Does Lord Mandelson’s visit to Moscow signify a change in official London’s outlook?

Lord Peter Mandelson of Her Majesty’s Government visited Moscow as the head of a British business delegation. The visit might be appraised as an attempt to mend fences in the bilateral relations between Great Britain and Russia and hopefully start them anew.

“We couldn’t wish for a warmer reception, more serious negotiations, or meetings at any higher level,” Mandelson said at the press conference prior to departure for London.

Mandelson’s tone in general was a nice change from what Moscow had gotten accustomed to in hearing from British politicians. “Russia’s help should be enlisted in reorganization of the global financial system to avoid analogous crises in the future,” Mandelson said in is lecture at the Supreme School of Economics. “It is a must from the standpoint of long-term stability and reinforcement of the international financial system and for promotion of Russia’s own national interests.”

The visitor pinned the blame for the crisis under way on the global elite. “We were let down by mistakes and lack of expertize on the part of individuals, not by the markets or the political system whose formation had taken decades. Governments were late to embrace the changes… We needed an early warning system and this system had to be global. It is easy to be wise now, of course. We’d better learn from the mistakes,” Mandelson said.

Great Britain turned out to be ready to help Russia advance into the foreground in the new global economic configuration. “Russia needs foreign investments to carry out its plans to develop infrastructure, diversify economy, and transform itself into a major financial center,” the visitor said. “Great Britain pledges readiness to work on it side by side with Russia. Great Britain and Russia should develop a sturdy partnership on the basis of economic integration and social progress. Partnership like that will promote national and global interests.”

“The impression I get is that even though the government is planning state interference (with economic affairs – Vremya Novostei) for the time being, it is not going to become Russian economy’s permanent feature. Participation of the state will be minimized soon enough,” Mandelson said at the press conference. He admitted he had been impressed by the resolve with which the government of Russia was tackling the crisis.

The Russian-British Trade and Investment Committee finally resumed its work. Its latest meeting took place in 2002. Regularly meeting as of now, the structure will handle interaction in the spheres of investments, fuel and energy complex, and preparations for the forthcoming Olympics (in London in 2012 and Sochi in 2014).

EU commissar for trade before that, Mandelson joined the HMG only recently. It was probably logical therefore that Mandelson kept mentioning the World Trade Organization when in Moscow. “Successful completion of the WTO membership talks should become Russia’s priority. Postponement will compromise the progress made so far. Russia’s commitments do not really differ that much from those of China, Vietnam, or Ukraine. Advantages and benefits will overcome the costs,” Mandelson said.

When in Moscow, Mandelson met with Senior Deputy Premier Igor Shuvalov, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, Anatoly Chubais of Russian Nanotechnologies, and (unofficially) with leading financial experts and analysts.