California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger compared Russia to a gold mine of economic opportunity as he led a trade mission to Moscow.
Schwarzenegger, who met President Dmitry Medvedev for the second time in half a year today, has embraced the 45-year-old Russian leader’s plan to recreate a Silicon Valley in the Skolkovo suburb outside Moscow.
“I love places where there is an extraordinary potential,” Schwarzenegger, 63, said before he visited Skolkovo with Medvedev. “It’s almost like looking at a gold or diamond mine and saying: all you got to do is go in there and get it.”
Medvedev, who succeeded current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2008, has called for an end to Russia’s dependence on natural resources and the creation of a knowledge-based economy that can compete globally. Schwarzenegger, accompanied by representatives of two dozen California companies, called Medvedev “a great visionary” for his desire to remake Russia.
The two men first met in San Francisco in June, when Medvedev toured the offices of Apple Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Twitter Inc. during a U.S. visit. The Russian president, who has a Twitter account, blogs and uses an iPhone, has made modernization with the help of Western countries a centerpiece of his presidency.
“We’re extremely interested in your great experience and aren’t ashamed to learn,” Medvedev told Schwarzenegger. “We have to admit that in many areas we’ve unfortunately fallen behind. We’re really counting on our cooperation bearing fruit.”
State-run Russian Nanotechnologies Corp. is in talks with California venture capitalists on eight to nine deals worth $1 billion, Chief Executive Officer Anatoly Chubais told reporters in Skolkovo.
Medvedev has already won commitments from Siemens AG, Cisco Systems and Nokia Oyj to participate in Skolkovo. Former Intel Corp. head Craig Barrett, who is traveling with Schwarzenegger, serves as co-chairman of Skolkovo’s supervisory board.
“There is a backlog of ideas in Russia that you can easily take into the market,” Barrett said today. “Skolkovo can be a catalyst. It’s not the whole answer, but it can be a helpful answer.”
Medvedev took Schwarzenegger for a spin in an antique Soviet Chaika car after their meeting. The Russian president joked that Schwarzenegger, who has three more months left in his term, would have a shot at filling the vacant Moscow mayor’s position if he were a Russian citizen.
“It’s perfect timing for Putin to be prime minister and Medvedev to be president,” Schwarzenegger told the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia before the meeting. “This is the ideal time, when things are still at a raw level.”
There is no reason why Russia shouldn’t be able to export cars to Europe or motorcycles to the U.S. one day, Schwarzenegger said. The Austrian native and former bodybuilding champion said his “love for Russia” began in 1961 when he saw the Soviet Union’s Yury Vlasov win a gold medal at the World Weightlifting Championships in Vienna.