Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Bring on Cowboy Businessman' Visiting Soviet Officials Tell Why US Industry Should Invest in New USSR - a Letter from Washington

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Bring on Cowboy Businessman' Visiting Soviet Officials Tell Why US Industry Should Invest in New USSR - a Letter from Washington

Article excerpt

IT all began with a call from the Soviet Embassy: Would I like an "exclusive interview" with the head of a delegation of leading members of the Russian Republic's parliament?

Why not, I decided, wondering why I in particular had been selected for this honor - aside from a Moscow contact of mine working in the embassy's public information office.

At the appointed hour, I strode through the embassy gates and into the building, where I got a rather startling announcement: The entire delegation - about a dozen members of the presidium of the Russian Supreme Soviet - would like to meet with me.

With little time to become terrified, I was shepherded into the ornate public hall where the group waited. What would I like to discuss, I was asked, after introductions. The answer would determine how many men would stay.

"Well," I replied, ll give you my first question, and those who find the topic interesting may stay. Here goes: If I were an American businessman, how would you persuade me to invest in the Russian Republic?"

Everyone stayed.

Anatoly Zakopyrin, a Supreme Soviet committee chairman from the Siberian city of Bratsk, came ready to do business.

"We offer you the Bratsk aluminum factory," he said, pulling out what looked to be a hand-sketched floor plan. "This factory was built in the '50s and '60s. The technology is outdated. We would like to ask Americans to evaluate that factory with us to bring it up to international standards."

"We have a good, qualified work force, a qualified team of leaders; we have electro-energy," he continued. "We can charge world prices, sell our product abroad, and divide the profits. Let's start with this and see if the new laws work."

The Russian legislators came well aware of Americans' reluctance to invest in the Soviet Union: The ruble remains unconvertible into hard currency. …

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