“The unipolar model of the world is over,” declared Vladimir Putin last week. “The global picture has completely changed”.
The St Petersburg International Economic Forum was less well-attended than usual. During previous visits to this annual “Russian Davos”, now in its eighteenth year, I’ve regularly been mown-down by American and West European CEOs, as they’ve purposefully stomped down carpet-tiled corridors, their retinue of aides and cameras in tow.
This year, while plenty of Western executives did make the annual trek to Russia’s beautiful second city, keen to sell more cars, soap powder and financial services in Europe’s most valuable consumer market, the corridors were safer. Many of the top business names stayed away. The sanctions imposed on Russia in response to events in Ukraine put Western business leaders under pressure. Fearing unsavory headlines, and often responding to specific government requests, some of our best-known corporate pole-climbers gave “Putin’s vanity summit” a miss.
Why are some Western governments contemplating an extremely risky military strike on Syria? What is the true motivation of those trying to upend the unsavory regime of Bashar Al-Assad?
Were we to see intervention, would the main driver be moral outrage, as the US and its allies sought to punish the Syrian President? After all, Assad last month ordered a ghastly chemical weapons attack, killing hundreds in a Damascus suburb.
“These global economic problems have their roots in the fools’ paradise we all used to live in,” observed Peter Mandelson on Friday, to a packed seminar at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.
“Pretty much everyone borrowed and spent beyond their means and that’s now catching up with us,” continued the former Cabinet Minister. “And it’s the inter-twining of the sovereign debt and banking crises that makes any eurozone resolution extremely difficult”.
Discussing the structural flaws of the eurozone with Goldman Sachs Chief Economist at St Petersburg International Economic Forum