Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s most likely next president, called on Russian businessmen yesterday to copy China and go on a global buying spree of foreign companies to bolster the economy and cut dependence on technology from abroad.
In his first speech to Russian big business since being named by Vladimir Putin as his preferred successor, Mr Medvedev pledged Kremlin support for companies seeking assets abroad.
“This is a very important task. The majority of powerful countries are engaged in this. Many of them are very active, like China. And we should be active, too,” he said addressing a conference for Russia’s most influential business lobby in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar.
“This will allow us to retool Russian enterprises with technology, boost their production culture and grant them the opportunity to diversify investments and win new markets,” he said.
Mr Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister and a protégé of Mr Putin’s from St Petersburg, is also chairman of Gazprom and has overseen the energy group’s aggressive push to win new markets and distribution assets in Europe, and most recently in Africa and South America.
He has also witnessed first-hand the western backlash against Gazprom’s expansion drive and claims that the Kremlin has used the group’s hold on European energy markets for political ends. The European Commission last year drafted a proposal to block Gazprom from controlling energy networks in the European Union.
Mr Medvedev, however, was sanguine about opposition abroad to the growing reach of Russian companies. “This is not a reason for hysteria,” he said. “We should quietly and measuredly forward our interests and convince people that investments from Russia are effective, transparent and necessary for the countries involved.”
He said Russia could only improve its image with the presence of a strong state. “It’s not possible for a country to have a good image when business is strong but the population is poor or, for example, when business is strong and state power is weak.”