World Economy

US and Russia 'need to strengthen' economic and political ties, Russian finance minister says

Key Points
  • "This is not the best climate for business development… I think that we need to strengthen our links, both economic and political links, between the U.S. and Russia," Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov told CNBC on Thursday.
  • His comments come amid a long series of provocations and flare-ups between Moscow and Washington in recent years, whose relations are seen by many as at their worst since the Cold War.
  • In 2018, Russia's gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 2.3%, marking the country's highest level of expansion in almost seven years.
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Russia and US should strengthen political ties: Russian finance minister

Russia and the U.S. must find a way to resolve their differences on the international stage in order to improve the overall health of the global economy, Russia's finance minister told CNBC on Thursday.

His comments come amid a long series of provocations and flare-ups between Moscow and Washington in recent years, whose relations are seen by many as at their worst since the Cold War.

Last month, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's completed report into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election that there was no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.

When asked whether there was a tangible sense of relief among Moscow's business community after a summary of the Mueller report was released, Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov replied: "We have never had any doubts in the conclusions of that report, on the one hand."

"On the other hand, I think that it is not really about the results of that investigation; the problem lies with the overall state of relations between our two countries."

"This is not the best climate for business development… I think that we need to strengthen our links, both economic and political links, between the U.S. and Russia. This would be of benefit to the global economy and, to our countries, our people and our entrepreneurs, first and foremost," Siluanov told CNBC's Joumanna Bercetche in Washington on Thursday.

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Russia has minimized effect of oil price on budget: Finance minister

'Wait and see'

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly said the Mueller report was always going to end up finding nothing.

Putin has previously described the original allegations of collusion as "complete nonsense."

The Mueller report did not clear Moscow of trying to meddle in the 2016 vote, and U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Kremlin did interfere — citing a campaign of email hacking and online propaganda.

Speaking at the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) spring meeting, Siluanov said: "It is the change in the overall rhetoric in our relations that is the problem. We can see that the results of the report have had no effect, they have not led to any willingness to stop the sanctions that are coming out of the U.S."

"We shall have to wait and see how things pan out but so far we have seen no changes in the matter of restrictions imposed on Russia," he added.

Russia has repeatedly criticized U.S. and EU sanctions placed on Russia since 2014 for a variety of reasons, ranging from its annexation of Crimea, the poisoning of an ex-spy in the U.K. and meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Anton Siluanov, Russia's Finance Minister and First Deputy Prime Minister, holds an extended meeting with foreign investors on his visit to the Samsung Electronics plant in the Vorsino industrial park.
Gavriil Grigorov | TASS via Getty Images

Economic growth

In 2018, Russia's gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 2.3%, marking the country's highest level of expansion in almost seven years.

"The rate of economic growth is less linked to the oil prices because we have been taking all the necessary measures to carry out structural reforms and changes, to bolster the growth rate," Siluanov said.

"We have minimized the effect of oil and gas prices on our budget, we have minimized their impact on the balance of payments so the rate of growth we have enjoyed recently has been achieved by stepping up business activity and investments," he added.

As one of the world's top producers of natural gas and oil, Russia stands to benefit from higher oil prices.

International benchmark Brent and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures have risen by approximately 30 and 40 percent respectively since the start of the year.