Friday, January 30, 2009

Putin Turns Down Michael Dell’s Aid Offer

Perhaps Vladimir Putin is more of a Mac man.

After a speech Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr. Putin, Russia’s prime minister, took some questions from Davos attendees. Michael Dell, the founder and chief executive of Dell, posed the first query. He asked how technology companies could help Russia make the best use of its talent and technology. Mr. Putin appeared less than impressed with the question.

“You see, the trick is that we don’t need any help,” Mr. Putin said, according to a video of the event on YouTube. “We are not invalids. We do not have limited capacity.”

Reports from the event suggest that the audience was taken aback by Mr. Putin’s aggressive remarks. The version of the event on YouTube, however, seems to put things in a less caustic light. (The reports also have Mr. Putin saying Russia does not have “limited mental capacity” rather than just “limited capacity” in an infrastructure sense, as the translation seems to imply.)

Mr. Putin appeared set on defending Russia as an advanced nation and not a developing country in need of aid. He celebrated the broad use of computers and Internet access at Russian schools and boasted about Russian software developers.

“Our programmers are some of the best in the world,” Mr. Putin said. “No one would contest that here –- not even our Indian colleagues.”

To that point, companies such as Sun Microsystems and Intel have long tapped Russia for help on some of their most sophisticated software projects. Freelance criminal software programmers are also known worldwide for their ability building malware.

In the video clip floating about, Mr. Dell did not have a chance to follow up on his original question, and Dell’s corporate public relations staff declined to comment on the matter.

Mr. Dell may have set himself up for a spirited response by prefacing his question with a jab at Mr. Putin’s politics.

“Mister Prime Minister, you spoke of the dangers of excessive government involvement, and I found myself really struck by that comment and surprised to hear that comment,” Mr. Dell said. “Six months ago, I would have never imagined hearing that comment from yourself, but I have to say I completely agree with you.”
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