions against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany.

By Anna Litvina