Shifting Geopolitical Tides: St. Petersburg International Economic Forum Explores Russia’s Eastward Pivot

SPIEF 2023
St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2023 (Credits: Ramil Sitdikov/Photo host Agency RIA Novosti)

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) serves as a significant milestone in Russia’s foreign policy and economic strategy. Over the years, this global platform has gained prominence, allowing business representatives from around the world to engage in dialogue and address crucial economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the international community as a whole.

On June 14th, 2023, the 26th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an important event in the world of economics and business started. SPIEF has been held since 1997, and since 2006 it has been held under the patronage and with the participation of the President of the Russian Federation. Over the years, the Forum has become a global platform for business representatives to communicate and discuss key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets and the world as a whole.

Participants and current agenda

According to Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organizing Committee, on June 13th, 2023, over 17,000 people from 130 countries and territories have confirmed their participation in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

“The Forum is a communication tool between society and the authorities, determining the pace and depth of the transformations taking place in the country, considering the goals of national development in global geopolitical changes. The mechanisms of strategic development of the state are being worked out at the forum in cooperation with all development institutions, regions of the country, NGOs, public associations, mass media and youth organizations,” Kobyakov said.

It is known that within the framework of the forum, six bilateral business events are planned in the format of business dialogues with foreign partners of the Arab world, India, China, the EAEU – ASEAN, Latin America, and the UAE. In addition, the United Arab Emirates will participate in the SPIEF as a special guest.

The 26th session of the SPIEF will be attended by Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz. In addition, Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Serbian President Milorad Dodik received an invitation.

As in previous years, the head of state Vladimir Putin will speak on the sidelines of the SPIEF and take part in the plenary session. The Russian leader will personally attend the forum.

In 2023, the forum will be held under the slogan “Sovereign development is the basis of a just world. Let’s join forces for the sake of future generations.” The participants of the discussions will examine the development of the Russian economy in modern realities, technological sovereignty of the Russian Federation, social priorities of domestic policy, the labour market and its challenges, as well as the world economy in the era of a global turning point.

The SPIEF’s Geopolitical Agenda

The SPIEF has been held for the second year in a row in the context of a radical restructuring of the world order and the aggravation of the geopolitical confrontation between Russia and Western countries. With this in mind, the agenda and program of the event indicates Russia continues to restructure its foreign policy and geostrategy, changing their vector from West to East.

Russia and the countries of the East

The discussion “Russia-India” will occur within the framework of the SPIEF. Moscow values India’s independent political and economic course, which creates a unique opportunity for building investment, trade and economic cooperation with Russia at a qualitatively new level.

Today, the volume of trade between the countries is growing at a faster pace because of the rapid increase in supplies of Russian energy and fertilizers to India, as well as iron, steel and other goods, which corresponds to the existing status of a particularly privileged strategic partnership. In this regard, the main directions for cooperation in the economic sphere, the structure of bilateral trade measures to further deepen cooperation between the two countries will be considered in St. Petersburg.

Within the framework of the round table “Russia and Algeria”, dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, ways to increase and diversify trade turnover between the countries will be considered.

According to the results of 2022, Algeria ranks third in terms of trade turnover with Russia among African countries, but the potential for trade and economic cooperation has not been exhausted. Experts and officials of the two countries will consider the points of growth of cooperation in energy, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, high-technology and other industries.

During the discussion “Russia and Iran: Youth cooperation in a new Reality”, the forum participants plan to consider issues of cooperation at the level of youth public structures and organizations. The organizers of the SPIEF note that in modern conditions, Russia and Iran are becoming strategic partners, which requires building and strengthening ties not only at the level of diplomatic departments and government agencies but also at the grassroots level through public relations.

The invitation to the United Arab Emirates as a special guest to the forum demonstrates Russia’s turn to the East. The partnership relations between the UAE and Russia are steadily developing. This positive trend is reflected in the statistics of trade between the two countries: over the past five years, trade turnover has increased almost sixfold, and last year reached a historic high and amounted to $9 billion. Currently, the UAE confidently holds the position of Russia’s largest business partner among the countries of the Arab world.

According to the organizers of the Forum, in the modern realities of external sanctions pressure from unfriendly states, new opportunities for the development of Russian non-energy exports are opened by placing production facilities by Russian companies on the basis of special economic zones operating in friendly countries that have the infrastructure and provide residents with a certain set of preferences. In this sense, Moscow is most interested in the proposals of the largest free economic zones of the UAE, specialising in supporting companies in the manufacturing sector.

Eurasian integration

The discussions planned for the SPIEF indicate that Russia will continue to increase the activity of the Eurasian vector of its geopolitics. Moscow plans to support integration processes by promoting Russian business and investing in small and medium-sized businesses in Eurasian countries, since it is less susceptible to non-market forms of pressure because of its format and type of activity. At the same time, it is this sector that is acquiring a special role in establishing business ties in the new international economic reality.

One of the most relevant directions of Moscow’s Eurasian policy is the promotion of the North—South International Transport Corridor (ITC), which can become an alternative transport corridor for the countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The forum plans to discuss not only the railway and waterways of the corridor but also the development of highways. In 2022, the volume of cargo transportation by motor transport on the roads included in the MTK increased by 2.5 times. In order to create conditions for further growth, measures are needed to modernize outdated infrastructure, eliminate barriers of a tax, administrative and other nature.

The key project of the Eurasian geostrategy is also the accelerated development of cooperation with the EAEU member states. By 2025 the members of the association plan to complete the formation stage of the EAEU. In this regard, the forum will consider new tools for achieving the goals of Eurasian integration and determining the vectors of integration interaction for the medium term.

The Arctic Agenda – 2023

Special attention at the forum will be paid to the Arctic theme, which is connected with Russia’s chairmanship in the Arctic Council in 2021-2023. In particular, it is planned to hold discussions on the topic “The Arctic as a unique area of international cooperation: prospects and opportunities”, “Filmmaking in the Arctic: a dialogue of nature and technology”, “The Northern Sea Route: new challenges”, “Development of the scientific and educational potential of the Arctic”, etc.

The Arctic is a unique region whose geopolitical significance is difficult to overestimate. The melting of the Arctic ice expands economic opportunities for states. For example, prospects for the development of shipping and the oil industry are improving, which can have a significant impact on the global geo-economy.

The key project for Moscow is the Northern Sea Route, the most important transport highway connecting the spaces of the Arctic territories of Russia. In the conditions of increasing sanctions pressure, destruction of existing logistics chains, changes in traditional sales markets, the Northern Sea Route can open a new window of opportunity for the development of its own territories and strengthening of Russia’s partnership relations with friendly countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

Considering the changes occurring in the modern world order, Russia is interested in developing new tools for managing processes in the Arctic region in the current geopolitical realities.

The results of the discussions on the Arctic agenda will be part of an analytical report on international cooperation in sustainable development between Russia and the Arctic and non—Arctic states, prepared within the framework of the Think Arctic – Think Global project, implemented jointly by the Roscongress Foundation and the HSE Center for Integrated European and International Studies within the framework of the program of Russia’s chairmanship in the Arctic Council in 2021-2023.


Thus, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is currently one of the most important events for Moscow designed to promote the transformation of Russia’s foreign policy and geostrategy for the coming decades ahead.

Despite Russia’s unwillingness to isolate itself from the West, the current geopolitical realities indicate the need to shift Moscow’s geopolitical vector from the West to the East.

Author: Vlad Antonov

*Analysis in media partnership with Kaspiskij Vestnik. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpecialEurasia. 

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