Why It's Even Riskier Business Dealing With Russia

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum kicks off May 22 in Vladimir Putin's hometown.

While the Russian president will be showcasing  Russia as the place to seek a plethora of economic opportunities, his opponents -- most notably the Obama administration -- will be seeking to spoil his party.

The White House has been working the phones to ensure that none of the top executives from American companies show up. At last count, the head honchos of Goldman Sachs (GS), Pepsico (PEP), Morgan Stanley (MS) and Visa (V) had bowed out. More are expected to follow suit with daily reminders from President Obama's top aides that any American participation in the current climate would be inappropriate.

That's not scaring companies from other countries, though. In a move that will surely infuriate some American diplomats and add to the image of them being fickle allies, France is expected to send the largest contingent of CEOs to the three-day summit.

With investments close to $16 billion in  Russia, France is in no mood to jeopardize its status as the second-largest investor in the country. In 2012 the French automaker Renault, in partnership with Nissan (NSANY), acquired a controlling stake in AvtoVaz, Russia's largest car manufacturer but one with a dubious reputation for producing obsolete cars like the Lada sedan.

Vladimir Putin notably featured in a photo op with a Renault F1 car, speeding around in a race track near, predictably, St. Petersburg. In Russia, doing business without political patronage is unheard of and French companies seem to have learnt that lesson pretty fast.

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