Russian Business Hopes for Reset in U.S. Relations in 2020

Russian business executives are hopeful that Moscow and Washington could reset relations this year, despite the continuing tensions brought on by the Trump impeachment trial and a dispute over Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe, CNBC writes.

The sentiment stems from an apparent rapprochement between Russia and its immediate neighbors in Ukraine and Europe, coupled with an increasing weariness among most western nations regarding the continuation of sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin announced constitutional reforms, which many hope will revamp Russia’s economy. But they have also added to optimism regarding political and economic change in the country, CNBC writes.

Russian CEOs told the news outlet at the World Economic Forum in Davos that they hoped Putin’s handing more power to Russia’s parliament and the installation of a new technocrat Prime Minister – Mikhail Mishustin – can lead to improvements not only to Russia but to its relations with other global powers, especially the U.S.

“I very much hope that it would also lead to changes in relations (with the U.S.) but the problem is that this is a two-way street,” says Herman Gref, the chief executive and chairman of Sberbank.

“So it is also about trust, a lot would depend on the U.S. 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.

Recently, Russia-U.S. relations have also been strained over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany. The U.S. sees the project as a way for Russia, already the predominant natural gas supplier to Europe, to cement its control on the region’s energy market. Many see the U.S.′ objections to the pipeline as coming from the fact that it wants to increase its own liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to Europe, however. Nonetheless, the U.S. president gave the green light to sanctions on the pipeline in December.

Arguing that those kinds of restrictions were “politically motivated” and unhelpful, Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of Russia’s $10 billion sovereign wealth fund RDIF, told CNBC that 2020 could still be a good year to reset U.S.-Russia relations.

“We actually believe that this year could be a good year to improve relations with the U.S. Frankly, we can solve lots of anti-terrorism fighting together, we can do lots of things together so, of course, there will be lots of geopolitical and political attacks inside the U.S. but we believe the backdrop is good to improve Russia-U.S. relations this year,” Kirill said.

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