Oh dear. It seems that starting an unprovoked war is not the best way to inspire foreign investment in your country. For 25 years, the Kremlin has touted the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) as Russia’s equivalent of the World Economic Forum, using the summit to try to attract the forces of capital.
But after a string of sanctions, it seems that no one from the West now wants to be seen at ‘Putin’s Davos’ this week (quelle surprise). No names of American and European companies or their CEOs are on the published schedule for SPIEF, which begins today and ends Saturday. To save face, the Russians are instead presenting the forum as a chance to attract investment from developing markets in Asia and the Middle East; countries that haven’t joined the international condemnation of the Ukrainian invasion.
This means that, as Reuters puts it, ‘Having once welcomed then- German chancellor Angela Merkel, ex-IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, Citi’s Vikram Pandit and ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson’ instead Moscow will be giving ‘top billing this week to the presidents of allied states Kazakhstan and Armenia.’ Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is also set to address the meeting via video link. What a roll call.
Humiliatingly, the Taliban are also now honoured guests, since their restoration to power in Kabul last year. It’s quite a change from the early noughties, when Putin’s ally Sergey Ivanov was demanding more sanctions on the Islamic fundamentalists and declaring that ‘there is no question of opening talks with the Taliban.’ Still, desperate times and all that, eh Vlad?
St Petersburg’s economic forum was Russia’s answer to Davos, where western CEOs and heads of state lined up to kiss Putin’s ring.
— max seddon (@maxseddon) June 15, 2022
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