Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

The Russians are coming — to Silicon Valley

Chrystia Freeland
May 27, 2011 17:34 UTC

Chrystia Freeland is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are her own.

The Russians are coming. So far, the invaders are both welcome and unexpected — these aren’t the Cold War comrades who aspired to geopolitical domination or the first wave of oligarchs with their treasure chest of natural resources. These Russians propose to conquer the world’s new frontier — the Internet — and they are every bit as cocky as their forebears.

Russia’s arrival as a would-be technology superpower was announced this week when Yandex, a Russian Internet search company, made its debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange in the biggest U.S. Internet listing since Google went public in 2004.

With characteristic Russian bravado, Ilya Segalovich, the company’s chief technology officer, told my colleagues Alina Selyukh and Megan Davies that Yandex was superior to the behemoth Google: “Google is a great company, but we are better.” Yandex is “very focused on what we are doing, and the focus is technology and search.”

If you think of Russia either as the land of KGB-style repression or that of yacht-owning, supermodel-dating oil-rich oligarchs, this claim to technological prowess will be surprising. But ever since imperial Russia’s scientific modernization campaign, Russians have prided themselves on their mathematical and engineering skills — remember Sputnik.

For Yandex’s chief executive, Arkady Volozh, that human capital gives Russia the potential to emerge as a technology superpower. “Russia is famous for its resources,” he said. “But Russia also has a lot of talent.” He added, “Russia deserves to have a technology company of a global level.”

The Russians are coming — to Silicon Valley

Chrystia Freeland
May 27, 2011 16:12 UTC

The Russians are coming. So far, the invaders are both welcome and unexpected — these aren’t the Cold War comrades who aspired to geopolitical domination or the first wave of oligarchs with their treasure chest of natural resources. These Russians propose to conquer the world’s new frontier — the Internet — and they are every bit as cocky as their forebears.

Russia’s arrival as a would-be technology superpower was announced this week when Yandex, a Russian Internet search company, made its debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange in the biggest U.S. Internet listing since Google went public in 2004.

With characteristic Russian bravado, Ilya Segalovich, the company’s chief technology officer, told my colleagues Alina Selyukh and Megan Davies that Yandex was superior to the behemoth Google: “Google is a great company, but we are better.” Yandex is “very focused on what we are doing, and the focus is technology and search.”

Don’t confuse DSK’s sex life with assault

Chrystia Freeland
May 19, 2011 16:19 UTC

In the ‘‘Take Back the Night’’ marches I walked in in high school and college, one of my favorite chants was this one: ‘‘Whatever I wear, wherever I go, yes means yes and no means no.’’ That jingle was invented to popularize one of the most radical and important ideas of the second-wave feminists — that rape and promiscuity were entirely separate issues.

Some of the reaction to Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest on charges of attempted rape and sexual assault is making the same dangerous mistake of blurring the distinction between licentiousness and coercion — between sex, and sexual assault.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s philandering — and indeed his infidelity — are not in dispute. Like Newt Gingrich, his current wife is his third, and just three years ago he had to publicly apologize to the International Monetary Fund for his ‘‘error in judgment’’ in having an affair with Piroska Nagy, a subordinate. That shameful act wasn’t a sexual assault, but it was what most of us (though not the I.M.F. board) would call sexual harassment. People close to Ms. Nagy say that the affair was consensual but that Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s position as her ultimate boss made his advances inappropriate. As Ms. Nagy wrote in a letter to a law firm hired by the I.M.F. to investigate the affair, ‘‘I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.’’

Are businesses adding to the common good?

Chrystia Freeland
May 13, 2011 13:52 UTC

Roger Martin is an unlikely revolutionary: He is the dean of the Rotman School of Management, the business school at the University of Toronto, he sits on blue-chip corporate boards, and he has worked as a consultant for big, traditional companies like Procter & Gamble and General Motors. All in all, very much the résumé of a pillar of the corporate establishment. (Disclosure: I am a member of the Rotman School’s advisory board.)

But this month, Martin has published a book whose gentle tone belies its seditious content. Here’s what is radical about Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes and What Capitalism Can Learn From the N.F.L.: Instead of asking how businesses can organize themselves to be more effective and more profitable for their shareholders, Martin wants to figure out how society should organize business to be more effective for all of us.

The corporate intelligentsia — business school professors, management consultants and many of us scribblers and squawkers of the business press — focus nearly all of their attention on the first question. That is a perfectly worthy subject. Indeed, the huge and continuing improvements in business productivity over the past 200 years have made more of us richer and healthier than human beings of the previous two millennia could have imagined.

Will there be a bin Laden peace dividend?

Chrystia Freeland
May 6, 2011 16:16 UTC

Osama bin Laden is dead. Now it is time for the peace dividend. That’s a phrase you may remember from the early 1990s, when Soviet Communism, the big existential threat of the second half of the 20th century, collapsed. Today, America needs a peace dividend even more than it did 20 years ago. But cashing it in will be a challenge.

That’s partly because, as in 1991, the death of Bin Laden should be the trigger for a much broader rethinking of U.S. foreign policy. That will be tough to initiate. Since 1941, the United States has defined its role in the world largely in opposition to an unambiguously evil foreign enemy: first the Axis powers, then the Soviet bloc, and, for the past decade, Al Qaeda and its allies.

This kind of foreign policy was expensive — but it had the virtue of intellectual and moral clarity. One measure of how comforting this Manichean approach was came from the speed with which the threat posed by Al Qaeda came to be equated with the dangers of Soviet Communism.

Carlyle Group’s Rubenstein is charmed by China

Peter Rudegeair
May 4, 2011 18:31 UTC

Watch Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein explain to Chrystia why there’s greater political risk in the United States than in the emerging markets; how he gets a better reception from Chinese Communist Party cadres in Beijing than his own members of Congress in Washington; how private-equity firms can help remedy the impending entitlement crisis; and how the procedure that enacts Congressional salary increases can be adopted to cut the deficit.

Posted by Peter Rudegeair.

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