Judging from what we’ve seen so far, Michael Calvey’s fate has been determined. On February 28, a judge ordered him detained for two months. Once that time is up, according to the usual scenario, the term of pre-trial detention will be extended for another two months. And then it will be extended again. And so on.
No investigation is going on during this detention. The man’s just sitting in a jail cell. The Russian justice system simply waits to see how long he holds out. He sits in the jail cell and waits. His enemies wait comfortably at home.
On the whole, Americans are no good at waiting. They don’t handle the test of suspense very well. All the more so if you’re waiting in jail under conditions far worse than what you previously experienced as an international businessman. Of course, the political importance of the case provides Calvey some protection. Jail for him isn’t quite the dog kennel or snake pit it is for others. He isn’t chained to the wall. His cellmates, while hardened criminals, don’t seem to be beating him. But the cot is cold and hard. The food’s no good. There’s no recreation or adequate medical care. The company is unsettling. Russian jail is no place for nervous types. Nobody knows how long Michael Calvey can hold up under these conditions, or whether he can hold up at all. The expectation is that any normal man will break and agree to some reasonable compromise.
Is there any chance for a more favorable outcome? There is! The best chance is a show of solidarity by the American business community.
Calvey’s arrest is a threat to every foreigner in Russia and to all foreign business interests. Why should American companies build wealth in Russia today, only to have it seized tomorrow? Why should talented personnel travel to Russia, if they’re just going to be locked up?
An immediate way to show solidarity is for American businesses to boycott the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), planned for June of this year. The threat of an American boycott is real. Executives from several major American companies have declared their support, as has US Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman.
At previous SPIEF forums, the American delegation has been among the largest and most imposing. Last year, executives from Boeing, Total, BP and Shell took part in the forum. A boycott of the event by American companies would put real pressure on the Kremlin. If this threat doesn’t prove effective, it’s hard to think of anything that would work at all.
Right now, representatives of the Kremlin are saying there will be no boycott. They are talking about the enormous interest from American participants. They are counting on lots of US companies coming. At moments of doubt, they tell themselves that if the Americans don’t come, investors from other countries will take their places.
Will American companies support a boycott? Will a boycott influence the Kremlin? The major benchmark will come at the end of April, when Michael Calvey finishes the first two-month term of his detention. If he is ordered to say in jail for another two months, then events will continue to develop according to the usual worst-case scenario. In that case, Calvey will still be sitting and waiting in Matrosskaya Tishina while the visitors stroll St. Petersburg’s white nights.
You can read My full commentary on the Michael Calvey case in these three posts (listed oldest to newest):