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Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson flies to Moscow

British Foreign Boris Johnson flies to Russia but with no fresh thinking to offer prospects of improving relations look slim.

Alexander Mercouris

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News that British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson is flying to Moscow comes directly after a House of Commons Foreign Affairs committee reported that Britain’s policy of not speaking to the Russians has become unsustainable.

This will be the first visit of a British minister to Moscow for 5 years.

The opinions of this committee were well summed up in a short article in the Guardian by its chairman, the Conservative MP Sir Crispin Blunt

Refusal to engage with the Russian government is not a viable long-term foreign policy option for the UK. Back in 2000 my predecessors on the foreign affairs committee noted that the Foreign Office “must continue and develop its critical engagement with Russia in the mutual interest of our two European countries”.

While understanding the immense challenges that the government faces in any engagement with Russia, we could do better. Without engagement it is impossible to scope out areas of common interest or indeed to be clear of our mutual understanding on points of difference. The Foreign Office’s expertise on Russia has, frankly, disintegrated since the cold war, and Whitehall has lost some of the skills needed to handle the country. The UK also needs to develop a long-term strategy to foster people-to-people relations between Russia and the UK.

The foreign secretary recognises that disengagement serves no-one’s long-term interests. He recently noted: “We have to engage with Russia. We have to talk to the Russians. We cannot endlessly push them away and demonise them.” The government now needs to turn this sentiment into a clear strategy.

The immense difficulties that lie ahead of re-establishing a functioning dialogue between the British and the Russians is however highlighted by another passage in Sir Crispin Blunt’s article.  This too follows closely the thinking of the committee he chaired

Our report noted the possibility of the UK becoming an isolated actor on the sanctions, and the increasing difficulty in sustain a united western position. Furthermore, we highlighted the need for western policymakers to compartmentalise the various theatres, such as Ukraine, Syria and even sport, rejecting any Putin-Trump grand bargain. Grand Bargains only incentivise parties to start collecting more bargaining chips, potentially threatening other fields.

No-one, least of all the Russians, is talking of a ‘Grand Bargain’.  However a successful relationship requires some willingness to meet the other side’s concerns if only part way.  Sir Crispin Blunt’s words unfortunately show that the British are not prepared to do any such thing.  Instead his call to ‘compartmentalise’ contentious issues looks like a case of the British both wanting to have their cake and eat it, with the British continuing to treat the Russians as an enemy on issues that matter to Russia, whilst having Russia’s help on issues which matter to Britain.

A good example is the approach Sir Crispin Blunt and his committee propose Britain should take in relation to the sanctions issue.  It is worth setting out the committee’s comments about this in full

If the UK is determined to maintain a principled stance in relation to the sanctions on Russia, this may require uncomfortable conversations with close allies. The withdrawal of the existing sanctions should be linked to Russian compliance with its obligations toward Ukraine, and should not be offered in exchange for Russian co-operation in other areas. This approach would avoid ceding moral and legal legitimacy to Russia and departing from UK values and standards.The challenge in this approach is that the practical effect of economic sanctions on Russian decision-making is doubtful. It looks as though it will be increasingly difficult to sustain a united western position on sanctions, not least if they become a bargaining point during Brexit negotiations. The UK faces the possibility of becoming an isolated actor supporting a policy towards Russia that is failing. This could lead to further damage to Britain’s long-term ability to influence Russia.

96.The international community must remain unified in the face of Russia’s assertion of its perceived sphere of influence and its disregard for the international norms in its treatment of Ukraine. The FCO should prioritise international unity on policy towards Russia in talks with the new US Administration, and should continue to work closely with EU partners to maintain support for Ukraine, whether this is delivered through sanctions and/or assistance to Ukraine.

Alternative pathways for drawing down sanctions

97.The withdrawal of some EU sanctions is specifically linked to the completion of the Minsk II process. Yet the process has stalled amid frequent ceasefire violations and debates in Ukraine over the decentralisation measures that Minsk II requires. Officials we met on our visits to Russia and Ukraine both blamed the other side for the lack of progress.

