By Andrey Kostin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Andrey Kostin is CEO of Russia’s VTB Bank. The views expressed are his own. This is the latest in a series of articles ahead of a special GPS show from Davos this Sunday.
Interconnectedness is part of everyday modern life. We think nothing of, for example, an American company designing its products in California, assembling them in China, and launching sales simultaneously in 100 countries or more. Russia has benefited from the increased integration of national economies and markets that has made all of this global cooperation possible – and essential. And like other major global economies, Russia – the world’s eighth largest – will continue to deepen its integration into these global processes.
Yet while the idea of globalization as a force for good is apparently widely accepted in the economics and business spheres – not least in my own area of expertise, banking and finance – it sometimes seems that politicians of countries that ought to have much in common are at risk of drifting further and further apart.
It has long been a Russian complaint that relations with the West – particularly the United States and the European Union – more often resemble a teacher lecturing a disobedient pupil than a serious dialogue, especially when the talk turns to topics of mutual sensitivity. This lies at the heart of what President Vladimir Putin, in his New York Times editorial last year, termed the “insufficient communication” between our societies.
The reality is that many Russians still feel at best patronized by a West which, as they see it, does not take their views into account, does not understand the specifics of the Russian situation or how the country has changed in the past quarter century, and fails to see how they have been affected by these changes.
Russia suffered badly in the 1990s, and many Russians today continue to feel the effects of the disastrous “shock therapy” inflicted on a government that was effectively powerless to resist. From a Russian point of view, this was a historic opportunity for the West to build strategic levels of trust with Russia. That opportunity was not seized.
All this said, it would be wrong to exaggerate the extent of our differences. While relations are not ideal, we do have reliable mechanisms of dialogue such as the G8, which Russia chairs this year, and the World Trade Organization, which Russia joined in 2012. And there have been some notable examples of successful cooperation between our politicians, not least around the Cypriot bail-in, Iran and Syria, and ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.
On important economic and financial issues, too, there are many points of converging interest. Over the past couple of years, I chaired a taskforce on financial stability as part of the B20, an international business summit. The list of participants read like a “Who’s Who?” of global banking, and at the end of our work we presented the finance ministers of the G20 with a list of substantive recommendations for restoring trust in the global financial system. As Europe moves closer towards banking union, Russia’s Central Bank has also signaled its intention to continue strengthening stability through tougher regulation.
Such global cooperation is vital if we are to be effective in regulating the use of offshore structures as a means of avoiding taxation, as public pressure grows for governments worldwide to tackle the issue. Here, too, Russia is in tune with the global agenda. For example, President Putin recently reiterated his call for a process of “de-offshore-ization” – effectively, asking Russians to bring their assets back onshore and pay taxes owed to Russia in Russia if they want to enjoy the benefits of running their businesses in the country.
As much as anything, the gathering at Davos this week underscores a theme that the West should keep in mind when dealing with Russia – cooperation and respect are key to progress in an interconnected world. And it is partly because I see signs of this cooperation that I remain optimistic.
I am also optimistic because I expect that the global economy will see a gradual recovery. But this simply makes it more important than ever that politicians be on the same side. We cannot afford to maintain old attitudes in the modern world. If politicians really care about growth, then we must have lively but fair cooperation in both the economic and political spheres. We will all be better off for it.