American money - to Russia!
Mathias Bruggmann, Head of Foreign Affairs «Handelsblatt», an experienced correspondent specializing in Eastern Europe, the Arab world and Iran, in a new analytical article not without irony notes that the United States wants to subject Russia to sanctions, but is its largest investor. Countries that deal with Russia, the United States threatens severe penalties. But they themselves are pumping more money into this country than previously thought! "Sometimes big stories hiding behind small statistics, ”the analyst says and moves on to the facts.
US President Donald Trump does not hesitate to punish states that are politically challenging American interests. This also applies to Russia, the journalist notes. Washington’s sanctions policy toward Moscow has been ongoing for several years now, and the White House is “paying close attention” to how the sanctions regime is respected “in third countries, for example, Europe.” And Washington is threatening punishment for countries that shy away from the regime. An example for Europe is the 2 Nord Stream pipeline dispute.
And all the more surprising, continues Bruggmann, that "American companies are the largest investors in Russia!" According to official statistics from the Russian Central Bank, Americans have invested just 3,1 billion dollars. But in fact, the figure is 12,6 times greater: 39,1 billion dollars. This is confirmed by current data from UNCTAD, the UN Conference on Trade and Development. And this amount is more than the investments of German companies that maintain close relations with Russia traditionally. German investments amount to 33,2 billion dollars, the analyst notes.
And this is only foreign direct investment (FDI) without taking into account the additional billions invested in Russian financial markets.
When you see such investments, you ask yourself: Are Americans really taking their own sanctions regime seriously? However, this is not the most important question. Here, politics is more important. According to UN experts, investment indicators have "potentially far-reaching policy implications."
Analysts cite the opinion of Ivan Tkachev from the Moscow business agency News Rosbusinessconsulting. It is very important how much money the United States invested: only 3,1 billion dollars, or several times more. This just explains why the Trump government did not impose sanctions on many Russian industries.
“Official statistics have always underestimated US Russian investment,” experts at EY, an American consulting company, said. Significant amounts of FDI that came to Russia from the United States, as well as US government bonds worth at least 15 billion dollars, again did not allow the US Treasury to tighten Russia's sanctions in January 2018, experts recall.
As for the current financial realities, recently the most important Russian ruble bonds issued with coupons of almost seven percent have been exempted from strict US sanctions. A good third of Russian OFZs are owned by foreign investors, and these are mainly pension funds and insurance companies from the United States. At the same time, the US government included in the list of sanctions Russian government bonds denominated ... in euros. American investors are no longer allowed to buy them.
If in the distant 1998 year Russia was forced to declare a "default", because it could not service the debt on federal loan bonds for 40 billions of dollars, now the situation is completely different. The sanctions imposed by the USA and the EU in 2014 “because of the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea and the military intervention of Moscow in eastern Ukraine” have practically no effect. This is indicated by Gunter Deuber, an analyst at Raiffeisen Bank International (Austria). According to him, the situation with Russian banks, financial markets in general, or the exchange rate of the national currency gives the impression that "Western sanctions no longer apply."
Moreover, for the first time, Russia was able to announce on August 1 that it has no net debt. The obligations of the Federation, territories and cities amounted to 16,2 trillion rubles (in terms of - 250 billion dollars), which is almost 15 percent of GDP. Foreign exchange and gold reserves, reserves in the National Reserve Fund, budget surplus and other reserves amount to 16,2 percent of GDP (about 270 billion dollars), according to the calculations of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. Russia, whose economy grew by only 0,7% in the first half of the 2019 year, has now become one of the few countries where there is no net public debt.
A look at the real economy shows that FDI continues to grow in Russia. Not only American. According to the calculations of the Russian-German Chamber of Commerce (Moscow), US sanctions would cost several billion dollars to German companies involved in Russia. But in 2018, German companies invested 3,2 billion euros there, which is the largest amount in a decade! German-Russian trade also grew: last year, growth was 8,4 percent, trade increased to 61,9 billion euros.
Not all data displays growth accurately. Investment statistics are complex. Whereas UNCTAD indicates the volume of German investments in Russia in 33,2 billion dollars (by the end of the 2017 year), then the Bundesbank at the same time totaled 21,3 billion euros (25,6 billion dollars), and the Central Bank of Russia - only 18,1 billion dollars. According to UNCTAD economist Bruno Casella, official Russian statistics overestimate investments from offshore zones and does not distinguish between the “true origin of investors”.
America lacks stability
The sanctions of the White House described above are rather soft than strict, and in reality give green light to American investments in Russia. The wayward Germany is not inferior to America in its desire to invest in Russia: investments, trade, and gas cooperation are growing. Everyone in the West sees what kind of games Washington is playing. Those who do or have done American politics also see this. As long as Western money, circling the winding shores of sanctions, flows like gold rivers to Russia, American politics is losing stability.
