US Executives Pressured by White House to Cancel Russian Forum

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Tuesday, 06 May 2014 08:40 AM

By Courtney Coren

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Top executives from several United States-based companies will not travel to an international economic forum this month in Russia hosted by President Vladimir Putin after pressure from the White House.

As part of the Obama administration's attempt to isolate Russia over its aggression in Ukraine, executives from companies such as Alcoa, Goldman Sachs Group, PepsiCo, Morgan Stanley, ConocoPhillips, and others that do business in Russia have already canceled their trips to St. Petersburg or will do so soon, The New York Times reported.

American CEOs, who were planning to attend the forum May 22-24, were contacted by White House officials and Cabinet secretaries, urging them not to attend the event.

In their stead, the CEOs are now sending lower-level executives who are based either in Moscow or Europe. Executives want to comply with the White House while avoiding alienating Putin, the Times reported.

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and Jeffrey Zients, the national economic adviser, have been among the Obama officials driving the campaign, according to the Times.

"They've basically been saying, 'We're not telling you what to do, but it wouldn't look good,'" one executive, speaking anonymously, told the Times.

Some executives are frustrated that they are getting caught up in the middle of the struggle, and believe that hurting business relationships in Russia will only make tensions between the United States and Russia worse, according to the Times.

"The understanding is that those that choose to go will be on the Obama administration's dog list," said one participant's summary of a closed meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia last week. "One U.S. executive at today's meeting warned that Putin/Kremlin will closely watch which U.S. CEOs cancel, and their Russia business will be impacted."

No U.S. government officials will attend the event in St. Petersburg.

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