98.This stalemate in part reflects the flaws inherent in the text of the agreement. The terms of Minsk II require Ukraine to reform its constitution, to grant a “special status” to Donetsk and Luhansk and to hold elections there. Yet the agreement’s lack of clarity on the precise sequencing of these steps has led to disputes and deadlock in the Ukrainian parliament. By contrast, Russia is not named in the text, which requires only that “armed formations from certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions” adhere to the ceasefire terms and that “foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as mercenaries” withdraw from Ukraine.130 This allows Russia to deny any responsibility for implementing the Agreement, as Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Putin, did in an interview with BBC News’ HARDtalk programme in January 2017.131 The fact that Russia is not given any direct responsibilities also means there are no specific actions that would demonstrate Russian compliance with the process.

99.The FCO should be open to considering any proposals that the Russian Government may advance to resolve the situation in Ukraine outside the Minsk II process that are in line with international law. Russian actions demonstrating compliance with the rule of international law in Ukraine could be linked to the gradual removal of sanctions and would provide Russia with a route map to restoring positive relations with the West. We invite the FCO in its response to this report to detail the exact responsibilities of Russia with regard to the Minsk II agreement. The measure of success in relation to sanctions is their no longer being needed. It is therefore imperative that the international community recognises the need for an achievable route to rapprochement

(bold italics added)

The committee admits the sanctions policy is failing and that it failed to achieve what it was intended to do, which was change Russian policy towards Ukraine and Crimea.  They admit that the linkage of the sanctions to the Minsk Agreement makes no sense because the Minsk Agreement not only makes no demands of Russia but Russia is not even mentioned in its text.  The committee admits Britain’s capacity to influence Russia or even Britain’s allies on the question of the sanctions is limited and likely to decline.  The committee admits that by maintaining its ultra hard-line on sanctions Britain risks becoming isolated supporting a policy which is visibly failing.

Yet instead of proposing a British diplomatic initiative to break the deadlock so that the sanctions can be lifted and Britain can avoid becoming isolated, all the committee is ultimately prepared to do is ask the British Foreign Office to present to the Russians a new set of demands the Russians must fulfil in order for the sanctions to be lifted (“report in detail the exact responsibilities of Russia with regard to the Minsk II agreement”).

The committee does not say what would happen if the Russians reject this approach – as they will – and instead respond – as they also will – that they are not prepared to re-write the Minsk Agreement to take extra responsibilities upon themselves simply because the British want them to, and that they insist instead on the Minsk Agreement in its present form (which they regard as perfectly clear) be complied with in full by the only party which is breaching it, which is Ukraine.

 In a similar vein, on issue after issue – Syria, human rights etc – it is the Russians who the committee says are in the wrong, and who must make the concessions, even if the committee also admits that the British are in no position to force the Russians to make the concessions.

The House of Commons committee’s report does contain some flickers of realism.  It rejects proposals that Britain should boycott next year’s World Cup in Russia.  It says that closing down the British branches of RT and Sputnik would be a serious mistake.  On the question of alleged Russian war crimes in Syria, it draws back back from these claims (though it does not drop them completely) and it makes this striking comment criticising British and Western rhetoric on this issue, which calls into question the evidence upon which that rhetoric was based

118.There is currently no realistic prospect of the ICC mechanism being used to investigate and address war crimes committed in Syria.

119.The UN inquiry into the air strike on the convoy (discussed in detail here – AM) demonstrated the challenge of establishing the intent behind an attack on a plainly civilian target in order to sustain a conclusive view on whether or not a war crime has been committed. The Russian response to these charges was consistent with its view that it is held to different standards from those to which we hold ourselves. The Government is right to call out the Russian military for actions that potentially violate International Humanitarian Law. However, if the Government continues to allege that Russia has committed war crimes in Syria without providing a basis for its charge, it risks bolstering the Kremlin’s narrative that Russia is held to unfair double standards by hostile and hypocritical western powers. Un-evidenced rhetoric from both sides also makes it difficult to implement the practical co-operation measures necessary to deliver lasting peace in Syria.

