On October 19th a meeting of the HSE International College of Economics and Finance with the British Ambassador in Russia, Anne Pringle, took place at the HSE. The Ambassador gave a lecture on ‘The Global Economy and An Overview of British-Russian Relations ’.
In the beginning of her presentation Anne Pringle reminded the audience that the world has faced the first widespread economic recession in the era of globalization. ‘It has been a tough time for all of us - large businesses, entrepreneurs, citizens and governments'she said. ‘It is very easy to blame global organizations and companies for all the troubles, as most of media commentators do. But I think this approach is wrong'. Mrs. Ambassador mentioned that globalization over the last twenty years has lead to an ‘unprecedented growth of welfare'.
- Millions of people have been taken out of poverty, and millions have gained access to a much wider choice of goods and services, Anne Pringle said. It would have been impossible if they had stayed locked in their national economies with closed borders.
At the same time, today's situation shows the opportunity and even necessity of cooperation of different countries in the search for an exit from the economic crisis. In this context Mrs. Pringle spoke about the G-20 summits that have taken place in Washington, London and Pittsburg, and the decisions made there on stimulating the world economy.
Recent events have shown that the world cannot depend on one superpower, and one superpower alone is unable to save the world from crisis. Decisions made on the global level should be multilateral. Anne Pringle sees this not only as a ‘huge shift'on geopolitical level, but also as a ‘huge opportunity'for future development.
Speaking about Russian-British relations, Mrs. Ambassador said that Great Britain is the biggest foreign investor in Russia, that more than 1000 British companies are working in Russia, and in 2007, 30% of IPOs on the London Stock Exchange were Russian. And in spite of the crisis, the Russian market remains, according to the Ambassador, highly attractive for international investors and dealers. This particularly refers to raw hydrocarbons production and development of retail networks.
- We share with Russia the honourable right to host the Olympic Games, commented Anne Pringle on one more area of interaction between the two countries. - In June we signed an agreement which will not only help Russia create the infrastructure necessary for successfully running the Games, but also develop it after the event. It is not enough to just build sports arenas;it is essential to be sure that young people will take up sport and at the same time have access to education.
Russian-British relations are developing despite all the difficulties, and there is dialogue on a wide range of international challenges:from Iran and North Korean nuclear programmes to instability in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
- When you look at newspaper headlines, you might sometimes think that we hate each other, but that is not true, Mrs. Pringle assured the students. - We really have very highly developed relations and very strong ties between our citizens. More and more young people seek to come and study in Great Britain, and those who have gathered today in this room, are a good example of that. It is within our power to destroy the myth that all we can do is quarrel.
However, there are still a few unresolved problems in the two countries'relations. Russia is not ready to share the British approach whish assumes that European security is impossible without strong transatlantic ties, i.e. ties with the U.S. But Anne Pringle suggested focusing efforts on fighting threats which are common for all parties, i.e. international terrorism and the drug trade.
Anne Pringle also touched upon the issue of the fight against global warming, which is very popular in the West and is skeptically received in the East. But she approached the subject from a practical point of view and said that Russia annually wastes an amount of natural gas almost equal to that which France uses for energy production. And that gas could have been used to supply the external or internal market.
In early November David Miliband comes to Moscow, and this is the first visit of a British Foreign Secretary to Russia for five years. Anne Pringle has called this break ‘inadmissibly long for relations of two countries that are both permanent members of the UN Security Council'. By the way, Mr. Miliband comes to Moscow not only for official negotiations, but also to meet Russian students.
Russia would do well to learn something from Great Britain, be it Moscow's desire for becoming a world financial centre, which London is, or entering Western markets of accessing innovational technologies. And Anne Pringle who has visited many places in Russia is sure that here are enough people able to move the country forward. It is only important that nobody has a monopoly on generating new ideas and views.
Mrs. Ambassador got the opportunity to have first handexperience of Russian students'ideas and views as soon as the questions from the audience started. The first question was ‘why do so many Russian "bandits"hide in Great Britain and why doesn't the British government extradite them?'
- Are you asking why Great Britain is so popular among those whom you consider criminals? asked Anne Pringle with some irony and mentioned that British courts do not depend on the government, and Russian lawyers should know their business well and give a court unquestionable evidence of supposed criminals'guilt, as well as guarantees of a transparent investigation which will take place in Russia.
The Ambassador also had to share her opinion on Russian border controls which should become ‘responsible and predictable'. Russia's accession to theWTO, which would be welcomed by Great Britain, could help with that.
A question about the ‘necessity'of democracy was followed by an answer with a quote from Winston Churchill about democracy being the worst form of government but having no alternatives.
Her official status would not let the Ambassador forecast how Russian-British relations would change if the conservatives in Britain came to power. Anne Pringle only said that the results of elections in Great Britain are not predetermined and that anything could happen in June 2010.
ICEF students asked Anne Pringle to advise where Russian business could invest in Great Britain and forecast what the world would look like in 2050. Mrs. Pringle said that if she was able to predict the future she would have had another job, but she assessed the potential of Asian countries as high, many of which are sending more and more young people for studies and internships to English universities and colleges.
- So, invest in China, the Ambassador urged.
Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service
Photos by Ivan Moryakov