Italy and Germany are waiting: too many risks for the economy. And Putin sees the big names in business

The conference call is scheduled for this morning: Vladimir Putin in Moscow, possibly with some of his ministers; between Milan and Rome about twenty bigwigs of the Italian economy. The list is not official but there should be the top management of Enel and Snam, Marco Tronchetti Provera for Pirelli, the number one of Unicredit Andrea Orcel, Guido Barilla for the family business. The organizer and owner, although virtual, will be the president of the Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce, Vincenzo Trani, also known for having called his friend Matteo Renzi to the board of directors of Delimobil, a car-sharing company active in Europe. of the East and candidate for listing on Wall Street (later postponed to a later date).

It was Trani, well established for years in the meanders of Russian power, who requested a meeting with the tenant of the Kremlin a few months ago. This had never happened to an Italian Chamber of Commerce: we will talk about business strategies and opportunities for Italian companies. But, given the moment, also political tensions and the danger of sanctions.

According to data from the Chamber of Commerce, in 2021 trade between Russia and Italy marks an increase of 43.89% compared to the same period of 2020, and the data projected for the whole year suggest a return to pre-crisis levels.

But the echo of a possible conflict between Russia and Ukraine has already made its effects felt: international investors are fleeing Russian bonds and markets. One of the participants in today’s meeting, Andrea Orcel of Unicredit, had discussed the possibility of an acquisition in Moscow, that of Otkritie Bank, controlled by the central bank. The Stock Exchange did not like the idea, which in recent days has penalized the title of the Italian institute: the risk of falling into an ocean of trouble is too high. For the avoidance of doubt, Unicredit disclosed a few days ago that it had dropped the idea.

It is possible, even probable, that Putin’s attention is part of an attempt to sensitize the business community in the Peninsula. Along with Germany, Italy is the Western partner that is the most cautious in terms of economic reactions to a possible attack by Moscow on Kiev. The Russian president no doubt wants to bring new arguments to the proponents of caution. A model, that of waiting, perfectly embodied at that time by Berlin. Chancellor Olaf Scholz even declined (as Der Spiegel writes this week) an invitation to the White House, which was personally given to him by CIA chief William Burns. The official motivation would be far too trivial: previous commitments already made for the next few weeks. In reality, the new German government would not want to take a position on possible sanctions envisaged against Moscow.

Germany is one of the European countries most dependent on Russian gas (55% of consumption, we are at 40%) and fears, above all, a blockage of supplies. A specialized magazine, Energy Intelligence, recently quoted by The Economist, calculated that the total shutdown of European supplies would cost Moscow a little more than 200 million dollars a day. For the three months needed to arrive in spring (when consumption also drops in Northern Europe) the cost would be around 20 billion. This may seem like a huge number, but in reality it is not that high considering that at the moment the Kremlin is sitting on a treasure trove of gold and currency reserves that exceeds 600 billion. In short, if Putin wants to be tough, he has all the means to succeed.

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