Arnold Takes a Risk in Russia


Arnold Schwarzenegger's trip to Russia this week is politically off-message.

Back at home, candidates and parties in the November elections are accusing their opponents of outsourcing jobs to China and other foreign places. So what does Schwarzenegger do? The governor heads to Russia to encourage a plan by Russia's president to establish his own area, akin to Silicon Valley, where technology firms can rise.

This comes on top of an earlier trip to China where the governor congratulated the thousands of Chinese workers building a big piece of the new Bay Bridge.

This is the sort of thing that a politician who doesn't have to run for re-election can do. Schwarzenegger has to leave office at the end of this year because of term limits. The governor will likely be accused of promoting jobs in Russia when unemployment is north of 12 percent in the state he runs.

But for all the political risk, Schwarzenegger is right to be there.

It's not merely that California technology firms can profit from some of the public investment Russia wants to make in technology. It's also that California's economy is so globally oriented and export-driven that the state's interests are closely aligned with those of the rest of the world.

In other words, California needs to sell to the world, so it would be good if Russia were transformed from an oil-based economy into a more prosperous, globally oriented one.

That's a difficult political message to convey, so it's good that a messenger such as Schwarzenegger is conveying it.

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