Russia Direct Investment Fund Plans to Open First Office in the United States

During the Davos World Economic Forum this past week, the Head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Kirill Dmitriev, announced that the fund plans to open a representative office in New Work City by the end of May.

It would be the first official office for the Russian sovereign wealth fund in the United States.  The RDIF is also reportedly organizing a meeting, in Russia, between a number of yet-to-be-named U.S. business executives scheduled to take place in the coming months.  The opening of a the New York office is likely intended to facilitate greater cooperation between U.S. businesses and their Russian counterparts.  This is likely an expression of growing Kremlin confidence that commercial relations between the U.S. and Russia will improve under the Trump administration.

Anthony Scaramucci, a surrogate for the Trump team, and, according to reports, likely future White House advisor, met in Davos with Dmitriev to discuss potential business cooperation between Russian and U.S. businesses.   Scaramucci’s comments at Davos were generally skeptical of U.S. sanctions policy toward Russia.  Mr. Scaramucci observed, “I think the sanctions had, in some ways, an opposite effect because of Russian culture.  I think the Russians would eat snow, if they had to.  And so for me the sanctions probably galvanized the nation with the nations president.”

An RDIF office in New York opens the possibility of greater Russian economic and financial activity in the U.S.  It could put Russian investors (particularly in a post-sanctions environment) into larger-scale deals – of the type pursued by China – that have come under scrutiny for their underlying strategic- and national security-related risks.  In this environment, the need for transparency, disclosure and enhanced screening of those Russian companies involved (and the transactions they pursue) will be especially important, even when their activities appear legal and commercial.