Governator to Russia

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Audio Transcript:

LISA MULLINS: In 1988, Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in the movie, Red Heat. He played an inelegant Russian cop.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Go and kiss your mother's behind.

MULLINS: Ahnold was not exactly Meryl Streep when it came to accents. But he beat people up a lot better than she did. This week Schwarzenegger returned to Moscow, at the invitation of President Dmitry Medvedev. The governor was not there to enforce the law. He was there, says Michael Schwirtz of The New York Times, to help a group of US businessmen connect with Russian innovators.

MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ: He was basically taking these businessmen on a tour and attempt to introduce them to the big-time innovators that Medvedev has tapped as part of his modernization plan in Russia.

MULLINS: Well, Governor Schwarzenegger certainly is trying to light a fire under these people. Let's listen to a little bit of him right now as he was speaking with Muscovites.

SCHWARZENEGGER: When I look at Russia, I think the potential for growth and for � I mean really blowing this thing up, I mean the economy, is just so extraordinary. I mean there's just so many opportunities here in Russia that you just look at this and you say, oh my God, this is like, it's almost kind of like looking at a gold mine or a diamond mine and you say, all you got to do is just go in there and get it.

MULLINS: So who is he directing these comments to?

SCHWIRTZ: Particularly to investors from California. Obviously, his home state and to Americans in general, many of whom have shied away from investing in Russia particularly since the [SOUNDS LIKE] possible government takeover of Yukos Oil Company, once one of Russia's richest oil companies. The CEO of that company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was famously arrested and still sits in jail charged with evasion and fraud. That along with large scale corruption here has scared away many investors. And it seems that Mr. Schwarzenegger was doing his part to reassure investor that Russia's still open for business.

MULLINS: So his word is going out to American investors, potential ones anyway, and to Russians as well. Russia wanting to establish its own kind of Silicon Valley. But there's an interesting subtext going on here and I think it has to do with the perceptions of number one, the president of Russia, who specifically met with Schwarzenegger. This is Dmitry Medvedev, a man who seems to have never quite had the grasp on power that his predecessor and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin does. And then the mix with him and Schwarzenegger himself, somebody who comes from a place where he has had his own kind of hardscrabble rise to the top. What is the interplay between the two of them?

SCHWIRTZ: Well, Mr. Medvedev and Schwarzenegger met each other previously this summer when Mr. Schwarzenegger showed Mr. Medvedev around Silicon Valley. Mr. Medvedev has built up the image as a tech savvy, modern young president. He's an avid blogger. He sent Mr. Schwarzenegger greetings via Twitter when the governor arrived in Moscow on Sunday. And to a great degree Schwarzenegger's arrival here was a big PR coup for Medvedev who does have to share the media space with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who's generally seen as the preeminent leader here.

MULLINS: So if Schwarzenegger's arrival and his spending time with the president of Russia is seen as a coup for the president of Russia, what's the gloss that's coming off Schwarzenegger? Does it have to do with his business prowess, what he's been doing in California as governor, or his kind of Hollywood afterglow?

SCHWIRTZ: I think it's more of his Hollywood afterglow. I don't think many Russians are necessarily so concerned with the intricacies of California politics.

MULLINS: Alright. Michael Schwirtz, correspondent for The New York Times, speaking to us from Moscow. Thanks very much, Michael.

SCHWIRTZ: Thank you.