Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's meeting on Thursday with President Barack Obama in Washington is part of Russia's effort to improve economic ties with the United States. Mr. Medvedev is hoping to attract U.S. business support for Russia's fledgling high-tech industry.
On the second day of his American visit, President Medvedev spent the morning meeting with some of Silicon Valley's top executives from Cisco, Twitter, Google, and Apple. Mr. Medvedev's visit signals his strong interest in promoting U.S.-style technology and innovation in Russia.
In a major speech at Stanford University, Mr. Medvedev talked about his plans to build a Russian version of Silicon Valley in Skolkova, outside of Moscow. His goal is to attract talent and investment capital from Silicon Valley. Speaking through a translator, Medvedev extended an open invitation to potential investors and said his government would do what it could to support them.
"The task of the government is to create start-up conditions, but that's a very complicated point," Medvedev said. "Nobody can create it. Money can't create it. Because money is a good thing, nothing happens without money. But in Russia, we have money and in a number of cases, big money. But we don't have Silicon Valley. That's why this money should be spent correctly. They should be given to the right hands and there should be correct rules."
The Kremlin has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Skolkovo project and is offering unprecedented tax breaks to investors. However, there is some skepticism over Skolkovo's chances of success. During his visit, Russian nationals warned Mr. Medvedev that creating start-ups in Russia would be "extremely difficult." In addition, Moscow's reputation for entrenched bureaucracy and corruption could scare away potential investors. Mr. Medvedev sought to allay those concerns and said Skolkovo would be protected as a new town with its own regulations and tax code.
"That's why I introduced into parliament a special law about Skolkovo," he explained. "Maybe that will be an extraordinary decision, but there will be special tax regime-implemented preferences, special procedures of registration, special procedures of control, even special jurisdictional procedures. If they are performed, I'm sure the project will be a success. But in the end, everything depends upon people. If you are ready to help in this project, it has all the chances to be implemented."
Before his visit ended, President Medvedev won commitments of support from some of Silicon Valley's leaders. Cisco Systems pledged to invest $1 billion into Russia, in the next decade. Twitter announced plans to expand in Russia. And, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed to send entrepreneurs to Moscow to learn about investment opportunities. Mr. Medvedev meets with President Obama in Washington, before heading to the G8 and G20 summits in Canada.