Schwarzenegger hails Russia's potential on high-tech mission
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday hailed Russia's "extraordinary" potential as he brought a high-tech delegation to help transform the country into an innovation-based economy.
Schwarzenegger's delegation of top technology executives will Monday hold talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and visit Skolkovo outside Moscow, the site of a planned Russian equivalent of Silicon Valley.
Medvedev has championed the plan to develop a flourishing high-tech industry in Russia similar to California to wean the economy off its dependence on oil and gas reserves.
The ex-Hollywood actor praised Russia as a land of opportunities. "Russia has great potential, and I am ready to see all of it," he said at a speech organized by the American Chamber of Commerce.
"I love places with extraordinary potential and in Russia the potential for growth is so extraordinary," Schwarzenegger said. "You look at it and say 'Oh my God!', it's like a diamond or gold mine."
Schwarzenegger, who once played a Russian policeman in "Red Heat", a movie set in perestroika-era Moscow, said that "it's a challenging thing" for the country to switch from Communism and integrate into the global economy.
He expressed optimism however that Russia's leaders can now "start concentrating on economic development and diversification of the economy," decreasing dependence on oil.
"There is no reason why Russia should not have the best cars and export them to European countries," along with other products, "especially exercise equipment and food supplements... because Russian athletes were known for decades as the best athletes."
Schwarzenegger, who was born in a small Austrian village and became a champion body-builder before embarking on his acting career, is to visit Skolkovo with a group of 25 business representatives from Silicon Valley.
Medvedev visited California earlier this year and was sufficiently inspired to start his Twitter microblog on which he raved about the atmosphere in Silicon Valley.
In appropriate style, the visit got underway after Schwarzenegger's arrival on Sunday with the two men exchanging tweets expressing their excitement about the visit.
"Just landed in Moscow. Beautiful day. Can't wait to see Pres Medvedev," Schwarzenegger wrote on his official Twitter page after arriving in the Russian capital.
"@Schwarzenegger, welcome to Moscow. Looking forward to meeting you and your delegation at @skolkovo," Medvedev responded in his message on the microblogging site.
Medvedev has said he is fascinated by technology. He uses tools such as Twitter and an Internet video blog to get his message across and spends time surfing Russia's immensely popular blogging sites.
His embrace of the Internet contrasts with the attitude of powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who stated at a meeting chaired by Medvedev earlier this year that the Internet was "50 percent porn".
Schwarzenegger's delegation includes figures like former Intel chairman Craig Barrett and leading executives from companies like Google, Microsoft and Oracle.
The governor Sunday night braved Moscow's beautiful but massively crowded metro system, proudly posting a picture of himself on Twitter squeezed among hordes of other standing passengers.
"People in Moscow apparently love their public transit," he tweeted laconically.
© 2010 AFP