(bold italics added)

However the only positive proposal the committee comes up with in order to improve relations between Britain and Russia, one on which however it rests far too much hope, is anti-terrorism cooperation

130.  Russia and the United Kingdom have a shared interest in combatting Islamist terrorism and extremism. It is difficult to envisage how to progress this shared interest considering the differences between the two countries’ respective definitions and analyses of terrorism, and acceptable methods to defeat it. Any dialogue with Russia must be handled with the greatest care, but it is at least worth exploring. The Government and its agencies should be having a regular dialogue with their Russian counterparts about the causes of Islamist extremist violence and the potential strategies to address it. This shared objective could be utilised to open constructive dialogue with Russia in the area of common shared security and anti-terrorism. That dialogue should be used to improve relations, better understand Russian foreign policy and initiate discussion on freedom of expression, the rule of law and human rights, and the ongoing issues in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

(bold italics added)

The last sentence gives the game away.  The committee admits, though rather grudgingly, that anti-terrorist cooperation with Russia is in Britain’s interests.  However it wants Britain to leverage this cooperation to “change Russian behaviour” on other issues according to Britain’s wishes.  Reading this sentence the Russians – who after all do not need Britain’s help to defeat terrorism – must wonder whether the grudging help the British are prepared to offer is worth the price.

The great British historian A.J.P. Taylor once said in my presence that the fundamental problem of British policy towards Russia is that Britain always treats Russia like a tap, which it wants to be able to turn on and off whenever it likes.  Stripped of some of its realist language, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs committee report is no different.

The Russians have never accepted being treated in this way, and there is no reason to think they will do so now.

This British refusal or inability to engage in any fresh thinking on any key issue of concern to Russia inevitably means that any ‘dialogue’ the British now try to establish with Russia will be a dialogue of the deaf, with the British and Russians talking passed each other.

Unfortunately all the indications are that this is the approach Boris Johnson is intending to take with him to Moscow.  The Financial Times quotes a British Foreign Office official saying

This is absolutely not about cosying up — in fact the opposite.  He intends to say the same things face to face as we do in public . . . Boris has always said we can’t reset but we must engage when in our interests.

If Boris Johnson is simply going to Moscow to read his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov another lecture on Russian misbehaviour whilst demanding Russian help on issues of British interest, then he is simply wasting his own and Lavrov’s time.  If the Russians are no longer willing to listen to such lectures from the US, then they are certainly not prepared to take them from the British, and whatever help they are prepared to give the British on any issue of interest to the British will be limited in consequence.

All the indications unfortunately are that Boris Johnson’s trip to Moscow will be a short and uncomfortable one, and that no breakthrough should be expected, with British-Russian relations stuck in the same impasse that they have been in throughout my lifetime.

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Russia makes MASSIVE progress on its ‘super-weapons’

Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle moves into serial production, nuclear-engine powered cruise missile tests continue, and more as Russia continues to outdo all Western military tech

Seraphim Hanisch

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On July 19th and 20th, The Russian Defense Ministry announced several milestones of progress in its advanced weapons systems programs. These programs were revealed to the world in March of this year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the State of the Russian Federation speech.

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While at first the Western onlookers did not believe the amazing announcements of hypersonic weapons and nuclear-powered cruise missiles with unlimited range, subsequent releases and concurrent observation by the American military experts has shown these developments to be as real as Mr. Putin claimed they are.

TASS, the Russian News Agency, released information on these weapons systems in separate reports:

Kinzhal

The Kinzhal hypersonic missile:

Squadrons of MiG-31 fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles should enter combat duty in the Black Sea region and at other Russian fleets and flotillas, said Russian military expert Viktor Murakhovsky, the editor-in-chief of the Arsenal Otechestva magazine.

Besides, a squadron (between 12 and 16 aircraft) of MiG-31 fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles entered combat duty in the Caspian Sea region in April.

