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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Execs: Sept. 11 a Catalyst for Investment

The Sept. 11 attacks in America not only revamped political and military relations with Russia, but could provide opportunities for more foreign investment from the United States, said members of the Eurasia Group delegation of U.S. executives in Moscow this week.

Partly seeking to capitalize on the shift in relations before it fades, the group met with city and federal government officials, as well as companies from Moscow and the regions to talk investment.

"Obviously, the hope has to be that these changes will be significant in the long term for the development for closer economic relations between the two countries," said Ian Bremmer, director of Eurasia, a U.S. political risk-consulting firm.

"Since we were first here 18 months ago, much has been accomplished by President [Vladimir] Putin and his team and also, interestingly enough, by [Moscow Mayor Yury] Luzhkov and his team," Bremmer said.

No contracts were signed, but there were agreements to continue talks on some projects, said Boris Alexeyev, president of the Council for Trade and Economic Cooperation Russia-USA, which helped arrange the trip.

The companies, some of them already investors here, like Athena and Metromedia International Telecommunications, are in the oil, gas, technology, finance, real estate and legal sectors.

"I know three, four, five, six different private equity funds that are being created, raising money to make those investments," said Stuart Sundlun, managing director of investment fund Global Emerging Markets. "That situation didn't exist a year ago."

Members of the mission met with presidential envoy to the Caspian Viktor Kaluzhny, and Bremmer said that the war in Afghanistan, while obvious fodder for conflict over the U.S. role in Central Asia, could also provide opportunities for more economic cooperation there. "Increased investment would help bring stability to the region," Bremmer said.

City Hall also used the opportunity to try to get backing for some of Luzhkov's pet projects, like Disneyland Russia ($7 billion), the already much talked about Moskva-City business center ($12 billion), reconstruction of the Kolomenskoye historical site ($3 billion) and a Formula-1 track at a site in Nagatinskoye ($600 million), Interfax reported.

The meetings followed on the heels of U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans' trade mission here last week, as well as visits by the International Monetary Fund and the International Finance Corp.

"If President Putin is seen or photographed wearing a cowboy hat or boots, I would like to think that perhaps we will see some of the U.S. government agencies providing support to credit institutions that will enable us to get access to the debt and speed the investment process," said delegation chairman John Kean Jr., CEO of gas-trading company NUI, referring partly to U.S. Export-Import Bank and the IMF.

Eurasia, together with Lehman Brothers, a New York financial house, this month launched its 10-nation emerging-market economic and political risk index, LEGSI, which puts Russia squarely in the middle. Russia's score of 66 out of 100 was behind Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Ukraine, but ahead of Thailand, Croatia, Turkey, Indonesia and Azerbaijan.

Recently, Transparency International, which has a ranking that essentially measures corruption, put Russia ahead of just 10 countries out of 91.

"As for corruption -- just be careful," advised Sundlun.