What are grown-up investors to make of relations between Russia and the West? The rhetoric emanating from politicians and media commentators, in the US and UK at least, seems to be drawn from another era. Mainstream British and American newspapers are full of coverage about the Kremlin’s connections to US President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Some headlines go into full Cold War retro mode, talking of spy swaps and “Soviet agents”.
Russia’s official media has, typically, responded in spades. Against the background of the Ukraine crisis and related sanctions, accusations of “Kremlin meddling” in the US election have been met with more, even harsher, anti-Western rhetoric from Moscow. Such spiralling paranoia makes it seem like we’re through a bizarre re-run of the halcyon days of McCarthyism and Mutually Assured Destruction.
Although a Londoner born and bred, Poland loomed large in my childhood conscience. That’s because one of my very first memories involved a goalkeeper described as “a clown with gloves”.
Back in 1973, the great Jan Tomaszewski stunned the football world by single-handedly holding England to 1-1 draw against Poland, diving left and right, saving shot after shot, in front of 100,000 screaming home fans at Wembley. Tomaszewski’s outstanding performance – a triumph of athleticism, guile and, above all, self-belief – stopped England, then a footballing superpower, from qualifying for the 1974 World Cup.
International commerce used to be dominated by flows of goods and services between the big Western economies and the developing world – with the “advanced nations” generally dictating the terms. Over recent decades, though, there’s been a surge in trade between the developing countries and emerging markets themselves, bypassing the “leading countries” altogether.
As the developing and emerging economies’ share of the global economy has surged from one-third to more than a half of global GDP over the last ten years, they’ve done increasing amounts of business with each other. Such “south-south” flows, just a few percentage points of world trade as recently as 1990, rose to a fifth by 2004 and now account for almost a third of all cross-border commerce.