(MOSCOW) — With President Obama displaying a united front in Brussels with European leaders to declare Russia’s isolation over Crimea and warning of sanctions on industrial sectors, the head of German industrial giant Siemens sat with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his residence outside Moscow to discuss “long-term investments,” according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser said that recent American sanctions on railroad tycoon Vladimir Yakunun won’t stop his company from doing business in Russia.
“At the heart of our work is always worthwhile venture, and not an individual,” he said, according to Interfax.
Kaeser’s appearance at Putin’s side — and the fact that it was well-publicized in the Russian media — is likely a strategic move (perhaps by both Putin and the company) aimed at reminding German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the 77 billion Euro trade relationship between their two countries, which could be damaged due to sanctions.
Putin on Wednesday noted that Siemens had invested 750-800 million Euros in the Russian economy over just the past two years.
“Not a bad figure,” he noted.
Separately, Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister said that while Russia had no plans to exit international markets, it would be looking for business elsewhere.
“We need to understand that we aren’t going to slam the door shut or leave traditional markets until we’re shoved out,” Igor Shuvalov said, according to RIA Novosti.
“The most important now is to be active in order to find new partners and those who look kindly for our attention, and we need to turn to them and discover opportunities to sell our goods,” he said.
Yet despite the bravado and positioning out of Moscow, some Russian officials have warned that sanctions could have big consequences for Russia’s fragile economy, not least of which is increasing capital flight. Already this year, Russia’s Finance Ministry estimates nearly $70 billion dollars has fled the country.
The World Bank on Wednesday warned that, as a result of possible sanctions, Russia’s economy could shrink by up to 1.8 percent in 2014 and capital flight could top $150 billion.
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Kareem Khadder, CNN
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
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