President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: I am very happy to see you all, colleagues. First of all, I want to say that it is not so long ago really that I visited California. I take this opportunity today to thank once more Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger for the warm reception that our delegation received. It was a visit that left us with unforgettable and very interesting impressions, and I am sure that many positive results will come out of it.
I am pleased that we have this chance to meet again today. This time you have come to Moscow with a delegation representing American venture funds and high-tech companies. Here you have the chance to meet and discuss things with your Russian colleagues. I want to thank you all for coming to Moscow today.
“It is very important for people to be interested in creating and introducing new technology and to be motivated to get into this, to start a business from scratch, take risks and achieve success.”
I make no secret of the fact that I was very impressed by what I saw in Silicon Valley, not just by the concentration of high-tech companies with high capitalisation there, but also by the achievements that Silicon Valley has produced. What made perhaps the biggest impression on me was the atmosphere, which really is something unique, creative, and at the same time calm and cosy. This is probably just the kind of climate that this kind of business needs. I visited big companies, some of which are represented here today, and also visited small companies, met with representatives of Russian companies there too. Overall, it was all very interesting.
After all, it often happens that a small company, a small start-up business, rapidly turns into a multi-million corporation. This is the fruit of cooperation between business and science and deserves the highest praise. On the way here with the Governor in the car just now we discussed what our economy needs most of all, and what are perhaps the most difficult issues that we need to address. I said that the main thing for us right now is not even so much to create new products, although any economy has an interest in this, of course, but is above all to commercialise what we have already created. In this area we have plenty to learn from our American partners and from the companies represented here today. Perhaps this is at once the most difficult and most important thing.
It is very important for people to be interested in creating and introducing new technology and to be motivated to get into this, to start a business from scratch, take risks and achieve success.
I have already said that, unfortunately, far from everyone in the Russian business community is ready to start up this kind of risky venture. We probably spend far more on consumption here than we should, and in this respect we can learn from the enthusiasts who perhaps invest not always such large amounts of money but create completely new products.
“The goal is to offer an example of what we can and must do, making use of the immense scientific potential that Russia possesses. But we first need to develop a modern and effective model that really works, and this is Skolkovo’s purpose.”
The climate that we have developed for carrying out these kinds of projects is very important. I hope that this climate will contribute to Skolkovo’s success. This project is one of our completely new ideas, after all. Of course, we are just at the beginning still, and the project has enthusiastic supporters and also some vocal critics. Often I hear: “You want to do something in just this one place.” But this is not the case. The goal is to offer an example of what we can and must do, develop the conditions and then replicate this experience throughout the country, making use of the immense scientific potential that Russia possesses. But we first need to develop a modern and effective model that really works, and this is Skolkovo’s purpose. I hope that the special rules that will apply to Skolkovo, the various benefits the project offers, including the zero profit, corporate property and land tax rates, and also the customs breaks and simplified immigration procedures for foreign specialists will all help to ensure this project’s rapid and active development.
On a separate note, I want to mention a few matters related to supporting the IT industry. I recently received a letter from IT specialists asking me to intervene in the situation with regulation in the sector, including by introducing a consolidated social tax for companies and organisations working on IT development, engineering and research. The good news is that this law was passed last week, and I hope this will produce good results in this sector that is very important for us.
I am very happy to see that we have so many guests today. I want to thank you once again for coming here together with Governor Schwarzenegger. We really appreciate the attention that you are giving our new centre and the ideas that we are here to discuss today. I therefore hope very much that this first meeting will give the impulse for developing full-fledged cooperation between our countries, between the different US states and Moscow and other Russian regions.
Once more, let me say how deeply interested we are in your immense experience. We are not shy about saying that we want to learn. We must admit that in many areas we are, unfortunately, lagging behind, and we hope very much that our cooperation will bring good results.
Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger: Thank you very much, President Medvedev, for your hospitality and for inviting us to come here, inviting the business delegation, which consists of 23 companies, from Intel to Google, Oracle, Microsoft, Amgen, Bloom Energy, the list goes on and on. I don’t have the time to mention all of them, but it’s great to have all these business leaders here. We want to thank Ambassador Beyrle for hosting us yesterday and being there, making sure our trip here to Russia is successful, and Viktor Vekselberg, the President of Renova, we want to thank him also for making this trip possible and helping us organise this, and Craig Barrett, the former CEO of Intel, and also the Moscow School of Management, Skolkovo, we want to thank them also for having us here, and what a gorgeous building, what a great architecture, what a brilliant idea to have this school, so congratulations on that.
