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Ivanov Vows Russia Will Be Powerhouse By 2020

Sergei Ivanov (file photo) (Trend) June 9, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The Russian official considered a possible successor to President Vladimir Putin said today his country would be one of the world's top five economies by 2020.

First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, opening an international economic forum in St. Petersburg, said Russia aims to transform itself into a high-tech and industrial giant.

He said the strategy was backed by the Russian people, who favor "democracy, openness, [and] freedom of social and business initiatives."

More than 6,000 politicians and business managers from around the world are attending this year's forum.

Investment Forum

Russian President Vladimir Putin, looking to encourage investment, is due to meet with a number of the world's top executives, from companies such as Coca-Cola, Chevron, and Mittal Steel.

Yegor Gaidar, the man many credit with helping transform the Soviet economy to a market economy, also spoke at the forum.

"To many of us, the Kremlin still looks like an unapproachable place, but the strides that you are making in terms of opening up have been tremendous." -- James Wolfenson

RFE/RL correspondent Danila Galperovich, who is attending the forum, says the speeches sought to highlight what they characterized as Russia's economic transparency and liberal investment climate.

Ivanov, a former defense minister, also attempted to soothe fears that Russia is turning towards authoritarianism, by saying that in 2020, Russia would be democratic, "based on the rule of law, and it will respect the rights of the individual."

As first deputy prime minister, Ivanov is responsible for industry and technology.

James Wolfenson, the former head of the World Bank, said Ivanov's speech was a sign that Russia is open for business.

"To many of us, the Kremlin still looks like an unapproachable place, but the strides that you are making in terms of opening up have been tremendous," Wolfenson said.

Energy Supplier

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who now heads a German-Russian consortium building a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea, said that Russia is no longer in a weak negotiating position.

He added that, "Russia has been a reliable partner to Europe in the field of energy supply for almost four decades."

In recent weeks, Russia's relations with the West have hit a low, with a dispute over U.S. plans to deploy parts of a missile shield in Central Europe.

But many analysts say that, after the G8 summit in Germany on June 6-8, relations have improved.

The economic gathering coincides with an informal summit of the leaders of Commonwealth of Independent States in St. Petersburg.

A political opposition rally is also expected today.

(with agency reports)

Moscow And Washington: Toe To Toe

Moscow And Washington: Toe To Toe

U.S. President George W. Bush (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit in Germany on June 7 (AFP)

MOUNTING TENSIONS. Relations between Russia and the United States have grown increasingly tense in recent months as issues like missile-defense, Kosovo's status, and Russia's domestic policies have provoked sharp, public differences. On June 5, U.S. President George W. Bush said democratic reforms in Russia have been "derailed"....(more)


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