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Cablegate: Ambassador's Visit to Tver

VZCZCXRO8171
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1931/01 1161443
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261443Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9729
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4029
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2080
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2401

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001931

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR ECON EINV RS
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S VISIT TO TVER

MOSCOW 00001931 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Tver Governor Dmitriy Zelenin is a
businessman turned politician who integrates a Western
business outlook in his style of government. During the
Ambassador's visit to Tver Oblast on April 20, Zelenin
outlined his priorities and described the future for economic
development and public services delivery in the region. The
Ambassador later addressed students at Tver State University.
END SUMMARY.

---------------------------
An Entrepreneur as Governor
---------------------------

2. (SBU) Governor Zelenin is a member of the new generation
of Russian leaders. From his post-university software
startup in 1989, he worked his way into banking,
manufacturing, investment (as General Director of Interros)
and ultimately onto the Norilsk Nickel Board of Governors.
He turned to politics in 2003 when he was elected Governor of
Tver and joined the United Russia party.

3. (SBU) In his meeting with the Ambassador, Zelenin focused
almost exclusively on economics and public services in Tver
Oblast. Although he mentioned the familiar regional
complaint that Moscow provides insufficient resources for
infrastructure and social needs, Zelenin offered a more
business-oriented solution, suggesting the focus should be to
develop Tver's internal resources and attract greater Russian
and international investment. He said Tver's development
problems were rooted in the transportation bottleneck.
Tver's poor road infrastructure and inadequate airport made
it difficult and expensive to export goods from the region
and to get businessmen and tourists to visit. These
deficiencies squander Tver's greatest natural advantage: its
location between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

--------------------
The New Jersey Model
--------------------

4. (SBU) Zelenin said Tver's proximity to Moscow, coupled
with lower property and labor costs than Moscow, positions
Tver to draw investment for manufacturing and distribution,
much as New Jersey has drawn economic advantage from its
proximity to New York City. The Governor's office has an
active foreign investment marketing program, and Tver has
already secured significant foreign investment, such as a USD
20 million German automobile distribution center, a USD 40
million Georgia-Pacific paper manufacturing plant, and a USD
123 million Chinese glass manufacturing plant.

5. (SBU) Tver Oblast is a large, sparsely populated region --
it has an area greater than Austria and only 1.5 million
people, a third of whom live in the capital. As the
neighboring Moscow Oblast becomes more congested and land
prices rise, Tver Oblast is drawing Muscovites to build
dachas and to vacation around its more than 600 lakes.
Zelenin has encouraged this trend and has been actively
promoting tourism and outdoor sports. While he briefly
discussed agricultural development, which he described as
"more productive than average for Russia," he claimed that no
more funding was forthcoming from the federal government for
this national priority project.

-------------------------------------------
Social Development via Economic Development
-------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Zelenin said Tver's sparse population and rural
character make it difficult to ensure the full range of
public services. Education and healthcare were hampered by a
shortage of teachers and doctors. Zelenin said that he seeks
to change the mentality of the people towards self-reliance
and away from seeking paternalistic government handouts. His
plan to improve services was to improve overall economic
conditions and to keep young adults (who require fewer
services on average) in the region through better job
opportunities. Zelenin said that he was actively promoting
small business incubators and technology service providers
such as computer call centers and software development
businesses.

---------------------
Tver State University
---------------------

7. (SBU) The Ambassador later spoke with about 200 students
at Tver State University. The questions from the students

MOSCOW 00001931 002.2 OF 002


focused on social issues and education. In a turnabout from
the usual questions about how they could study in the United
States, they asked why there were not more American students
in Russia. They also pressed the Ambassador on whether
globalization was really best for Russia. Their questions
revealed a polite skepticism of the United States and a
curiosity about American motives for Jackson-Vanik and the
recent report on Supporting Human Rights and Democracy.

-------
Comment
-------

8. (SBU) Zelenin is different from most Russian politicians
because his governing style is influenced by his success as a
businessman. He is not expecting the center to solve his
problems but is instead trying to leverage the inherent
advantages of his region for greater economic development.
BURNS

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