John Beyrle: U.S.-Russia relations: Status of the 'reset'

January 12, 2010 1:26:44
Kaltura Video

John Beyrle, US Ambassador to Russia, discusses current relations between two global leaders: the US and Russia. Beyrle explains what the highly publicized "reset" means and in what areas the Obama administration intends to concent. January, 2010.


>> My name is Melvyn Levitsky, I am a former American diplomat and now a Professor of International Policy and Practice at the Gerald Ford School.  I'm happy to welcome all of you, all of you here today.  May I begin by thanking the sponsors of this event, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the International Policy Center, the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia as well as the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, those are the sponsors of the event.  May I also thank personally Ron Weiser, who is very active on the campus here and all around town for coming today, Ambassador--former Ambassador of Slovakia and integral member of our university community here.  Well, 
[ Pause ]
I'm an old cold warrior.  I came in the Foreign Service in the--in the late 60's and then I always wanted to be a Kremlinologist.  That's what our Sovietologists will call it.  In fact a lot of times I still say US-Soviet Relations.  I can't get it out of my mind.  But the--but Russia and the Soviet Union and Russia have had a certain centrality in American Foreign Policy for many, many years and especially during the Cold War when it seemed that our whole foreign policy was directed toward and around the relationship with the Soviet Union at the time not surprising given the fact that there were 2 superpowers both of whom had the capacity to destroy the other, and we had concepts such as mutually assured destruction, missile gaps and the like.  And every administration has tried to have a kind of angle on this whether it was a, whether it was through terminology or through description of policy.  So if we think of the Containment Policy started during the Truman Administration which had a kind of thread through our Cold War policy of during the 45 or so years of the Cold War, roll back that is roll back the communist tied if we remember this during the Eisenhower Administration with John Foster Dulles.  The Kennedy Administration which had trouble dealing with the Soviet Union with Nikita Khrushchev, and experienced the Cuba Missile Crisis which thought I think the Kennedy Administration had learned its lesson from other more disastrous events that it had, and then detente with Richard Nixon or relaxation, relaxation of tensions and attempt to negotiate with our Cold War adversary, and a full round of negotiations particularly on arms control but also in the culture on economic side through the conference and security and comforts and security and cooperation in Europe.  And then other administrations, the Reagan Administration with the evil empire and then trust but verify--an attempt to deal with the--at that time, President Gorbachev and the emerging new open Soviet Democracy of Soviet system of perestroika and glasnost, openness.  Clinton Administration had a series at the--of meetings at the Vice Presidential level and attempt to find a productive relationship after the Cold War.  The second Bush Administration that who was leader saw, looked into the eyes of the Soviet leader and saw his soul which Margaret Thatcher had done a bit before because she said Gorbachev looks like a man that we could actually deal with.  All this by way of saying that this has been a central relationship and an important relationship for the United States and now the new administration as part of what I think is an overall policy of engagement has called its policy reset, resetting our relations with the--with Russia, say I was going to say Soviet Union--with Russia.  Well, who could better explain and talk about this policy than our Ambassador to Russia, our current Ambassador to Russia.  John Beyrle, who is a career Foreign Service Officer, fluent in Russian and several other languages I might add.  We'll get to that later.  Let me just mention a few items from his--from his very distinguished career.  This is a man who has had a focus on Russia and East European, Central European relations during his career in the Foreign Service in the State Department and at the National Security Council.  He has had 3 tours in the Soviet Union, in the Soviet Union first but then in Russia, first in the political section, second as the Deputy Chief of Mission--that's the number 2 person in the embassy.  After that he served as Ambassador to Bulgaria.  His other overseas assignments were Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in the Czech Republic, member of the Conventional Forces Negotiations in Vienna.  And in his Washington assignments Acting Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States which was early on after the breakup of the, of the old Soviet Union, and Director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council.  He is the recipient of numerous awards.  He also is a Michigander from Muskegon, Michigan.  He got his BA not here, at Grand Valley State but studied Slavic linguistics here before smart people attracted him to other kinds of jobs and eventually into the--into the Foreign Service.  So, and but he I know from this one as a personal item that he is a big fan of the University of Michigan not only of the Sports Program but of the university as a, university as a whole.  Well, and let me add a personal note here.  I was Ambassador to Bulgaria in the mid 80's and I heard about this young officer that was working for the Ambassador in Russia, I got a little note saying, "This might be a good person to come bring to Soviet," that time our relationship with Bulgaria was probably as bad as it ever could be.  It was during the Reagan Administration and we saw the Bulgarians as sort of the toadies of the--of Moscow.  And so, I said "Fine.  Let's have this officer come.  He can work in the political section," we had lot of issues at that time and that was John Beyrle.  He came after studying Bulgarian and I have to say retained Bulgarian which I certainly didn't do.  I gave up after couple of years saying I'm never going to come back to Bulgaria but I might go to Russia so I spoke Russian with the, with the Bulgarian officials at that time.  And then, when I was asked to go back to the State Department to work for Secretary Shultz as Executive Secretary of the Department I said, "John, why don't you come back" and he did again.  Well, since that time John has made his way brilliantly up the ladder to his current position which is one of, if not the most important diplomatic post, post we have in the world.  May I also add that John's wife Jocelyn, is a very outstanding State Department Foreign Service Officer formerly when they were in Bulgaria, worked as a Public Diplomacy Officer in Bulgaria, brilliant--a brilliant lady who because of ethics rules and the like had to go on a leave of absence.  I guess John will follow her when she becomes an ambassador later on, become the steward of the residence.
>> She's biding her time.