So anyway, I just want to say that this whole trip came about in the last few months. President Medvedev was in California and showed tremendous interest in the high-tech industries in Silicon Valley – as a matter of fact, so much so that he stopped in California first, before he stopped in Washington or anywhere else. So we felt honoured as Californians that the Russian President came to California first. I was hosting part of his trip to California, and took him around to some of those high-tech companies in Silicon Valley, and I saw right away that he was very interested in doing the same thing in Moscow, here in Skolkovo, to create a Silicon Valley, and was basically looking for partnerships, because there are tremendous, great scientists in Russia, and great innovation in Russia, but we always are much better when we form partnerships.
And so, I promised him then that I would organise a trade mission, and as soon as he went back to Moscow from the G20 meeting, we got the official invitation to come over here, so we got organised. And it just showed what an action president you are that you didn’t wait until next year, which normally happens – that you do something next year. But it was an immediate invitation and we immediately got organised, and so here we are today. We are very happy to be here, and I am convinced that this is going to be very good for California and very good for Russia. We have seen these partnerships being formed with the high-tech industries all over the world, and they have been successful, so I know they will be successful here.
I think that President Medvedev is a great visionary. He has very clear visions of which direction Russia should go and how you have to diversify your economy, and we are very happy to help with this process because, like I said, we are the best in the world when it comes to this – when it comes to biotech, nanotech, high-tech, green-tech, there’s no one that is like us. But we are not holding on to our knowledge, what we want to do is we want to spread it around the world, because we believe that we have one global environment in all of this, whether it has to do with medicine, technology, environment, business, agriculture, all of those things. I think we have to use the whole globe to promote our products and to work together. And this is what this trip is all about. So I hope that our business leaders are going to find great partnerships with their Soviet – I mean with the Russian… [laughter] it just shows that even I’m not perfect. So that they can find great partnerships with their Russian counterparts. (I’ve been here many times when it was the Soviet Union, so that’s why.) So I hope that we find great partnerships and we get this going, and I think that we have some great dialogue today.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: This was a really great discussion. Again, I want to say thank you, Mr President, for having us here and being part of it. I always say that without a vision and without a goal, and knowing exactly what you want to accomplish, you have nothing, because you just drift around without any aim. And I think that what’s helped me in my life is always having a dream and a vision of where I want to go. That’s why I accomplished the things that I’ve accomplished. I’m sure that’s why we all here have accomplished the things we all have accomplished. And it’s great when I met President Medvedev in California that he has a vision, and a very clear direction of where he wants to go and he’s very ambitious. And I think that we want to do everything that we can as Californians and as Americans, because it is to our interest to make Russia successful, simply because we don’t see Russia anymore as the enemy, we see Russia as our friend. Still, a lot of work has to be done to get more comfortable and to trust each other and all of those kind of things – it always takes a long time to do that. But that’s what our goal is.
I know when I look at the American people and talk to them, they all want Russia to be successful. And so this is why I think that this is going to be very successful – us working together here. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity. And of course, it was also out of selfish reasons, because when you’re Governor of California, if you’re smart, you’re trying to sell your stuff around the world. Not just in California, not just next door to another state or another country – Mexico or Canada. That’s why I’ve been on trade missions around the world relentlessly, more so than any other governor. Because I believe that the world, the globe is our marketplace, and here is a great opportunity for all of us.
Especially, I want to say that we have had a great history of friendship anyway, because it goes back 200 years ago. We talked about Fort Ross, which will be celebrating the 200th anniversary in 2012. I’m looking forward to that great celebration, and I will be there. So there has been a great friendship that goes back 200 years. Maybe many of you don’t even know, but it was in 1863, or whenever it was, when we had a big fire in San Francisco, and the Russian sailors were right out there in the Bay, and they jumped into action. Six of them got killed in this fire by helping California, helping San Francisco to put out the fire. So there has been a really great, great relationship there, and this is why we in California were the first ones – when Moscow went through these extraordinary fires just recently – to jump into action and to help out, and to make an effort to help out and offer our services. So this is the kind of relationship we have had. And so this is why, I think, this is very important, it’s great that everyone spoke here and made some suggestions for how we can make this happen, so I’m really looking forward to making this vision of yours, Mr President, and of all of us, to make this become a reality. So thank you very much, all of you, for your great effort and for being here today. Thank you, Mr President.
