Medvedev to Visit
Silicon Valley Before Meeting Obama
By Andre de Nesnera
June 21, 2010
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev
will be in the United States in the next few days. His visit will focus
on economic and trade matters.
Russian President Dmitri
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
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
"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.
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.
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
"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.