St.Petersburg, Russia. This time there were no threats, no Obama coercion and no FBI visits for American businessmen headed to the Russian international St.Petersburg business forum. It seems in a quiet way, Trump is trying to open a public back channel of at least, business communication.
Previously Obama Washington officials quietly cautioned major US firms about attending the annual St. Petersburg forum, where investors mingle with President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s business & governments leading figures.
This year, the first forum since Donald Trump became president, such cautions were not issued, according to four people familiar with preparations for US companies to attend the yearly event, considered taboo under Obama’s neocon driven presidency.
On the surface, Washington’s policy toward Russia is essentially unchanged under Trump, with the United States committed to maintaining sanctions on Moscow unless it complies with international demands about Ukraine. But slow signs of thaw are making themselves known in the summer sun, as Trump has signaled he is ready to go around the Ukraine issue to get on with major items on both countries agendas, rather than staying fixed on a third world sewer of corruption.
Signs of warming toward the Kremlin is highly sensitive for the White House, since Congress and the FBI are conducting inquiries into whether members of the Trump team had improper contacts with Russian officials before Trump’s inauguration.Trump has denied doing anything wrong and many say a large amount of real evidence exists about Ukrainian election meddling, interference and outright corruption.
The forum in St Petersburg was in its second day Friday and there were signs of a more substantial U.S. presence than in previous years since the March 2014 annexation of Crimea. The American Ambassador to Russia John Tefft was at the forum, though he did not have a speaking slot. No American ambassador has attended in 2014, 2015 or 2016. This was seen as another sign of a small thaw in the freeze between the two nations relations.
A number of major American companies sent senior executives, including oil major Exxon, Boeing, Chevron and JPMorgan, were represented at a similar level to last year, but several delegates at the forum said they estimated the American presence as numerically bigger than in previous years.
“There is a better understanding among foreign investors that sanctions really did not work, the Russian economy continues to grow, Russia represents an attractive market and people should work with Russia.” Was the message on the table from Russian officials ready to negotiate and end the freeze with some June sunshine in St. Petersburg.