Vladimir Putin. Picture: REUTERS/ALEKSEY NIKOLSKY
Vladimir Putin. Picture: REUTERS/ALEKSEY NIKOLSKY

Moscow/Paris/St Petersburg — Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at the US for what he called its abuse of sanctions, saying the increasingly "restrictive instruments" being imposed on a growing number of countries is pushing the global economy toward an unprecedented crisis.

Putin didn’t identify Russia’s former Cold War foe by name, but it was clear who he was targeting during his keynote speech at his annual investment forum in St Petersburg, where he was flanked by leaders from China, Japan and France, as well as the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"The free market and fair competition are being squeezed by confiscations, restrictions, sanctions," Putin said. "There are various terms, but the meaning is the same — they’ve become an official part of the trade policy of certain countries."

Re-elected by a landslide in March, Putin is steering Russia out of its longest recession in two decades despite increasingly onerous US financial penalties over the Kremlin’s alleged election meddling. He’s pledged to accelerate sluggish growth to a level that exceeds the global average so as to lift Russia into the world’s top five economies and deliver a "decisive breakthrough" in living standards.

US President Donald Trump has angered world powers by threatening trade wars with the EU and China while re-imposing sanctions on Iran after unilaterally withdrawing the US from the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, which the other signatories — Russia, China, Germany, the UK and France — are now trying to salvage.

"The spiral of sanctions and restrictions is only accelerating and is targeting an ever larger number of countries and companies," Putin said. "Their arbitrary and uncontrollable nature is inevitably leading to more and more frequent and wider use of these restrictive instruments on any pretext, no matter your political loyalty, talk of solidarity, previous accords and many years of co-operation."

French President Emmanuel Macron, on his first visit to Russia, called on Putin to help defend the multilateral world order while respecting the sovereignty of individual nations. "We need a strong partnership," Macron said in front of an audience of some 1,500 delegates, looking directly at Putin. "That’s why we need to anchor Russia to Europe."

Putin’s position was echoed by Chinese vice-president Wang Qishan, the Asian powerhouse’s new point man for foreign policy. Wang said: "Politicising economic and trade issues, brandishing economic sanctions, are bound to damage the trust from others."

Bloomberg

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