Interview with Leonid Grigoriev

Leonid Grigoriev, President of the Institute of Energy and Finance in Moscow, joined RT to comment on the first visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Russia and its importance for the relations between the two countries.

Russia Today: This is Nicolas Sarkozy's first visit to Russia as President of France. How important is this visit?

Leonid Grigoriev: For us it’s interesting to see Sarkozy as a president. Whatever he did before, now he is the President of France – an old friend of Russia – and we want to see him. And for him it’s a chance to make an impression on Russians and to build traditional special ties with Russian leaders.  

RT: So to make them stronger to establish himself as a new leader?

L.G.: And that would give him a position in Europe.

RT: France will assume the chairmanship of the EU in July and Sarkozy is a new leader. Should we expect any changes in the relationships between Russia and France?

L.G.: Well, he is the President of France and he will be leading French interests in relations with the whole of Europe and with Russia. His leadership of the EU will start in July, before which there will be Portugal and Slovenia in between. So I can’t say too much about July next year. So let’s wait until then. But his interests here would be specifically to position himself. He is very proud of being the President; he wanted to be the President.

RT: Sarkozy was manifestly pro-American during his election campaign. Now the new Eastern European states are joining the EU and there’s Russia. How do you think he is going to balance it all?

L.G.: It will be interesting to look at the coming days, because traditionally France has had a special position on many things. For instance, France is not involved in Iraq, like many others. And to be too pro-American is not exactly beneficial in Europe sometimes; Tony Blair had problems with it. So I don’t expect him to stay too pro-American or too pro-Eastern European. He will simply be trying to smooth relations, but he will be a good partner, I hope.  

RT: Russia and France has a long history of relations in politics, culture, and economics. So what changes might we expect co-operation in the sphere of economics? Shall we expect any agreements or more investment?  

L.G.: We have a very interesting moment. We have about $US 6 billion in trade, and we export mainly energy and the French Total group is the only one selected to help Russia’s Gazprom in developing the famous Shtokman gas field. So there are already special relations with Gazprom, since there was a big race between many other companies to be in this field. We already have some good starting points for improving relations and the French have substantial investments in Russia, which are increasing.