The US-Russian business dialogue is "off to a rocking start", President Putin said in remarks at Rice University in Houston Wednesday. He was speaking to a gathering of academics and executives of the American South. Putin said "interest groups" were forming in business. He said that the Boeing Company had pioneered the idea in the aerospace sector. He went on to say a Round Table of US and Russian Hi-tech Companies was being established at the moment. Academician Yevgeny Velikhov, head of the Kurchatov Institute nuclear center, would chair the roundtable on the Russian side. Foreign investment in Russia has been up 40 percent this year, Putin said. He deplored the fact the United States trailed behind countries like Cyprus, Germany, and the Netherlands in terms of investment in Russia. According to him, investment coming from Cyprus and Holland is largely "repatriation of valuable capital", but Germany's increasingly tight grip speaks volumes of "Europe's investment interest in Russia's industries." "We count on America to rise to the challenge," Putin said. He elaborated Russia possessed a lot of stable economy sectors now and they were becoming "one of the factors of the common security system". These are primarily Russia's "energy resources," the President pointed out. "Russia is still a reliable and predictable partner, a supplier of oil and other raw energy resources," he contended. Speaking of successful investment projects in Russia, he referred to the construction of the Caspian oil pipeline and the start of the principal investment phase of the Sakhalin-1 project of America's Exxon-Mobil. General Motors was instrumental in launching a new all-terrain make, the President continued. Ford Motors is working in Russia too, while Pratt and Whitney is moving some of its production facilities here. The President stressed that these, and other, businesses were operating on their own, but the Russian policymakers feel it "incumbent upon them to provide adequate assistance through the Cabinet". He said the Bush administration was considering similar measures.
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea