by Riley Waggaman | Unlimited Hangout

On November 1, 2021, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, published an essay outlining six lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID-19 has seriously accelerated the fourth industrial revolution. Since March 2020, there has been an explosion in the quantity and quality of a variety of online services, whether it be grocery delivery, access to government services, virtual cultural events, bank payments, or distance learning,” Russia’s former president and prime minister wrote. The main problem now facing the world, per Medvedev, was how to avoid a “digital divide” that would deprive people of “vital opportunities.”

Medvedev also argued that COVID-19 triggered a “global crisis of confidence” that could be remedied by “giving the World Health Organization the authority to make significant mobilization decisions in the interests of the entire world community in an emergency situation.”

Another important lesson from the pandemic was making vaccines accessible, and when deemed necessary, compulsory. Extolling the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 shots, the Russian statesman blamed “vaccine nationalism” for complicating efforts to inject the global population in a timely and cost-efficient manner.

Medvedev’s essay provided a remarkably honest overview of Moscow’s trajectory from the start of the pandemic until the end of 2021; that it resembled a boilerplate press release from the World Economic Forum was, to put it mildly, somewhat concerning.

But are Medvedev’s “six lessons” still applicable to Russia today, four months after Moscow launched its special military operation in Ukraine?

Sanctions in response to the conflict in Ukraine forced the World Economic Forum to cut all formal ties with Russian businesses and government institutions: the typical gaggle of Russian oligarchs were disinvited to Davos; Vladimir Putin’s profile was purged from the WEF’s website; Russia’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution – founded in partnership with the WEF in October 2021 – announced in April that it had suspended its operations.

For Russia, divorce with the Davos-devout West represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and, by all indications, reset.

But is Moscow taking steps to halt or reverse the Great Reset agenda that has swept the globe following the outbreak of COVID-19? Although no longer rubber stamped by Schwab, Russia’s technocratic revisioning of the social contract between government and citizen continues without any significant interruptions. From CBDCs to experimental genetic “vaccines,” Moscow is still marching to the same tune being played in Davos.

Rebuild everything

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a new chapter in human development, driven by the increasing availability and interaction of a set of extraordinary technologies, building on three previous technological revolutions … The world’s most innovative companies, governments and civil society organizations are combining new technologies in new products, services and processes that are reshaping existing ways of delivering value.”

– Klaus Schwab, Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (2018)

On June 2, 2022, Russia’s leading businessmen and top government officials gathered for the Forum for Solving Social Problems. Launched in 2020 as part of President Vladimir Putin’s National Social Initiative (NSI), the conference’s mission of improving social services had taken on new urgency as Russia charted a new course in the wake of Western sanctions and deteriorating geopolitical conditions.

Attendees included Maxim Oreshkin, Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation; Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman and Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Digital and Technological Development; Alexey Repik, founder of Russian pharmaceutical firm R-Pharm; and Herman Gref, CEO of Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank.

Speaking during the forum’s plenary session, billed as “New Time – New Challenges: People in the Spotlight,” Gref argued that technology needed to be harnessed to make Russian businesses and institutions more “customer-centric”:

“To become a customer-centric company, you need to rebuild everything: internal processes and technologies, because without technology it is impossible for a state, a social organization, or a commercial company to be customer-centric. Technology is the key to this world. Is it possible to move the social sphere in this direction? It is not only possible, but necessary.”

With Russia at a socioeconomic crossroads, the head of Sberbank called for “a complete redesign of processes” in order to remold “the client path.”

But what lies behind Gref’s impenetrable corporate word salad? What kind of “client path” does he have in mind for Russians? To answer these questions, it is first necessary to briefly review the life story of this “visionary” banker.

Herman Gref (Hermann Gräf in his ancestral tongue) was born on February 8, 1964 to German parents who were deported to the Kazakh SSR during World War II. He began working in the St. Petersburg government after finishing law school in 1990 and, by the end of the decade, was on the board of directors of several high profile companies, including state-owned airline Aeroflot and energy giant Gazprom. Gref then followed Vladimir Putin to Moscow, where he was appointed Minister of Economic Development and Trade in 2000.

Seven years later, he was handed the reins of government majority-owned Sberbank.

Perched atop Russia’s largest and most influential bank – and in control of nearly one third of all assets in the country’s banking sector – Gref’s international stature snowballed. In 2009, he became a member of the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council and two years later he was elected to the WEF Board of Trustees. (His profile, in contrast to that of Vladimir Putin, is still visible on the WEF’s website.) Read Full Article at Unlimited Hangout

Leave a Comment