MOSCOW – I recently was part of a US State Department/White House delegation to Russia. Our mission was to foster US-Russian cooperation, in fulfillment of the US’s policies of “21st-century statecraft” and citizen diplomacy. That sounds high-minded, for what the Russians were most interested in was how to build their own Silicon Valley.
The Russians thought that the way forward was to give tech companies some money and put them near a great university. Presto: a new silicon valley. For their part, the American delegation assumed that you could pour in some social networking and create a civil society. As for me, I went in with my usual cynical notions, born of traveling to Russia every few months for the past 20 years.