Russian President to Visit Silicon Valley , CA

Russian President to Visit Silicon Valley Before Meeting Obama

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev uses a touch screen during a video-link at the Gorki presidential residence outside Moscow, 07 Jun 2010
Photo: AP

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev uses a touch screen during a video-link at the Gorki presidential residence outside Moscow, 07 Jun 2010

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Russian President Dmitri Medvedev will be in the United States in the next few days. His visit will focus on economic and trade matters.

The high point of President Medvedev's stay in the United States will be his visit to Silicon Valley - an area in northern California known for its high-tech companies, venture capitalists and forward-looking entrepreneurs.

Experts, such as Robert Legvold from Columbia University, say Mr. Medvedev is trying to generate interest in his plan to create a Russian Silicon Valley in the suburbs of Moscow known as the Skolkova Innovation Initiative.

"That area of Skolkova, where the Skolkova School of Business and Management is located, has a fair amount of acreage," he said. "So when Medvedev committed himself to the idea of creating a Silicon Valley, and there were a number of parts, different cities in Russia that vied for its location, it was decided to put it in this park. I think the notion is that there will be some link between the businesses and research centers that are created and the school."

David Kramer, former senior State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, says the Russian president will be in northern California to try and form business partnerships and to learn how Silicon Valley got started.

"He's looking for investment. He's looking for expertise and know-how," he said. "He's looking to form consortiums and alliances with the private sector, with the universities."

"And the question is how much interest there really will be and how much money there might be, at least from the outside. There's money in Russia that can be provided to fund some of this, but how much money from the West is there in supporting this kind of initiative? Those are questions that don't have answers yet," he added.

Skolkova initiative

Analysts say President Medvedev's idea of creating a Russian Silicon Valley is tied to his broader plan to modernize the country's economy.

"There is a realization at the end of the day that despite all the profits that Russia got from its sale of oil and gas over the last 10 years, that unless it modernizes its economy and reforms it, it will be a declining power," said John Parker [expressing his own, personal views] with the National Defense University. "So there is what seems to be a growing body of opinion in Russia among leadership circles that Russia has to start investing in its own technology sector."

For that to work, Parker says the Skolkova initiative must be copied throughout Russia. "The danger is that it would just be a very confined experiment," he said. "You really need system-wide Skolkovas - Silicon Valley - otherwise it ends up just like under Catherine the Great when they imported a lot of German tradesmen and planted them in various settlements - but they were fairly self-contained. To really do the trick, Skolkova can't be self-contained. Its rules have to apply to all of Russian society, to all of Russia's economy."

After visiting Silicon Valley, President Medvedev comes to Washington for a brief summit with President Barack Obama.

Bilateral relations

Experts such as David Kramer say relations between the two countries are good. "The Obama administration touts the U.S.-Russian relationship as one of its major foreign policy successes," he said. "I wonder whether that says more about the rest of its foreign policy than about the U.S.-Russian relationship."

"But having said that, relations are certainly better than they were at the end of 2008, when there were significant tensions between Moscow and Washington in the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia war. And so the tone and environment are much better than they were," he continued.

Experts say the two sides also will discuss a host of other issues, including arms control after the recent signing of the New START Treaty, what to do about Iran following tougher United Nations sanctions, as well as trade and economic questions.

Related report by VOA's Elizabeth Lee

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Comment by Swtnlovabl on June 21, 2010 at 9:55pm
ok we have Russian fully armed ships in SF bay.... President of Russia in San Jose tomorrow ........ and military tanks roaming the streets late night !!!!!!! ok im alittle scared now ...

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