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Saudi Arabia a precedent for fixing US-Russia relations

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) and Russian Direct Investment Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev during a meeting with Russian Direct Investment Fund experts and representatives of international investment community at Konstantin Palace.

Mikhail Klimentyev | TASS via Getty Images

The head of Russia‘s $10 billion state investment vehicle is optimistic about repairing relations with Washington, he told CNBC on Sunday, pointing to Moscow’s growing bond with Saudi Arabia as a precedent.

Russia isn’t trying to fill a void in the Middle East left by what some describe as an inward-turning America, Kirill Dimitriev, chief executive of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund (RDIF) told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Riyadh. He insisted that Russia’s growing investments in and trade with Saudi Arabia should be seen as “building bridges” rather than engaging the strategic competition that many in the West regularly warn about.

“Really we are not talking about, you know, the strategic partnerships that Saudi has with the U.S., and what we are doing is not against the U.S. It’s actually building something that is very positive,” Dimitriev said. “And building something that helps Saudi economy, Russian economy — and builds the friendship between our nations.”

The CEO’s comments come at a time of frigid relations between the U.S. and Russia, as the latter remains under U.S. sanctions and has been accused by the U.S. intelligence community of meddling in the 2016 election and posing a continued threat to the presidential election in 2020.

Dimitriev pointed to his country’s blossoming friendship with Saudi Arabia — something that only four years ago was in serious doubt, given the animosity between the two during the Cold War. The last few years, by contrast, have seen the creation of a historic oil production alliance led by Riyadh and Moscow, increased trade and investment, and the first state visit by a Saudi monarch to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the 16th Valdai International Discussion Club meeting in Sochi, Russia on October 3, 2019.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

“I think we need to go back to basics… I’m sure the Saudi example is very interesting to try at some point to restore the relationship with the U.S., because if we could do it with Saudi Arabia in four years, why can’t we do it with the U.S. going forward?” he asked.

“Many people didn’t believe that we’ll make much progress,” Dimitriev said of the relationship with the Saudi kingdom. “And it seemed too distant because Russia and Saudi Arabia were worlds apart. We had lots of differences during Soviet times. We had lots of differences in many politics in the Middle East. But now I can report to you that we made really breakthrough and this is a breakthrough because President Putin and King Salman and now Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman really believed that it’s possible to bring Russia and Saudi Arabia closer together.”

New Saudi-Russia investment projects

Dimitriev, as chief of RDIF, is tasked with attracting inward investment to Russia in a wide range of sectors. In previous interviews with CNBC, he has often downplayed political tensions and espoused better relations to promote trade and investment. He has criticized U.S. sanctions on Russia, calling them unproductive. He has also vocally defended Michael Calvey, the American investor currently under house arrest in Russia on state charges of defrauding a Russian bank, allegations Calvey says are untrue.

RDIF already has investment partnerships with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth funds, PIF and SAGIA. Saudi Aramco has made moves to invest in Russia’s energy industry, with the two companies agreeing on terms of an investment into Russian oilfield services firm Novomet earlier this year. The two countries also jointly invest in an energy fund through a Russian partnership with Saudi state oil giant Aramco, and are expected to announce 10 new investment projects in the oil and technology spheres on Monday.

Saudi Arabia has so far invested $2.5 billion of a $10 billion investment pledge into a number of Russian sectors, including energy, infrastructure and technology.

“This angle of Middle East-Russia-Asian markets is a very interesting angle because there are lots of growth opportunities in all those markets,” Dimitriev said. “Of course the situation in the Middle East is still quite volatile and we know about geopolitical tensions but there is no doubt that there is a major opportunity to grow the Saudi economy.”

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Hacked Disney Plus accounts said to be on sale, according to reports

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In this photo illustration, the Disney + logo is displayed on the screen of an Apple MacBook Pro computer on November 08, 2019 in Paris, France.

Chesnot | Getty Images

Thousands of Disney+ user accounts have been stolen by hackers and put up for sale on the dark web, according to multiple reports.

Disney+ is the new subscription-based streaming service from Disney that was officially launched last Tuesday.

Just hours after the service was rolled out, hackers hijacked user accounts and were either offering them for free on hacking forums or selling them for prices between $3 to $11, according to investigations by news site ZDNet.

Users said hackers were accessing their Disney+ accounts, logging them out of their devices and then changing the email and password associated with that account, according to ZDNet.

The BBC also reported that it found hacked customer accounts for sale on the dark web.

A spokesperson for Disney told CNBC the company “takes the privacy and security of our users’ data very seriously and there is no indication of a security breach on Disney+.”

