Former Officials Offer Presidential Solutions to U.S.-Russia 'Crisis'
A group of Russia experts, including former U.S. and Russian government officials, advocated renewed dialogue in areas of mutual interest as a critical strategy for the next American President during a panel on U.S.-Russia relations at the Institute of Politics Monday night. The discussion, entitled “Challenges for the Next President: The Crisis with Russia,” was moderated by Jill Dougherty, a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former CNN Moscow bureau chief. Former U.S. ambassador to Russia John Beyrle and visiting lecturer in economics Maxim Boycko, who was Deputy Prime Minister of Russia under former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, led the conversation.
Citing his concern that the U.S.’s aggressive response to Russian actions in Crimea may have jeopardized valuable diplomatic connections between the two countries, Beyrle suggested that the next administration should pursue dialogue on agreeable topics.
Boycko also highlighted the importance of high-level discussions between the U.S. and Russian governments, emphasizing that “the key decisions are made by Mr. Putin himself.”
The panelists lamented the reduction in government funding for Russian studies and language programs, arguing that this trend has been detrimental to U.S.-Russia relations.
Alexander Droznin-Izrael, a doctoral student studying Slavic Languages and Literatures, echoed these concerns, but said he was disappointed that the panel was unable to offer concrete solutions to limited government support. “What I would have liked to see more of is an actual response, in terms of what we can do going forward,” Droznin-Izrael added.
Boycko also discussed Russia’s domestic political environment. Boycko said Russian president Vladimir Putin’s domestic priorities drive current Russian foreign policy, contending that the intervention in Crimea—despite international condemnation and economic sanctions—boosted Putin’s popularity at home. Boycko added that the Russian populace perceives a lack of “respect” from the U.S. and its Western allies.
Turning towards the U.S. presidential election, Dougherty said that “regardless of who is in power, this will be a changed relationship: very dynamic and very turbulent.”
Beyrle acknowledged the possibility that a new president could have a large impact on relations, citing the “reset” of U.S.-Russia relations during the beginning of President Barack Obama’s administration. Beyrle also noted that, given a Russian perception of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s volatility, the Russian government “would much prefer to deal with the known qualities of Clinton,” despite Trump’s skepticism of NATO and his compliments directed at Putin. Despite Russian interests in the outcome of the election, Beyrle said hedid not believe that Russia is trying to actively intervene in U.S. political processes, but instead undermine its credibility.
When asked about Russia’s attempts to influence the Presidential election through state-sponsored media, Dougherty said, “Russia, unfortunately, does not have a soft power message, and… what they do is undermine people who do have some kind of message.”