“I think at least one squadron of those complexes should be deployed at any fleet, in other words – at all regions where we have fleets and flotillas. We need to deploy them in the regions of the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Northern Fleet. The Pacific region also should not be forgotten,” Murakhovsky said.

He said that such systems can become a “good instrument” against not only vessels equipped with high-precision weapons, but also for countering carrier attack groups.

“We know how expensive a carrier attack group can be. By employing this asymmetric method, which is unbelievably cheap in comparison with building a carrier attack group, we can neutralize this threat almost completely,” the expert said.

Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile trials:

The Burevestnik is an entirely new cruise missile, powered by a nuclear engine. This gives the missile unlimited range. In theory, such a missile could be launched at a target and spend days or weeks in hidden flight using advanced guidance systems, and then close on its target at the optimal time to assure destruction of that target with maximum surprise. The TASS piece goes on to say:

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russia was preparing to test upgraded test prototypes of the nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile with an unlimited range.

According to the expert, it is highly likely that the prototype of the missile “has already made a flight.”

“Clearly, it was something like the pop-up trials of Sarmat – a launch without the nuclear-powered engine, in other words, with an ordinary missile booster, conducted in order to assess the possibility of a launch, aerodynamics and the operability of the entire system in general,” [Murakhovsky] said.

Further reporting from TASS had this to add about the Burevestnik program:

Russia is getting ready for flight tests of the Burevestnik nuclear powered cruise missile, an official at the Defense Ministry told reporters on Thursday.

“The missile’s component makeup is being improved based on clarified requirements, while ground tests continue and preparations are being made for experimental flight tests of the improved missile,” the official said.

According to the Defense Ministry, “work on an unlimited-range missile is going according to plan.”

“In the meantime, launching systems are also being designed, while technological processes to manufacture, assemble and test the missile are being improved. This range of work will make it possible to start designing a totally new sort of weapon – a strategic nuclear complex armed with a nuclear powered missile,” the ministry official noted.

[The head] of the 12th Central Research Institute at Russia’s Defense Ministry Sergey Pertsev, in turn, said that the tests of the new cruise missile equipped with a small nuclear power unit had confirmed the accuracy of the technical decisions that Russian researchers, engineers and designers had made. In addition, the tests enabled the researchers “to receive valuable experimental data necessary for specifying a number of requirements.”

“A low-flying and low-observable cruise missile carrying a nuclear warhead, with an almost unlimited range, an unpredictable trajectory and capability to bypass interception lines is invincible to all the existing and advanced air and missile defense systems,” the Russian Defense Ministry stressed.

A further use of the nuclear engine technology is also expected in the Poseidon underwater drone, Mr. Murakhovsky stated that separate systems for the craft have been successfully tested. He further noted that the next task is to design the entire layout, build a test model and begin testing the whole platform.

The Avangard Hypersonic Missile

While the Kinzhal is a Mach-10 capable hypersonic system that can be launched from a fighter, the Avangard is a Mach-20 capable system that has intercontinental reach. There is almost no footage of this system released to the public, but the concept videos show how the system works. TASS reports this status:

Russia’s Strategic Missile Force is preparing a position area for accepting the Avangard hypersonic missile system for service as part of the efforts to strengthen the country’s military security, the Defense Ministry announced on Thursday.

“The Russian defense industry has completed developing the Avangard missile system with the principally new armament – the gliding cruise warhead. Industrial enterprises have switched to its serial production,” the Defense Ministry said.

“A set of organizational and technical measures is underway in the position area of the Dombarovsky large unit of the Strategic Missile Force to accept the Avangard missile system for operation,” it added.

The development of new strategic weapon systems “is aimed at increasing Russia’s defense capability and preventing any aggression against our country and its allies,” the Defense Ministry stressed.

The infrastructural facilities of the large unit’s position area have already been prepared for the missile system’s operation, the ministry said.

