$200 billion Russian projects beckon UAE
While 'intensifying' cultural and educational cooperation is a priority, trade and mutual investment remain the driving force behind cooperation between the UAE and Russia.
Moscow - Kremlin touts these as golden opportunity for Emirati investors, especially in space sector.
Russia is on the verge of throwing open $200 billion worth of national infrastructure projects, which the Kremlin believes is a golden opportunity for the UAE government and investors. Officials here also told Khaleej Times cooperation in the space and nuclear sectors could also be very significant.
Officials at the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said though "intensifying" cultural and educational cooperation is a priority, trade and mutual investment remain the driving force.
"We are very much looking forward to the historic visit of President Vladimir Putin to the UAE. We have seen the strategic relationship grow tremendously under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and President Putin. And one of the ways to illustrate this great partnership is through investments," Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF, said during a briefing to announce Putin's state visit to the UAE on October 15.
"In 2013, we formed a very good partnership with Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund of the UAE, and we jointly invested in 45 businesses in Russia. Businesses are absolutely critical for the growth of the Russian economy. Mubadala invested at a critical time for the Russian economy but they got very good returns, probably higher than from any other country," Dmitriev explained.
He said some of the notable investments included Russian helicopters, petrochemical company Sibur that created 20,000 jobs in Russia's northern region, Russia's largest logistic company called PLT and Pulkovo Airport in St Petersburg.
"We also jointly invested in centres to treat cancer patients in Russia. We are targeting different sectors like healthcare, infrastructure, technology and others. More than $4 billion was invested in 45 projects in four years."
Dmitriev said economic development between the UAE and Russia is very important and "we want to enhance not only our investment but also trade". Going forward, joint investments in other counties like China would be a turning point for the relationship, he added.
"We see more opportunity for growth and Mr Putin's visit will facilitate meetings between our top leadership and businessmen to see how we can enhance our investment cooperation," he said.
Apart from the oil sector, in which the two nations already have substantial partnership, Dmitriev said another major area of proposed cooperation is technology. "The UAE is a very advanced nation that attracts top companies, transforming to a technology hub in the region."
"Lots of our investment are focused on technology and we want to employ artificial intelligence to better treat cancer patients, as well as in genetics, satellite imaging and a whole lot of other areas where we believe we can have very close cooperation with the UAE."
The RDIF chief, who on Tuesday announced the opening of the fund's first foreign office in Saudi Arabia ahead of Putin's expected visit to the kingdom on October 14, said the Russian government is going to take a giant leap forward with a $200 billion spending plan to enhance infrastructure, including healthcare. "This a significant opportunity for investors and businessmen from the UAE to participate in our national projects."
There is also scope for better cooperation in the educational sector, he said. "Moscow State University is cooperating very closely with universities in the UAE. We also want to enhance cultural exchanges, and our museums want to open up to exhibitors from the UAE. We are very impressed by what the UAE has done with culture," Dmitriev said.
"And there is tourism. A huge number of Russians are not only going to Dubai, but now to Abu Dhabi, and the growth is very significant. Russian tourists appreciate different events that Abu Dhabi hosts - not only Forrmula One and many cultural events on Saadiyat Island, but also recent events like the UFC fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and American title holder Dustin Poirier. The event had been a huge hit with Khabib's Russian fans."
He said Russia is also proposing smaller nuclear plants that suit specific needs in the Middle East where large outputs are not required. Officials of Rosatom, or the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, would be part of the delegation travelling to the UAE. "There are lots of interesting proposals regarding very advanced but smaller nuclear generators that we believe can be a breakthrough in energy production going forward. Developing nuclear cooperation is a very important part and Rosatom is working hard to develop such nuclear projects in the region," he added.
Impressed with UAE
Dmitriev said Russia is incredibly impressed by what the UAE leadership has been able to accomplish over the last 10-15 years in terms of growth, transparency of economy and reduction of dependency on oil.
"For all these reasons, Russia really wants to be a great partner of the UAE. And this visit of President Putin is going to be a very important one for the benefit of our people, to get more investments, to get more jobs, to get more trade and to get more cultural and educational exchanges."
To another question, he said there is definitely a risk in the world economy. "Trade wars and geopolitical instability create lots of risks. We see the likelihood of a slowdown in the world economy, with a big part of it coming from trade wars. At the same time, we have seen the UAE economy growing very resilient, having reduced dependence on oil and invested in development, technology, media and other sectors."
"Next year, the demand for oil may slow down a little bit if the world economy is slowing down. Nations who are better-prepared for it, and nations who have diversified away from oil for focus on technology and other areas will weather the slowdown. And the UAE economy has done tremendously well in this regard," Dmitriev said.