Dmitry Medvedev: I would like to say a few words as well.
You know, I think it was a very good idea to meet here in Moscow because the people gathered here really want to achieve a common result, they are broad-minded and do not have any pre-conceived ideas. All the presentations made here reiterated the idea that we have a common agenda, common approaches and a common future. Although there are still plenty of problems we will have to address together.
It is very important that Russia is currently establishing new rules of the game, and business community representatives spoke about it earlier. Moreover, these rules should not apply only to businesses in the narrow sense of the word; they should form a new communication environment and create a new way of life.
Our colleagues mentioned several subjects in their presentations that have, unfortunately, become traditional for us, such as corruption. Corruption is a universal problem; it is not just a problem in Russia – corruption exists everywhere. But our problem is that, unfortunately, corruption is not considered shameful in our country, it is part of everyday life and that is what makes a big difference. We need to overcome this gap. Ultimately, it is not a question of adopting the largest possible number of laws that would regulate this issue in a modern way, although we are doing that and will take these efforts to their conclusion.
Currently we are in the process of debating and adopting a new law on the police force, which focuses on investigating the most serious crimes and the eradication of corruption in federal government and administration agencies. Unfortunately, there is also a psychological problem, and here we have a lot to learn from the Americans, who have also never been blameless and have had very different periods in their development. They have gone through this at some time in the past and we must do it too.
Education is a very important element in our common undertaking and is part of every business success. Here we are at the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, which is a brand new project and, in my opinion, a very interesting and successful one. The main thing is that we all have a common educational code so that we understand each other perfectly, adhere to the same values and speak the same language, both literally and figuratively. This does not mean discarding our historical and cultural differences; we must not do that. Today, for example, China was mentioned several times. It is clear that China follows its own path. Our young colleagues were saying that working conditions in China are clearer than in Russia for many business people, including those from the United States. And this is true.
It is a different matter, however, that there are many misconceptions here which are perhaps related to the fact that we have left some work unfinished, as well as to certain civilisational gaps that must be overcome. Business conditions are not created by a set of laws. It has to do with the people’s mindset and the subtle phenomenon usually referred to as the investment climate. It's not just the legislation, but the general atmosphere, and that is what we are working on at the moment. And in this respect the signals that come from the authorities are very important. They are very important in Russia, which is still going through the transitional phase in its development, they are important in China and they are important in the United States. The crisis showed this very clearly: the market with all due respect was unable to regulate everything at the same time and very quickly, and government intervention became necessary. The question is whether this intervention has been excessive or insufficient. That is open to discussion. Maybe future generations will appreciate our efforts. But the fact remains that these signals are needed everywhere, a great deal depends on them and they resolve many problems. At the beginning of my meeting with the Governor of California I congratulated him and his state on successfully overcoming this difficult period in its development; the budget has been adopted, democracy has proven its effectiveness, and all the parties that joined forces in drafting this budget have reached agreement. That is an excellent result and it shows the effectiveness of the political institutions.
I am very grateful to everyone who took part in the discussions today, and those of you who quoted my article “Go, Russia!” Of course, it is just an article, and it does not solve anything as such, but we must clearly identify our objectives and we must not hesitate to name our flaws. That is the only way to reach the leading edge. This applies to everyone — it applies to Russia and it certainly applies to the United States. We are open to each other, we argue from time to time, we have subjects on which our positions are identical, we have fundamental values that we share and we have our differences. This will probably never change but it is nothing to worry about. Most importantly, we have learned to understand each other, we visit each other, we tackle challenges that were never addressed in the past and we are capable of tackling them today. And in this respect a great deal depends on a politician’s personality. After all, macroeconomy is not just a combination of business transactions, investment and global finance, but it is also the interaction between people.
I would like to thank our guest, Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, because as a very popular man, both at home and around the world, he was able to put together such a team of like-minded partners who have come to our country. I can assure you, we value it highly and we appreciate that you have come to discuss with us the prospects for our common development. It really is a very important and a very friendly step.
I would like to thank all the participants as well as the Skolkovo Innovation Centre for hosting this workshop. I hope that this meeting was the first of this kind but not the last.
We are always happy to meet with our American friends on a personal level and as business executives. We are at your disposal. Thank you again.