“The position area has been prepared in geodesic and engineering terms to accommodate the missile system. Work is underway to build new and reconstruct old facilities to provide for the operation and the combat use of the system. Technical and utility supply lines are being modernized and electric power, communications and command and control cables are being laid. Work has been arranged to train personnel and prepare armament, military and special hardware,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

Deputy Commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Force for Armament Sergei Poroskun has said that the Avangard hypersonic missile system features combat capabilities that “make it possible to reliably breach any anti-missile defenses.”

The Okhotnik attack drone

The Okhotnik (“Hunter”) attack drone is now being viewed as a prototype for Russia’s “sixth-generation” fighter plane. TASS describes this in more detail:

According to [a defense industry] official, although the sixth generation fighter jet project “has not yet taken full shape, its main features are already known.”

“First of all, it should be unmanned and capable of performing any combat task in an autonomous regime. In this sense, Okhotnik will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,’ the source said, adding that the drone will be able to “take off, fulfill its objectives and return to the airfield.”

“However, it will not receive the function of decision-making regarding the use of weapons – this will be decided by a human,” he said.

TASS was unable to officially confirm the information at the time of the publication.

Another defense industry source earlier told TASS that the prototype of Okhotnik (Hunter) was ready and would start test flights this year.

The Russian Defense Ministry and the Sukhoi Company signed a contract for developing the 20-ton Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned strike aircraft in 2011. The drone’s mock-up model was made in 2014. According to unconfirmed reports, composite materials and anti-radar coating were used to create the Okhotnik. The drone is equipped with a reaction-jet propulsion and is supposed to develop a speed of 1000 kilometers per hour.

Peresvet laser weapons systems

TASS reported that the Russian military forces are now training for the use of the Peresvet combat laser system:

Russian Aerospace Force has accepted for service the laser complexes Peresvet and the military are now taking drills that involve the novel combat technologies, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“The Peresvet laser complexes have been placed at sites of permanent deployment,” the report said. “Active efforts to make them fully operational are underway.”

“To ensure their proper functioning, the necessary infrastructures and specialized facilities for housing the complexes and duty crews have been built,” the ministry said.

The crews assigned to the Peresvets have taken upgrader courses at the Alexander Mozhaisky Military-Space Academy in St Petersburg.

The Russian military strategy of “asymmetric response.”

The overall defense strategy is termed an “asymmetric response”, and Mr. Murakhovsky explained the principle in this way:

“This is an asymmetric response, in which new classes of weapons are created, instead of new types within the framework of the existing systems. Other states are not expected to have anything of this kind [in the near future],” he said.

The expert described this response as “quite an efficient one, all the more so because it requires no additional investment – all the works are being carried out within the framework of the state procurement program.”

He added that unlike the Soviet Union, Russia avoids being dragged into a direct arms race and searches for cutting-edge solutions instead of simply increasing the number of weapons.

“The development of counter-weapons to those arms [may be possible] in distant future, but it does not mean that they can be created at all,” Murakhovsky added.

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From McCain to Brennan, Deep State soft coup against Trump picks up steam (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 59.

Alex Christoforou

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After Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki, the Deep State smells blood, and is moving quickly to depose of US President Donald Trump.

Government officials and mainstream media puppets from left and right are condemning the US President over his press conference with Vladimir Putin.

Leading the charge are the usual Deep State, suspects, starting with John McCain and ending with the man many believe is behind the entire Trump-Russia collusion hoax, former Obama CIA boss John Brennan.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou examine the soft coup aimed at removing US President Trump by the November 2018 midterms. Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via The Independent

Conservative John McCain, who is facing a rare and terminal brain cancer, unleashed a damning statement against Mr Trump’s conference with Mr Putin, describing it as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”.

“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin,” he said.

“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout — as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realise his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbours, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.”

The conservative senator’s comments arrived after the US president declined to name Russia as the adversary behind coordinated attacks on the 2016 presidential election.

While discussing whether he thought Russia was behind hacks against the 2016 election — as the US intelligence community has determined —the president said: “I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

“Dan Coats [the US Director of National Intelligence] said its Russia. President Putin says its not Russia,” said Mr Trump. “I don’t know why it would be…..I have confidence in both parties. President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

That set off a wave of condemnations from Democrats and Republicans alike.

