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The White House is discouraging business leaders from attending an economic summit in Russia later this month. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum runs from May 22-24, and U.S. government officials are hoping to further isolate the Kremlin for its aggressive actions in Ukraine by keeping investors and capital away from Russia.
According to several reports, White House officials made personal telephone calls to leaders of some of the biggest companies that planned on attending. Some appear to be listening. The CEO of Alcoa Inc., Klaus Kleinfeld, agreed not to attend. “In light of the U.S. government's requirements, Alcoa has adjusted its attendance at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum,” the company said in a statement. Other companies that agreed to skip the conference include Goldman Sachs, PepsiCo, Morgan Stanley, and ConocoPhillips.
Still, some business leaders are worried about a backlash from Russian President Vladimir Putin that could affect their business interests in Russia, according to The New York Times. Several companies are sending lower-level Moscow-based executives to the event, in an effort to please both the White House and Putin. Privately, many major companies expressed frustration at the difficult position the White House is putting them in.
The U.S. has also decided not to attend an energy forum that will be held in Moscow May 15 and 16. The biennial International Energy Forum, headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was formed following the Gulf War in the early 1990s after oil prices shot up. It is a regular meeting at the ministerial level and the 80+ member countries represent more than 90 percent of the world’s oil and gas reserves.
With violence between pro- and anti-Russian forces growing worse in eastern Ukraine, there is little hope that relations between Russia and the U.S. will improve anytime soon.
By Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com