SAN FRANCISCO — Tensions and sanctions between Russia and the West will be mitigated through economic cooperation and entrepreneurial spirit, according to a panel of experts at the Global Technology Symposium.
The United States and European Union conduct a collective $450 billion in annual bilateral trade with Russia, and panelists said sanctions would create losses for all countries involved. As Russia continues to do innovative work with nanotechnologies, photonics, lasers, and the cloud, the Russian consul general said, “The most important thing is to not be isolated, not to try to invent the bicycle, but to try to use the heritage, knowledge, and experience of your neighbors.”
From left: Moderator Alexandra Johnson; Rusnano President and CEO Dmitry Akhanov; Igor Karpovich, Sberbank head of strategic business development; Cisco's Mikhail Pakhomov; Maxim Kiselev, director of leadership programs for Skoltech; Consul General Sergey Petrov.
(Source: KC Leung/PapiTV)
“In Russia we don’t see sanctions as the right method to do our policy, but it’s something that happens in the world,” said Sergey Petrov, consul general for the Russian Consulate in San Francisco. “I don’t see any substantial [economic or financial] sanctions against Russia right now.”
The head of business development for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, said even speculation about sanctions can have unintended consequences for the business community. Igor Karpovich cited a potential impact on the venture capital industry, which “does not like uncertainty,” as well as a lack of appetite for IPOs and sales.
“The the worst thing talks about potential sanctions will do is drain trust, or make people fearful about doing things in Russia,” said Dmitry Akhanov, president and CEO of Rusnano, a government-owned investment company focused on nanotech. “The more people do business together, the more stable their business will be, and the more influence they will have on politicians.”
Foreign companies operating in Russia need to comply with all legislation in order to ensure the security of their businesses, said Cisco’s Mikhail Pakhomov, director of Russian government affairs. Cisco doesn’t expect any significant changes to its Russian strategy, but is more concerned with general economic decline.
All panelists agreed that, while major powers are all interested in technological innovation, Russia is a fundamentally different country from what it once was. During the communist era, entrepreneurship was illegal and the country had to “start from scratch” in the early 1990s.
“Russian innovation started with software, versus Silicon Valley, which started with hardware. We are behind in other sectors, but it’s a different approach,” Akhanov said. “People have a different mentality, a different psychology. [Innovation is] the path of trial and errors, and Russia has always been known for achieving in five years what other countries do in a decade. That’s not always a good thing.”