4th Session of the Working Group on the Future of Russia-U.S. Relations
The Working Group on the Future of U.S.-Russia Relations held its fourth meeting on December 16 and 17 in Moscow. Along with reviewing the current state of bilateral relations and their future through the lenses of the electoral cycles in Russia and the United States, the meeting addressed Russian-U.S. cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Professors and Associate Professors from major U.S. universities took part in the meeting, including Roderick MacFarquhar, Leroy B. Williams Professor of History and Political Science at Harvard University, Thomas Remington, Goodrich C. White Professor of Political Science at Emory University, and Keith Darden, Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University.
On the Russian side, Sergei Karaganov, Chairman of the Presidium, Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (CFDP), Oleg Barabanov, Head of the Department of EU Politics, the European Studies Institute at the Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO)of the MFA of Russia, Alexei Fenenko, Leading Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of International Security Studies, and leading experts from the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow State Lomonosov University and the Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO) of the MFA of Russia took part in the discussion.
A separate meeting discussed the draft of a second joint report on the Russia-U.S. energy dialogue prepared by Tatiana Mitrova, a Group member from the Russian side and the Head of Oil and Gas Development Russia and Worldwide, the Energy Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Rawi Abdelal, the Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School – from the U.S. side. Most participants agreed with the report’s key thesis, which posits that lack of mutual access is the most pressing bilateral problem. For political reasons the governments failed to propose exclusive terms for energy cooperation on their domestic markets, moreover competition between Russia and the United States for influence in the Caspian region, and in the long-term dispute over the control and development of Arctic resources all serve to heighten tensions in bilateral cooperation on energy. Working Group members concluded that energy relations between the two countries remain limited, covering only a narrow remit limited to Russia’s supply of crude oil and petroleum products to the United States and collaboration on nuclear energy. Work will comtinue on the draft. The report is scheduled to be published in 2012.
Most of the discussion was devoted to the possibility of Russia-U.S. cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. During the session, Working Group members discussed topical briefings on this issue, delivered by Alexei Borodavkin, ex-Deputy Foreign Minister, recently assigned as Ambassador to the UN in Geneva and Roderick MacFarquhar, Professor at Harvard University. Members of the Group argued that the region’s role in the global economy and world politics has increased significantly in recent years. The experts agreed that the development of Siberia and the Russian Far East should become the country’s main project over coming decades. Without implementing these policies, Russia will not be in a position to strengthen its influence and economic presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Participants also expressed their skepticism of Russian-U.S. collaboration in working to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue. The American side suggested that Russia play a key role in the six-party talks and that it is China with which the United States needs a dialogue on resolving this issue.
At the conference, Working Group members also discussed the prospects for the creation of the Eurasian economic union, backed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the role Ukraine might play in it, the ongoing mass protests in Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia, and the results of Russia’s parliamentary elections.
The Working Group is a joint project of the Valdai International Discussion Club, the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, and the National Research University Higher School of Economics. It was set up in spring 2010 with the aim of overcoming mutual distrust in Russian-U.S. relations.
Meetings between the Group’s 20 experts from leading Russian and U.S. research institutes are held twice a year at the National Research University Higher School of Economics and Harvard University. Most experts are under 40 years of age, and as such are members of a new generation of researchers in international affairs. Their objective is to venture beyond the paradigm of investigation and analysis of international and Russian-U.S. relations that has developed over the last 50 years.