Monday, February 09, 2009

Mark H. Teeter: How to "Reset" Russian-American Relations

From the Moscow Times:
Just who should "press the reset button," as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden aptly put in Munich on Saturday? Here are a half-dozen Americans, the tip of a modest iceberg, who spent significant time in the 1970s as either U.S.-subsidized exchange students at Soviet universities or USIA exhibit guides -- or both -- and have stayed conversant with things Russian ever since: Harley Balzer, professor of Russian studies at Georgetown; Blair Ruble, director of Washington's Kennan Institute; Laura Kennedy, deputy commandant and international affairs adviser at the National War College; Thomas Robertson, former Russia director at the National Security Council and ambassador to Slovenia; Rose Gottemoeller, previous director of the Carnegie Moscow Center; and John Beyrle, U.S. ambassador to Russia.

This group's expertise was developed first in U.S. schools and then in Russia's school of hard knocks, before perestroika. The resulting specialists are neither emigres nor ideologues, and their book-learning plus in-country tenure and honest-broker mentality distinguish them from less well-rounded peers. They represent a unique generation of new "old Russia hands" who bring with them more experience than baggage -- and understand the difference.

The extent to which the Obama administration takes their advice and uses their skills may dictate how much the U.S.-Russian relationship improves on multiple fronts. Or doesn't.

Even before Munich, things were warming up in several areas. Gottemoeller, a former Rand Corporation analyst, was named point person for breaking the U.S.-Russian nuclear negotiations logjam. Muscovites who have seen her in action call the appointment a boon to both sides. Beyrle, moreover, went on Vladimir Pozner's national television program recently and inspired myriad viewers to reconsider the United States and U.S. intentions. One veteran of Russia's "surveillance organs" wrote that he "listened to [Beyrle] for a few minutes and came to believe an entire country." Now that's "your tax dollars at work."
BTW, Beyrle was number two at the US Embassy when I taught in Moscow, not only did he seem smart but the Russian press lionized his father, Joseph Beyrle--"the American Comrade" who fought in both the US Army and the Soviet Army against the Nazis during World War II....