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Financial Times: Kitchen-sink diplomacy

By Andrew Hill
Published: July 17 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 17 2007 03:00

Good news for Russia’s soon to be expelled diplomats: they won’t want for British-style Formica-topped chopping surfaces. The opening of a B&Q in Moscow (well, technically a Castorama, also owned by Kingfisher), will enable them to spend their first weekend back home struggling with a flat-pack kitchen and an Allen key, just as they did when they lived in Kensington.

The coincidence of cold war-era diplomacy with the announcement of the UK group’s plan to open 50 stores in Russia raises hopes of a self-reinforcing mutual investment programme. The reality is somewhat less rosy. DSG, owner of Currys, dropped its plan to buy Eldorado, Russia’s leading electrical goods chain, only last month, blaming “corporate, economic and political risks”. For all the Foreign Office spin on strong economic relations between the two countries, oil companies such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell have struggled to put a positive gloss on Russia’s clampdown on their oil investments. Let’s hope, though, that economic relations never really deteriorate, for if it comes to tit-for-tat expulsions, the UK’s main options are limited: relegate Chelsea and drive Gazprom out of Cheshire.

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