“President Trump’s press conference with Putin was an embarrassing spectacle,” Bernie Sanders wrote in a tweet. “Rather than make clear that interference in our elections is unacceptable, Trump instead accepted Putin’s denials and cast doubt on the conclusions of our intelligence community. This is not normal.”

Jeff Flake, one of the only frequent Republican critics of Mr Trump in Congress, said the conference was “shameful” in a statement he posted across social media.

“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression,” he said. “This is shameful.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan released a statement calling for Mr Trump’s impeachment and describing his comments as “treasonous”.

“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours,'” Mr Brennan wrote on Twitter. “It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Elizabeth Warren also slammed the president for failing to hold Mr Putin accountable, writing on Twitter: “Russia interfered in our elections & attacked our democracy. Putin must be held accountable – not rewarded.”

“Disgraceful,” she concluded.

However, Mr Trump’s typical roster of critics weren’t the only legislators rebuking his bizarre denials of US intelligence. Lindsey Graham also criticised Mr Trump’s performance, adding that his denial of US intelligence will “be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves”.

“Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections,” he said.

The Republican senator added a suggestion to Mr Trump: review the soccer ball Mr Putin gave to him as a gift for “listening devices” and “never allow it in the White House.”

Thomas Pickering, a regarded statesman and the former US ambassador to Russia, told MSNBC that he was in utter disbelief after the press conference was held on Monday.

“It’s a breathtaking denial of something that clearly is so obviously true,” he said. ”it represents the epitome of President Trump’s effort at self-promotion over the notion of defending the national interest of the United States.”

Mark Warner, a Virginia senator, also suggested Mr Trump committed a clear violation of his responsibilities as president.

Mr Trump committed “a breach of his duty to defend our country against its adversaries,” Mr Warner said. ”If the President cannot defend the United States and its interests in public, how can we trust him to stand up for our country in private?”

Meanwhile the latest Deep State leak, via the NYT, claims that US President Trump was told by Obama holdovers that Putin was involved in cyberattacks during the 2016 election. US intelligence told Trump this information days before the inauguration.

Via The Gateway Pundit

The same liberal hacks who illegally leaked this information want Americans to trust them as they continue to destroy this duly elected president.

President Trump on Wednesday told CBS anchor Jeff Glor that he has no confidence in the tainted intelligence by far left hacks Clapper, Brennan and Comey.

And, once again, the timing of this leak is not an accident.

Liberals are outraged that President Trump refused to chest bump Putin in Helsinki.

The deep state leaked this information to pile on the Republican president.

The New York Times reported…

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

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Russia ranks HIGHER than Switzerland in these areas of doing business

Some curious things happened with several businesspeople who attended World Cup events in Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

One of them was a distinctly renewed interest in doing business inside the country, and another was the realization to what extent perceptions have been tainted by media and political rhetoric directed against any real or imagined nastiness attributed to Russia these days.

These past few weeks have been invaluable, at the very least by affording a clear picture of Russia through which almost all anxiety-ridden preconceptions were illuminated and dispelled. More disturbing was the fact that the several businesspeople I was dealing with were furious. They were livid for being played for fools, and felt victimized by the dismally untrue picture painted about Russia and Russians in their home countries, both by their own politicians and the press.

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Most felt that they have been personally sanctioned by their own countries, betrayed through lack of clear unbiased information enabling them to participate and profit from Russia opportunities these past three growth years in spite of “sanctions”.

The door to doing good business in Russia has been and is open, and has been opening wider year after year. That is not just “highly likely”, but fact. Consistently improving structures, means and methods to conduct business in Russia sustainably, transparently and profitably are now part of the country’s DNA. It is a process, which has been worked on in the west for more than a century, and one, which Russia has only started these past 18 years.

