#2 - JRL 7035
January 27, 2003
Davos Is Different Place In 2003
By Lynn Berry
DAVOS, Switzerland -- A year ago the World Economic Forum, the annual
gathering of the world's business and political elite, had moved to New
York to show solidarity with the United States after the attacks of Sept.
11. This year, with the WEF back in Davos and the world a different place,
the United States has been the target of attacks.
No matter what the planned agendas, in so many of the sessions and debates
the discussion has turned to Iraq. The overwhelming majority of people
here, including many Americans, are worried not only about what many fear
will be a unilateral U.S. decision to go to war against Iraq but more
broadly about whether the sole remaining superpower can, as U.S. Secretary
of State Colin Powell put it in his address Sunday, "be trusted to use its
power wisely and fairly."
Powell, of course, said it could, although many remain unconvinced.
Powell was preceded at Davos by less likely defenders of America such as
Senator Joseph Biden, a Democrat who opposes the Bush administration policy
on Iraq, and even Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky.
Although Russia has stood with the Europeans on demanding a decision from
the UN Security Council before sending in troops, Russians have been quiet
here on the U.S. buildup toward war. Economic issues and Russia's own
disputes with Europe have been higher on the agenda. Russia could even
benefit, some say, from Washington's split with Paris and Berlin.
"If before it had been worth $100 for Russia's friendship, now it is
$200," Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, said Sunday.
Browder said one of his purposes in coming to Davos each year is to gauge
big international investors' interest in Russia, and what he's hearing this
year is that they are feeling more comfortable about investing in Russian
oil companies because of what they see as strong geopolitical support for
Russia to expand exports and become a more viable alternative to the
While downplaying the discord with Europe, Powell reached out to Russia and
China. He said both were playing an important role in resolving the
problems of Iraq and North Korea, and asked the audience to imagine how
different the international situation would be if U.S. relations with
Russia and China were still marked by intense rivalry.
And then he told Russia what it wanted to hear: "We fully support
efforts to become fully integrated in the world economic community," he said.
Much of the criticism of the United States has been over the way it has
pursued the campaign against terrorism, its perceived willingness to
compromise democracy and curtail civil liberties at home and forgive human
rights violations by allied countries. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft
defended U.S. policies, saying, "The fight for security is not a sacrifice
of freedom." But he made clear that security comes first.
Senator Biden, who arrived in Davos on Friday afternoon, the second day of
America-bashing, livened up a session on U.S. foreign policy with a
colorful description of the United States' place in the world as "every
country's problem and every country's solution." He closed by telling his
international audience that "you know in your heads that we're not as bad
as you say we are, and we're not as bad as some of your own countries."
Perhaps glad for the dose of humor, many members of the audience applauded,
including Mikhail Margelov, the head of the Federation Council's foreign
affairs committee, who was seated in the front row.
At a session the next day titled "U.S.A. Omnipotence," the
Monde editor Jean-Marie Colombani, sent some participants and even some of
the panelists scrambling for headphones by introducing the topic in French.
Yavlinsky, one of the panelists reaching for headphones, defended the
United States, saying its "greatness" comes not just from its military
power but from the difficulties it has overcome, such as slavery,
segregation and poverty.
Yet even though the United States is the world's supreme power, it is not
capable of fighting terrorists alone, he said. By way of analogy, Yavlinsky
said the United States is prepared to hunt big game, but its real problem
is not elephants but poison mosquitoes.
"We see a task -- to help the United States to be a factor for
At a dinner session Saturday night, Russia's relations with the European
Union were on the agenda. Instead of geopolitics and security, the issues
were trade barriers, WTO membership and European Union visas, and the
problems seemed more divisive.
Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said little or nothing
has been accomplished in WTO talks and called on Europe to put forward a
clear timetable for opening its markets.
Yavlinsky repeated President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov's recent calls for visa-free travel to Europe.
Finnish President Tarja Halonen told the Russians that the EU supports WTO
membership "on the condition that you fulfill the demands" and urged
Russian businessmen to have "more modern" business agreements.
As for visas, she said, "We hope you don't freeze cooperation before
because it will be a long time."
Troika Dialog president Ruben Vardanian said the real test of Europe's
acceptance of Russia's integration will come as Russian companies take over
European companies. "This is a big question," Vardanian said. "This needs
to be discussed. Are we really ready for cooperation?"
Strobe Talbott, the president of the Brookings Institution and a longtime
Russia hand, tried to put the points of contention in context, saying that
while anti-dumping regulations and visa requirements were important, they
were "not in the same league" as the things that divided Russia from Europe
not so long ago.
"Russia is now part of the majority that is ganging up on the United
States," Talbott said.
But Yavlinsky once again turned attention back to Russia's new ally on the
other side of the Atlantic. He said to have a stable relationship with
Europe, Russia has to create a stable relationship with the United States.
"The door for Europe is in Washington," Yavlinsky said.
Is this true?
"It is true, but it won't be true for a whole lot longer," Talbott
the guests were walking out onto the snowy streets of Davos.