US-Russia business relations solid, despite sanctions and Trump investigation: panel

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

U.S. sanctions against Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election have had a limited impact on business relations between Americans and Russians, and a probe of President Trump’s pre-election ties to Russia is unlikely to produce evidence of collusion, panel members said at an event organized by the Russian American Chamber of Commerce.

Max Shyusarchuk, CEO of A&D Mortgage in Hollywood, said some U.S. banks refuse to make mortgage loans to Russians because of concern that they will be unable to repay due to the U.S. sanctions.

But the impact of the sanctions on U.S.-Russia business is primarily “psychological,” said Shyusarchuk, whose mortgage business caters to the Russian-speaking community in South Florida.

In general, “there are absolutely no complications from U.S. banks,” he said. “They do their regular checks” when Russians engage in U.S. business transactions, and “there is still a lot of Russian investment in the U.S.”

After U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the Russian government was behind a breach of cybersecurity of the Democratic National Committee last fall, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on some Russian companies and officials and ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the United States.

Shyusarchuk said he expects the U.S. sanctions against Russia to remain in effect for three to four years.

Another panel member, Michael Caputo, said he believes the U.S. government will lift the sanctions in about two years. Caputo, who lives in Buffalo, New York, and Miami Beach, is an international public relations executive whose clients have included former Russian president Boris Yeltsin and the Russian and Ukrainian national legislatures.

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Caputo, managing director of public relations firm Zeppcom, met Donald Trump in 1988 and worked for his presidential campaign as a senior adviser. “We talk a lot,” Caputo said. “I have a lot of friends in the White House.”

He said the investigation of possible collusion between Trump’s campaign organization and the Russian government will uncover “zero collusion. That investigation will lose steam,” after which the Russia and the United States will start “a slow march toward a closer relationship,” he said.

“Donald Trump doesn’t have any more interest in Russia than he has in Venezuela,” Caputo said.

Panel member Kendall Coffey, a founding member of Miami law firm Coffey Burlington, also said the investigation of President Trump’s pre-election ties to the Russian government will produce “no evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign.”

Coffey, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida in the 1990s, also announced the results of a short survey that members of the audience completed before the start of the panel discussion at the Dena Grill and Wine Bar in Hallandale Beach. 

The survey showed that 90 percent of the guests who attended the event Thursday evening expect that opportunities for Americans and Russians to do business will expand under the Trump administration. But 55 percent hadn’t seen evidence of improving U.S.-Russia business relations since Trump won the presidential election in November.