True, there are sanctions, counter-sanctions, and regulations governing them that must be studied carefully. However if you are not a bank or doing business with those persons deemed worthy of being blacklisted by some countries “sanctions list”, in reality there are no obstacles that cannot be positively addressed and legally overcome despite the choir of political nay-sayers.

READ MORE: Russia just dumped $80 BILLION in US debt

The days of quickly turning over Russia opportunities into short-term cash are rapidly fading, they are a throwback to the 1990’s. Today the major and open opportunities are in the areas for Foreign Direct Investments. The nature of FDI is long term to make regularly recurring sustainable returns on investment.

Long term, Russia always was and increasingly confirms that it is a vibrant and attractive market. There is a significant consumer market with spending power, a well-educated workforce, a wealth of resources and the list goes on. The economic obstacles encountered have largely been imposed from without, and not from the dynamics and energies of the Russian economy itself.

Eventually sanctions will end, although the timeline is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile business continues, and any long-term engagement within Russia by establishing a working presence will yield both short and long-term investment rewards. These will only be amplified when the sanctions regimes are removed. In any event, these aspects are long-term investment decisions and one of the criteria in any risk assessment.

For some added perspective, Russia is ranked by the Financial Times as the No.2 country in Europe in terms of capital investments into Europe. It has a 2017 market share of 9% (US$ 15.9 billion) and includes 203 business projects. This is 2% higher than 2016 and better that 2014/2015 when sanctions were imposed.

Another item of perspective is the Country Risk Premium. All investors consider this when calculating the scope for long-term return on investments. What may surprise some is that Russia is no longer ranked as a very high-risk country. For comparisons sake: The risk premium for Germany is zero (no extra risk), the risk premium for Italy is 2.19%, and for Russia, it is 2.54%. When compared to politically popular investment destinations like Ukraine the risk premium is 10.4%  – food for thought. Bottom line is that the risks of investing in Russia are a smidge higher than investing in Italy.

Russia is ranked 35 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The ranking of Russia improved to 35 in 2017 from 40 in 2016 and from 124 in 2010. It may also surprise some to learn that as concerns protecting the rights of minority investors, paying taxes, registering property and some other aspects of the World Bank comparisons, Russia comes out better than Switzerland (See: Rankings).

From operational standpoints, establishing an invested presence in Russia does not mean one must adopt Russian managerial methods or practices. The advantages for established foreign companies is that their management culture is readily applied and absorbed by a smart and willing workforce, enabling a seamless integration given the right training and tools.

The trend towards the ultimate globalization of business despite trade wars, tariffs, sanctions and counter-sanctions is clear. The internet of the planet, the blockchain and speed of information exchange makes it so whether we wish it or not. Personally, I hope that political globalization remains stillborn as geopolitics has a historical mandate to tinker with and play havoc with international trade.

Russia occupies a key strategic position between Europe and Asia. The “west” (US/Europe) have long had at times rather turbulent relationships with China. At the same time the Chinese are quite active investors in both the US and Europe, and western companies are often struggling to understand how to deal with China.

The answer to this conundrum is Russia: this is where East and West will ultimately come together with Russia playing a pivotal role in the relations between the west and China. At the end of the day, and taking the strategic long-term economic view, is what both Chinese and Western companies are investing in when they open their activities in Russia.

If long-term commitment and investment in Russia were simply a matter of transferring funds then I would not be bothering with this opinion article. Without a doubt, there are structural issues with investing in Russia. A still evolving and sometimes unclear rule of law, difficulties obtaining finance for investments directed towards Russia, the unique language and culture of business in the country. Nevertheless, companies that have an understanding and vision of global strategy will manage with these issues and have the means to mitigate them.

Money and other invested resources do not and should not play politics; any investment case when evaluated on objective financial criteria will reveal its fit, or lack of, within a company’s global strategic business objectives. The objective criteria for Russia over any long term horizon is both convincing and strong. This has been repeated by all of the businesspeople I have met with these past few weeks. Without doubt we shall see some new companies coming into the Russian market and objectively exploring the gains their playing fair business football here will yield.

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