Putin’s Big Economic Conference Is a Very Big Deal This Year
Putin’s Big Economic Conference Is a Very Big Deal This Year by Gilbert Doctorow – Russia-Insider
“Macron said loudly and clearly that … France has the authority and the obligation to exercise its sovereignty and pursue an independent foreign policy. And … that trust between nations … is possible only when nations … assert their sovereignty.”
This year’s 22nd edition of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum was the largest ever, numbering 17,000 guests by the last tally. Among them were corporate CEOs and chairmen of the world’s largest companies, the top leaders of less famous multinational corporations, as well as of medium and small enterprises.
They came within national business delegations from around the globe led by senior government officials. There were sector and national round tables at which they met with their Russian counterparts. There were grand signing ceremonies for some of the 500 contracts and agreements concluded at the Forum, which had a combined value of 2.365 trillion rubles, or about 30 billion euros.
A revealing moment where Macron says that France is sovereign, and Putin explains quite convincingly that neither France, nor Germany, nor Japan, truly is.
But diverse as the activities of the Forum may have been, none of the Forum venues, none of the Forum participants were as important to the success of the event as the four leaders who joined President Vladimir Putin on stage to address the Plenary Session Friday afternoon: President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Chinese Vice President Wang Quishan and IMF General Director Christine Lagarde.
If we shift our consideration from protocol rankings to political bellwethers, there is no question that the man to watch from his arrival in St Petersburg on Thursday, 24 May through his departure on Friday evening the 25th was Emmanuel Macron. The close working relationship with Russia of the leaders of China and of Japan has developed incrementally over the past couple of decades, in the first case, and over the past several years in the second case.
A light-hearted moment from the conference
France, by contrast, had since the ascent of Francois Hollande to the presidency in 2012 experienced ever more frosty if not conflictual relations with Russia, while it fell wholly in step with every policy position coming out of Washington. This alignment has continued under Emmanuel Macron straight up to French participation in the US-led military strike on Syria 13-14 April over alleged use of chemical weapons by the armed forces of Bashir Assad.
Therefore, in this essay, I will begin with a close examination of what Macron said in his two major addresses and what he may have achieved in negotiations with Vladimir Putin. We will then consider what the other featured guest of the Forum, Shinzo Abe, said, which contrasts sharply with Macron’s positions.