20100623 dmitry medvedev and arnold schwarzenegger 102318291 18
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, meets with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, right, during a visit to San Francisco -- June 22, 2010. - 


Steve Chiotakis: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last night. Today, the Russian leader will tour Silicon Valley. He's going to meet with tech honchos at Google, Twitter and Cisco Systems. Why is Medvedev in the Golden State? From Moscow, Peter van Dyk reports.

Peter van Dyk: Fifty years ago, as the Soviet Union struggled to feed itself, Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited Iowa to learn about farming. Now, as President Medvedev struggles to move Russia from an oil-based economy to a knowledge-based one, he's visiting California. Back home, he's promised tax breaks and incentives to develop a tech hotbed outside Moscow that's being dubbed Russia's Silicon Valley.

Esther Dyson is an American journalist who's been investing in Russian tech startups for 20 years and is involved in the new project:

Esther Dyson: For Silicon Valley to be successful it doesn't need just government support, it needs popular support. Because these people need to say "that's where I want my kids to work."

Dyson says it's not just a financial shift that's needed among Russian citizen, but a culture one.

Dyson: Now, if you tell your mother you're going to go into business, she says "Oh dear, go into government -- it's safer, it's stable, you'll get rich."

That is what Medvedev is trying to overcome. After his California adventure, he'll head to Washington, where he'll meet with President Obama on Thursday.

In Moscow, I'm Peter van Dyk for Marketplace.