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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tatum Sends Clear Signal To Investors

Sometimes it seemed all too much as if Paul Tatum were on an election campaign, the way he pressed himself into the limelight and demanded that he and his business concerns be taken as a symbol of the ambitions and troubles of the foreign business community in Moscow.


Nothing spoke so much of this as Tatum's efforts to persuade expatriates to finance the costs of his going to arbitration court in Sweden by purchasing "Freedom Bonds," high risk paper that one could only invest in out of a belief that Tatum ought, as a matter of principle, to have his day in court.


Well, he succeeded. By choosing such an exposed and competitive area of business, by insisting that his side be heard when even his friendlier partners wanted him just to disappear, Tatum did indeed become a brave and brash symbol for foreign business in Moscow.


Following his assassination in a metro underpass Sunday, Tatum has also come to represent everything that foreign businessmen fear most about coming to Russia, above all that any contract dispute will be settled in blood rather than in court.


There are no suspects yet in Tatum's assassination, and so it cannot be linked to the joint venture at the Radisson Slavjanskaya that has so publicly gone sour. But the Moscow city government will have quite a task on its hands to persuade the public that there was no such connection.


And it should take that task seriously.


The joint venture, in which Tatum was fighting so hard to keep a meaningful share -- and in which the city owned 50 percent -- had become a symbol for other joint ventures that have gone bad.


Among those with the kind of store-front presence required to make them news were the Irish Arbat House supermarket, The Garden Ring supermarkets and most recently the Roditi department store on Novy Arbat. In each case, the foreign partners either gave up quietly or fled the country before starting to fight from afar.


Doubtless none of the people involved were angels. But the rights and wrongs of their cases are not in question. The issue is how such disputes are resolved, and the killing of Paul Tatum gives all too clear an answer: Foreign investors must play by the same brutal and lawless rules that result in Russian bankers and businessmen being killed every day.


The Russian government has often said it wants more of the right kind of foreign investors -- the serious ones with big money who are prepared to come here for the long term. But how can a people be expected to start choosing Russia in large numbers if it seems clear they will be risking their lives as well as their money?