Russia’s world economy summit, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), opened on Wednesday — but this year’s proceedings are taking a markedly different tone than previous forums.
Attendees have become less global, a reflection of Russia’s growing isolation on the international stage.
Both Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declined invitations to attend. The most senior European leader expected at the summit is Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto.
Once referred to by organizers as Russia’s answer to the World Economic Forum in Davos, this year’s SPIEF is subdued, Russian economics-focused outlet The Bell reported earlier this month.
While SPIEF formerly attracted heavy-hitting attendees like French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese leader Xi Jinping for plenary sessions with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this year only the United Arab Emirates has agreed to partner with Russia for the event — and it’s so far unclear who will attend the session on the UAE’s behalf.
Last year, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sent only a video message to the conference, and did not attend in person, The Bell notes. In 2019, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attended the conference, warning of the need to avoid a second Cold War.
Previous iterations of SPIEF have been widely covered by journalists from around the world. But for the first time in the event’s nearly 30-year history, reporters from countries that Russia deems “unfriendly” have been banned from covering the event.
SPIEF may be another casualty of the sliding grip Russian authorities have on the country, as Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine takes its toll. Russian officials are insisting that they have the means to continue the war, while admitting that they do not have enough weapons, according to a recent report in Politico.
Speaking to pro-war bloggers, Putin said that “we have [weapons], but unfortunately we don’t have enough of them,” while also claiming that there was a threefold increase in weapons production.