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Analysts: Russia Welcomes American Business But Not Opinion


Russian President Dmitri Medvedev is seeking to entice investment from American businesses during his visit to the United States. But analysts in Moscow say while Russia wants American capital, it does not want the United States meddling in Russian domestic affairs.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has made clear that his visit to the United States is about more than diplomacy.

During a meeting with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr. Medvedev emphasized that what he is really looking for is long-term business investment.

He said he would like his visit to translate into full-fledged cooperation with U.S. companies, and supported the idea of creating a special team to maintain the U.S.-Russia business relationship.

High-tech ambitions

Mr. Medvedev has made improving Russia's high-tech industry one of his major initiatives. He sees investment and innovation in science and technology as a way to move Russia's economy beyond its reliance on oil and natural gas.

The Deputy Director of the Russian institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, Viktor Kremenuk, says the question remains whether American companies are ready to invest in Russia, where the government has a heavy influence on trade and business.

"The best way for both sides would be in the sense that the businesses solve their issues independently - they solve the business issues - and the governments have little to do with that," Kremenuk said. "But the problem is of course that, for example, in Russia the government is very much engaged in economic life."

Outside pressure

While the Russian government's heavy role in the economy and concerns about corruption may present an obstacle to American investment, Kremenuk says conservatives in Russia do not want Washington telling Moscow how to conduct business.

"On one hand, of course U.S. businesses have all the ground to be concerned about the real situation in Russia," Kremenuk said. "But on the other hand, of course, if the American government tries to press the Russian government on this issue, that may have a counterproductive effect."

Building trust?

Despite the obstacles, analysts say Mr. Medvedev's visit to the United States highlights a genuine effort by both sides to improve relations.

Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Moscow says such a positive visit would not be possible under the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush, when she says relations were a bit more hostile.

"The question is whether this is really a long-term strategic choice, whether Russia indeed regards the West as a partner, whether we can see any trust building between the two countries, and I think that is too early to say," Lipman said.

Russia's call for investment is not just about economics. The country lost a large number of scientists and engineers who left in the 1990s during the economic turmoil that followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The government hopes to lure them back to spur domestic innovation.

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