It is likely that some users may have used the same email and password for multiple sites, including Disney+, and their credentials could’ve been stolen during previous security breaches at other companies.

But, ZDNet reported users who have used unique passwords also had their accounts compromised.

Disney+ is currently available in a few selected countries including the United States and Canada. It touts an expansive library of content from Disney shows and movies, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm as well as new original shows being produced for the service, such as the “Star Wars” spin-off series “The Mandalorian.”

It is the latest addition in an increasingly crowded streaming landscape, with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and others.

Read ZDNet’s full investigation about stolen Disney+ accounts here.

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A.I. helps in early detection of ovarian cancer, says CEO of health tech firm

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is helping oncologists in the U.K. detect ovarian cancer in patients much earlier than was previously possible, according to the CEO of TPP, a company that provides health-care related software to doctors and nurses.

“So, our AI can now spot (ovarian cancer) in more than 50% of cases up to two years before the doctor,” Frank Hester told CNBC’s Christine Tan at the East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China. “The average doctor in a 40-year career sees four or five cases of ovarian cancer.”

By the time a woman finds out she has ovarian cancer, it is usually too late, but late detection can now be eliminated thanks to advancement in health care technology, according to Hester, whose company works with the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) which provides majority of health care in England.

TPP has access to more than 50 million medical records of NHS patients. Using that data, the company has built AI programs and the first of it focuses on early detection of ovarian cancer, Hester said.

The Horsforth-based company shares patients’ medical records electronically with doctors and nurses, Hester said, highlighting that they have checks and balances in place to cover for cyber security breaches.

“We pay companies to attack us every year. We actually pay… in every country that we’re working in,” Hester said, referring to ethical hackers — sometimes called “white hats” — who are hired by companies to help boost their defenses against hackers and keep their networks secure.

Countries around the world are relying on digital medical records of patients and using AI in health care for early detection and accuracy of diagnosis, or for administrative tasks such as scheduling patients appointments and staffing tasks, according to a global study done in Singapore by Royal Philips’ annual Future Health Index.

According to the study, health care professionals in China are significantly more likely to recommend patients use digital health technology or mobile health apps to track key health indicators.

“China is absolutely leading the world in AI,” said Hester. “I’ve seen a change over the past 5 years… it’s almost the policy now to do business with foreigners, which is great,” Hester said.

TPP’s health care technology has been used in China since 2013, he added.

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US, China could sign phase one trade deal before Christmas, Pimco says

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John Studzinski, managing director and vice chairman of Pimco, speaks with CNBC’s Geoff at the East Tech West conference in Nansha, Guangzhou.

Dave Zhong | Getty Images for CNBC

A “phase one” trade deal between the U.S. and China could be finalized and signed before Christmas this year, according to an executive from bond investment giant Pimco.

Optimism that such an agreement could be reached between the two countries faded in recent days following reports that Washington and Beijing remained far apart on several issues. A Chinese government source told CNBC’s Eunice Yoon on Monday that China is troubled after U.S. President Donald Trump said he hasn’t agreed to roll back tariffs.

But John Studzinski, managing director and vice chairman of Pimco, said on Tuesday that he still thinks the two sides would reach a partial deal.

“There are obviously issues remaining about agricultural purchase targets, forced technology (transfer) and broader enforcement issues. But I think the view would be to try to resolve something … by the beginning of December and sign it before Christmas,” he told CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore at the East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou city, China.

“And I think Trump sees this as important. He’s gotten a lot of endorsement from American CEOs who want to see some type of stabilization and anchor in this broader relationship and trade dialogue between China and America,” he added.

US and China are ‘complementary’

The two largest economies in the world are in the second year of a trade war that has hurt investor and business sentiment, and slowed down global economic activity. Both the U.S. and China have slapped tariffs worth billions of dollars on each other’s products — with potentially more to come if talks between them break down.

But reaching a “phase one” deal will not resolve all issues between the two economic giants, noted Studzinski.

“Whether we like it or not, we are all witnessing a major event — the first major event, really — since World War II with the need for these two formidable cultures, countries, independent countries to rethink their relationship,” he said. “The world will be a much stronger and stable place if they can find ways to align their interests, rather than trying to compete.”

Studzinski explained that in many ways, the U.S. and China are “complementary.”

Citing the technology sector as an example, he said the U.S. has had three to four generations of Silicon Valley-trained technologists, while China has “fantastic” expertise and acumen to manufacture “very complicated” components. Those two areas of expertise would work well together to benefit economies worldwide, he added.

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