A. Krylov in a business newspaper "Sight" He spoke about the violation by the American diplomat of a direct order received from the leadership of the state. In case of refusal to carry out the order of the head of state, the diplomat armed himself with an excuse in the style of "my mood was different." This diplomat was the representative of the United States at the UN Samantha Power, whose book "School of the idealist" has recently been published.
Power told the world that in 2016, when the election of members of the Human Rights Council was held, she was ordered in Washington to vote for Russia. However, Samantha voted for Hungary and Croatia! These countries received 144 and 114 votes respectively. Russia got 112 votes. And here is what Samantha herself wrote about her personal decision:
“But that day my mood was different. From the moment I arrived at the UN, too much has happened so that I can afford not to vote in accordance with my conscience. ”
Power admits that it was her voice that decided the case. If Russia had received a vote more, a second round would have taken place, and Moscow would have won “threats and bribes” (Power).
This initiative of the UN representative gave reason to analyst A. Krylov to conclude that the erosion of American statehood. After all, not only S. Power behaved so defiantly. As you know, contrary to official instructions, Clinton used personal rather than official mail for secret correspondence.
And so far it has not been heard that Hillary was somehow punished. Instead, we recall that the scandal about the intervention of "Russian hackers" was fanned.
To this can be added the instability in the administration of Mr. Trump. Only in the chair of the Minister of Defense for two and a half years, three people were replaced: James "The Crazy Dog" Mattis, Patrick Shanahan (six months was in the status of acting.) And Mark Esper. The other day, John Bolton took off from the post of National Security Advisor. It is symptomatic, by the way, that both Bolton and Mattis, to put it mildly, did not have a love for Russia. And Mr. Bolton was particularly prone to put forward “proposals” that were contrary to the ideas of the president.
In a word, the team game of top US politicians did not stick under Obama, it falls apart under Trump.
Russia is a different matter: here the tops are united, and even the name of the party that brings them together speaks of unity in ideas and decisions.
Miracle of a brighter future?
The Western press recalls the promise of V. Putin to perform an economic miracle. This is written by Christian Steiner in the Swiss edition "Neue Zürcher Zeitung".
Steiner is not new to analyzing the Russian situation. This man has traveled more than once in Russian open spaces - from St. Petersburg to the Far North, from Siberia he reached the distant Sakhalin. He knows very well that Russia is huge and much more diverse than can be imagined from the cliches that are usually associated with this country. Great is the economic potential of Russia. True, the political leadership remains less and less likely to use the existing potential. Raising the economy of present-day Russia is truly a Herculean task, Herr Steiner notes in his Moscow report.
Real incomes have been falling for years, and even optimists expect the economy to grow by a little over 2019% in 1. Since 2013, the real disposable income of Russians has fallen by about 10%. The term "stagnation" ("sastoi"), which describes the stagnation and lack of political and economic dynamism of the Brezhnev years, is in use and at present, the correspondent says. In addition, people’s incomes are consumed by higher taxes, and pension reform “enrages the masses.” These events put pressure on the president’s popularity. After all, Putin "promised his people a good life in return for renouncing political freedoms." And if he is not able to fulfill his promise, he must fear for his power, Steiner said.
However, Putin is not “defeated” at all, Steiner develops the theme. Shortly after the inauguration, he set an action plan. Here is what a journalist writes:
“In the coming years, Putin has prescribed an economic miracle for his country. He wants to make the country one of the five largest economies in the world and raise economic growth to an indicator that exceeds the global average. ”
“Putin attaches particular importance to increasing the life expectancy of his citizens, major infrastructure projects and technological progress,” Steiner continues. “At the heart of the new growth policy are infrastructure investments of billions of euros.” True, what seems to be rational, “upon closer examination” often turns out to be a demonstration of “megalomania”, the correspondent ironically. And even those who were planning in the Kremlin should have understood that the “planned bridge to nowhere” would bring nothing but high costs.
Along with this, Steiner paints Moscow with bright colors.
“There are two worlds in Russia: Moscow and the rest of the country. The capital has a magical appeal and continues to expand. The whole city is a large construction site, and new housing estates are being built on its outskirts ... According to unofficial data, up to 16 million people live in the city. Every day, new restaurants open their doors in the city, and it is estimated that more Maybach limousines drive along the roads of Moscow than in all of Germany. From time to time, startups come up here, and if there is innovation somewhere in the country, then this is in the capital. ”
But nationwide, stagnation. And Steiner believes that Putin is responsible for her. “The Kremlin gentleman failed his foreign policy and isolated his country,” the author of the article said.
If the country's leadership wants everything to be produced inside Russia, then such a desire is not aimed at restoring production, not at participating in the international division of labor, but only at internal security, the analyst notes. As a result, consumers will receive a higher bill, which will result from higher prices and lower quality.
The main question, Steiner believes, is whether Putin will be able to overcome the "sastoi".
Will American and German investments not help to overcome it?