RUSSIA DIVIDES THE WEST
France, which is going ahead with a €1.2bn sale of two warships to Moscow , will be represented by the biggest contingent of foreign business leaders at Russia's Davos this week. But the top echelon of US companies has mostly pulled out.
Six French corporate chiefs are attending the St Petersburg International Economic Forum which starts on Thursday, while seven of 12 senior executives of US companies initially expected to attend have cancelled. While more than 50 ambassadors are due take part, many of them from EU countries, not a single US diplomat is attending this year.
The contrasting attendance reflects differences between Europe and the US over how to respond to Russia's efforts to destabilise eastern Ukraine following its annexation of Crimea. Europe's much closer trade and investment ties make it more reluctant to punish Moscow whereas Washington has imposed wider and tougher sanctions on Russian individuals and companies.
At the forum – which is the place for making contacts and showing presence for international businesses in Russia – the participants' list is as long as ever. But the number of foreign executives and government officials attending fell from 700 last year to an expected 560 this year.
Christophe de Margerie, chief executive of French oil major Total, said last week that attending the forum was "business as usual." He was quoted by Russian news agency Itar Tassas saying that "getting away from politics is a good way to calm down the situation somewhat".
Henri Proglio, chief executive of state-owned power maker EDF and Jean-François Cirelli, chairman of GDF Suez, are due to attend.
Schneider Electric and Alstom confirmed that their chief executives – Jean-Pascal Tricoire and Patrick Kron – were attending. Danone's chief executive Franck Riboud is also still listed as a participant.
France's foreign ministry said attending or not attending was "a decision for the companies to make. We gave them all the details allowing them to make a decision".
There are four German chief executives listed as participants on the eve of the forum, after a couple withdrew, including Siemens' Joe Kaeser and Johannes Teyssen of power distributor Eon.
Siemens said Mr Kaeser would not attend because of his workload, noting that the company's involvement in the forum had been on different management levels in the past, not just the chief executive.
Six business leaders will come from the Nordic countries, while Peter Mandelson has recently been added for the UK, which counts four representatives according to the forum's website, including Bob Dudley, chief executive of BP.
Seven chief executives of US companies, including PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi and Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein have pulled out after the US administration urged them to do so. Hans-Paul Bürkner, chairman of US-based Boston Consulting Group, and Paal Kibsgaard, chief executive of Schlumberger, are also listed as participants.
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