If you were to believe everything he said, we should all pack up and move to Russia.
The Consul General of the Russian Federation gave a talk in Denver on Thursday morning, and he spoke at length about how the Russian economy is now free of Soviet debt and and how it bounced back quickly from a double blow dealt two years ago by the drop in oil prices and the smack-down of international sanctions.
And who wouldn’t want to move to a country where the president’s approval rating consistently floats above 80 percent?
There was no mention, however, of President Putin’s dubious record on human rights, or of widespread allegations of Russian hacking of our presidential election.
Metropolitan State University of Denver’s College of Business hosted Sergey Petrov. He is probably about as Americanized as a Russian diplomat can get. He’s worked in North America since 2003: eight years in Canada, six in the U.S.. He’s been the head honcho at the Russian Federation in San Francisco since 2013.
His English is fluent enough to get a good laugh out of the crowd when he cracked a joke about “fake news.”
The gist of Petrov’s talk — besides boasting about the growth and overall strength of the Russian economy — was to push for closer business ties between neighbors. And neighbors, we are, indeed. He reminded the audience that, besides Mexico and Canada, Russia is the country that lies closest to our borders. To be precise: just 2.4 miles separate the superpowers (so, maybe Sarah Palin was on to something, after all).
There’s certainly room for boosted trade between the US and Russia. For now, bilateral trade amounts to less than $40 billion annually — a figure that Petrov describes as essentially “non-existent” given the size of the two economies.
Petrov expressed interest in Colorado’s booming craft pivo (beer) and distillery markets. But for now, Russia is a small player in our state — not even ranking in the top 25 export countries.
We sat down with the consul general after his talk, asking how his vision of greater business cooperation between the US and Russia can be squared with underlying differences on issues like human rights.
With the ease of the diplomat he is, Petrov pivoted away from mention of the brand-new law Moscow has enacted that softens punishment for domestic violence. He also claimed that Russia — which ranks 148th in the world on press freedom — shares Americans’ respect for media rights. And, and as for those claims that Russia may have hacked our election, he said they are simply “ridiculous.”