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Russian fund chief hails ‘pragmatic’ Trump

The head of a leading Russian sovereign wealth fund has hailed Donald Trump’s election victory as a new opportunity for Moscow to do business with the US.

“We believe having a businessman in the White House who makes pragmatic decisions is very important,” Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, told the Financial Times in an interview. “We believe what is great about president-elect Trump is that he is open-minded about Russia.” 

Mr Trump’s praise of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and questions over the business ties to Moscow of key campaign advisers raised eyebrows in Washington during the election campaign. In addition, US intelligence agencies have accused Russian hackers of seeking to influence the election result by hacking into the email of officials from the campaign of Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump’s rival. 

Mr Dmitriev, a US-educated banker, said Mr Trump’s plans to surround himself with business people were a chance for Russian companies to strike deals in the US. He said it was also an opportunity for Moscow to attract investment from American companies now held back by sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. 

“What President [Barack] Obama has focused on is really the things that will divide us and frankly it didn’t work,” Mr Dmitriev said. “If you judge Obama’s legacy by results we frankly struggle to find any that will be long-lasting.” 

Speaking on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Peru, where he joined Mr Putin in meetings with regional political and business leaders, Mr Dmitriev said that striking commercial deals had become a key component of Russia’s foreign policy as it fought US efforts to isolate it.

“We believe when we do that politics gets much easier. There is at least a framework of good news to discuss things,” he said. 

Mr Dmitriev praised the pro-Russian views of Michael Flynn, the retired three-star general chosen by Mr Trump to be his national security adviser, and said that the appointment of figures such as Wilbur Ross, an investor who is considered a leading candidate to become commerce secretary, would bode well for Russia. 

“We like that lots of people that he is considering … have obviously been very successful in the past,” he said, pointing to Mr Ross in particular. “People like that would be great for business because business likes to see people who have been successful in business in important positions.

“What we struggled with during the Obama administration is that he brought in lots of people who really have not been success stories in the past.” 

Mr Dmitriev declined to say whether the Russian fund saw an opportunity to do business with Mr Trump’s own property empire, which the president-elect has said will be handed over to his children to run but which remains the focus of questions about potential conflicts of interest.

“I am sure he is going to separate himself from the business and … will be very careful to manage conflicts of interest and so on. But I think it will be very open,” Mr Dmitriev said.

Via FT