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U.S. Business Weighs Risks Of Russia

Beth Knobel has been CBS News' Moscow Bureau Chief for the past seven years.

One of Moscow's most popular restaurants dishes up American comfort food.

And it's all due to chef Isaac Correa.

If he were still home in New York, he might be cooking for someone else. But he moved to Moscow more than a decade ago. Now, he owns three Correa's restaurants in Moscow, and has a fourth on the way.

"Business is great," he said with a smile, as he looked over the selection of quiche, grilled vegetables and monster-sized meringue cookies on display. Around him, a lunchtime crowd munched on overstuffed sandwiches and handmade pizzas.

But even someone as successful as Correa says it takes a strong stomach to do business in Russia's dog-eat-dog environment.

"There's always that worry that something might happen," he says. "Maybe that keeps us on our toes."

Hundreds of American companies — large and small — are working in Russia. Walk down Moscow's main street and you pass a branch of Citibank, two McDonald's, a TGIF's, and dozens of kiosks hawking drinks such as Coke, Pepsi and Lipton Iced Tea.

American companies have plowed about $75 billion into Russia in the last six years alone, according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia.

And some of them, like General Motors, are finding business so good that they're expanding. GM is building a new factory outside St. Petersburg, and just had its chief executive come to Russia for the laying of its cornerstone. It may be having problems at home, but GM's business in Russia is booming.

Americans working in Russia call it, "The Land of Opportunity." But even the successful ones admit that investing in Russia can be risky business.

Just ask Motorola, which had almost 170,000 of its cell phones, worth about $17 million, seized by Russian police last march. The reasons for the seizure still remain unclear, and Motorola says it did nothing wrong.

The business landscape can sometimes feel like quicksand, with conflicting laws, corruption and tons of bureaucracy. Yet there's still optimism about the future.

"Overall, I tell people this is an investment climate you have to look at very seriously," says Andrew Somers, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia. "The risks are bureaucracy, corruption, slowdown because of administrative procedures. But that if you have a good business plan, you can succeed here. The risks are acceptable."

During this week's G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia will be trying to sell itself as a reliable business partner — a place where foreigners, like Isaac Correa, can find the sweet taste of success.

By Beth Knobel