By Paul Goble
In Monday’s “Kommersant-Vlast,” Russian business journalist Mikhail Malayev recounts for a Russian audience the history of Donald Trump’s efforts to launch business projects in Russia, efforts that have attracted a great deal of attention, much speculation about their role in his thinking, but not a great deal of success.
It is certainly true, Malayev says, that “the billionaire Trump is the first American leader for whom Russia has become one of the customary places for doing business.” He first came to Moscow in July 1987, a visit he called “extraordinary” because, in addition to everything else, he was put up in “the Lenin suite” at the National Hotel (kommersant.ru/doc/3137411).
During that visit, the journalist says, Trump proposed building a luxury class hotel in the center of Moscow but “these plans were not realized.”
In December 1996, Moscow officials announced that the city was negotiating with Trump about the reconstruction of the Rossiya and Moskva hotels, a project estimated to be worth 300 million US dollars. But “agreement could not be reached.” Talks about this project were renewed in 2004, but again without success.
In December 2007, Drinks Americas Holdings, having reached an agreement with Trump, launched Trump vodka in Russia. The first bottles went on sale for 40 to 50 US dollars in 2008, but production was stopped in 2011. The venture may be profitable in another way: Just after last week’s election, bottles of this brand were selling on E-Bay for more than $7,000.
In June 2008, Trump’s son said he had been travelling to Moscow to seek agreement for the construction of a luxury class hotel and elite housing, but again, Malayev says, “the sides did not come to a mutually acceptable agreement.” And in November 2013, Trump himself came to Moscow again.
He was there for the holding of the Miss Universe contest and his aides announced that he was planning to build a skyscraper in the Russian capital. He also hoped to meet Vladimir Putin at that time, but the latter “at the last minute” cancelled the meeting – although he did send Trump a letter and a present.
In short, although Malayev does not draw this conclusion, Trump tried repeatedly to break into the Russian property market but did not have the success he hoped for.
Trump also tried to enter the luxury hotel market in Georgia, something the government of Mikheil Saakashvili welcomed but that the regime of his successor has not. As a result, Trump was frozen out. Georgian commentator Oleg Panfilov says this may have consequences: Tbilisi hopes for good ties with Trump now but the US leader may not forget that snub (ru.krymr.com/a/28113020.html).