California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger extolled Russia on Monday as a "gold mine" for foreign investors, but some of the U.S. high-tech executives in tow during his visit to Moscow remained wary about the realities of doing business in the corruption-plagued economy.
Schwarzenegger brought a delegation of mostly Californian business leaders and venture capitalists to help them establish connections in Russia, which is striving for investment to create a Silicon Valley-style technological hub in the Moscow suburb of Skolkovo.
"The potential for growth is so extraordinary, it's like looking at a gold mine," a beaming Schwarzenegger told a conference of U.S. businessmen. "All you've got to do is to go in there and get it."
Analysts and investors, however, warned that Russia needs to offer more transparent rules for business and to reform its corruption-tainted judicial system to attract more foreign investment.
President Dmitry Medvedev, who visited Silicon Valley in June and announced a daring project to boost his nation's high-tech prowess, acknowledged that graft poses a major challenge.
"In our country, corruption isn't seen as something shameful, it's part of everyday life," he said, before adding that the government is working on a set of moves to step up the fight.
The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked Russia 146th out of 180 in its 2009 global corruption index.
Schwarzenegger didn't address any of those concerns, putting emphasis instead on Russia's vast potential.
Officials from Google Inc., software-makers Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp., biotechnology company Amgen Inc. and fuel-cell technology startup Bloom Energy accompanied Schwarzenegger on his trip.