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Russian World Economic Forum Underway - 2001-10-30

Russian businessmen and corporate executives from around the world gathered in Moscow Monday for the opening of the Russian World Economic Forum, an offshoot of the World Economic Forum held every year in Davos, Switzerland. This is the sixth Russian World Economic Forum, and conference organizers say over 340 people are taking part from 28 countries.

The focus of Monday's meeting was on Russia's growing stature in the world community. Many of those in attendance noted that Russia may be able to reap considerable economic benefit in return for its active cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

During a news conference before the forum began, Klaus Schwab, the founder and president of the World Economic Forum, said, while Russia has always been an important player on the world stage, it had declined considerably in importance since the end of the Soviet Union. Now, he said, Russia's importance is once again on the rise. "Why do we have this meeting here in Moscow? We feel that the timing is particularly appropriate for mainly three reasons. First, the 11th of September has changed the world significantly. In our opinion it has also changed the mindset of many people looking at Russia," said Mr. Schwab. "In the past, Russia was a very significant power but somewhere in the east, and it was a part of the global community. Now under the leadership of President Putin the Russian federation has become an integral part of the global community."

Mr. Schwab pointed out another reason for having such a prestigious conference in Russia this year. While the rest of the world's economies, including that of the United States, are slowing down, the Russian economy is expected to grow by about five percent this year, thanks to high oil prices and to steady economic reforms implemented by President Vladimir Putin's government.

The growth is something few people would have expected after the economic crisis in 1998, when Russia devalued its currency and defaulted on its loans.