Boeing Co. (BA), responding to White House urgings, scratched a top executive from an economic conference in St. Petersburg that has become a tug of war between the Obama administration and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The biggest U.S. exporter will be represented at next week’s forum by its regional head for Russia and two other executives instead of President and Chief Operating Officer Dennis Muilenburg, said John Dern, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing.
The wrangling over the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum poses a quandary for companies like Boeing with strong interests in both countries. The Pentagon is the largest customer for Boeing’s defense, space and security unit, while Russia represents a $140 billion market for its jetliners, according to a 2013 Boeing market forecast.
“We have revised our participation at the request of the U.S. government,” Dern said in an e-mailed statement. “Boeing values its long-term and important relationships with its partners and customers in Russia and hopes for improved political circumstances in the future.”
Boeing’s decision expands the roster of U.S. companies skipping or scaling back their summit involvement amid White House pressure over Putin’s role in the unrest in Ukraine. Alcoa Inc., Citigroup Inc., ConocoPhillips, Morgan Stanley and PepsiCo Inc. are among the corporations scrapping plans plans to send chief executives to the event slated to begin May 22.
Sergey Kravchenko, Boeing’s regional president for Russia, will represent the world’s largest planemaker at the event along with John Byrne and Marty Bentrott, vice presidents with its commercial airplane unit, Dern said.
Boeing is slated to deliver 57 aircraft to Russian carriers in 2014 and 2015 with a value, including estimated discounts, of $4.6 billion, according to Ascend data compiled by Bloomberg Industries. Airbus Group NV (AIR), based in Toulouse, France, is slated to hand over 30 jets worth $2.2 billion.
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