>> She's biding her time.  In any case, thank you all for coming and please join me in a University of Michigan welcome for Ambassador of Russia John Beyrle.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you Mel, thanks very much for that, for that warm introduction.  I am really delighted to be back home in Michigan and back in Ann Arbor.  I want to join Mel in thanking the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the International Policy Center.  I want to thank the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracy's Ambassador, good to see you here today.  I'm also very happy to be able to welcome my brother and sister today, Joe Beyrle and Julie Sugars.  And so I'm flattered that after 50 years of having to listen to me talk, sometimes against their will at places like the dinner table where it was either go hungry or listen to John that they actually volunteered to come all this way here today.  Some good friends of ours, Scoop [phonetics] and Danny Allens [phonetic] are here.  But most of all I want to thank Mel who really was something, not something, who was a mentor to me.  Woody Allen said famously that 80 percent of success in life is just showing up and I'm sort of living embodiment of that and I'm just glad for Mel because when I did show up there always seemed to be a seat reserved for me.  And I really learned a lot about the art of being an ambassador from close observation of Mel and Joan.  Joan where are you?  Where's Joan?  Hey Joan.  His wife Joan, who were really two of the most gracious diplomats as Mel said, a very tough time in US Bulgarian relations.  I spent a couple of formative years here in the 1970s as Mel mentioned studying Russian, studying Russian literature with Carl and Ellendea Proffer, those of you who remember those Halcyon days of artist publishers and Slavic linguistics not to far from here and what we used to call the MLB.  I don't know if it's called the MLB anymore.  I see a few nods out there.  And it really was this time, those semesters I spent at the University of Michigan which really brought me to the conclusion that a career in what we then called Soviet studies was probably something I needed to focus on.  And a lot obviously has changed since then, the country that I first visited in 1976 as a student no longer exists, the Soviet Union.  But as Mel mentioned and he's absolutely right, the relationship between the United States and--the Soviet Union, the United State and Russia is still really of central importance to our interest, to our national interest as country and I would argue to peace and stability in the world as a whole as well and I want to talk a little bit about that today.  2009, the year we've just rang out was really a year of remarkable change and renewal in the US-Russia relationship and we used a single word to describe that change and renewal and that word is reset.  And so, what I want to try to do today is reflect a little bit on what the reset entailed and what the Obama Administration still sees as the areas in which should needs, we need to concentrate our efforts as a nation vis-a-vis our relationship with Russia.  The past year, 2009 that was my first full year as Ambassador in Russia was quite a contrast to the atmosphere that I experienced when I arrived in August of 2008 as Ambassador.  At that point, the level of mistrust, the level of suspicion and misapprehension was between the United States and Russia was as high as I had ever felt it since the worst days of the Cold War, and I have been rowing this hoe as Mel mention for many, many years.  Below the levels of President Bush and Putin who did have a fairly good personal relationship, there was almost no dialog or discussion between our governments.  And the dialog and discussion that existed was marked by a tone that was often belligerent by a dangerous level of misunderstanding on both sides of each other's motivations or even point of view.  But in my experience and the experience of those who study Russian and Soviet Union for a living bare this out, is that this is a very cyclical relationship.  There are times when the disagreements between Russia and United States are dominant, and there are other periods in which the points of agreement or are more powerful than the things we're arguing over, and Mel mentioned some of those a bit earlier on.  So, even after Russian troops went into Georgia in August 2008, even as the relationship at that point deteriorated to what I think was really one most dangerous levels that we encountered since the end of the Cold War, it was still pretty clear to me that we would need to come out at some point and repair the damage, and start to restore what had been broken in US-Russia relationship because this relationship is really too important globally for us to allow it to have a luxury of letting it lie around in disrepair for very long.  And that true historically if you go back through the years and look at the US-Russia relationship, we had to do the very same thing in the 1960's after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and that resulted in a period in which we began to come up with the first arms control agreements, the first recognition by Russia, Soviet Union at that time in the United States that we had a larger responsibility to manage this relationship so the Soviet never again we would bring the world to the precipice of nuclear war.  Even in the midst of the--all the idealogical antagonism of the Cold War, we had as Mel mentioned and many of us remember the period of [inaudible] that really made possible the real arms control agreements:  SALT I, SALT II, some of which we are continuing the legacy which we are continuing to work on today.  And obviously at around the middle of the 1980s, we had a period when much suddenly became possibly including the Soviet Union and the United States due to the policies of perestroika and glasnost espoused by Mikhail Gorbachev.  So the efforts of the Obama Administration to reset the US-Russia relationship I would argue has a fairly well-defined historical precedent.  Now, I'll talk maybe in more detail about the Status and the substance of the reset in just a moment but first I just want to try to set some of the context for really why any of this matters at the end of the day because we don't seek to improve the US-Russia relationship just to make us feel good or for it's own sake.  A productive constructive relationship between the United States and Russia is essential for the national interests of the United States.  There was a bipartisan commission last year headed by former Senators Gary Hart and Chuck Hagel which concluded that there were few nations in the world that could make more of a difference to the American national success than Russia, and I would point to just 3 reasons quickly why, why that is so.  The first relates to our strategic survival interest and this is a shared existential interest we have with Russia.  We remain the world's only nuclear superpowers.  Together, we possess 95 percent of the nuclear warheads on the face of the earth.  And for that reason alone, Russia cannot be ignored, Russia cannot be marginalized, and the Russian support is essential to us especially at a time when the proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials is a growing global danger.  So that's the first existential reason that all of this matters.  Secondly, basic geopolitics.  Russia is a major international power bordering on 14 different countries, bordering regions like Asia, Europe, and the Middle East whose futures are vitally connected with the interest of the United States.  Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and thus, it has an influential voice in the most crucial diplomatic decisions that are taken in the world from Iran to North Korea, to more modern threats like the efforts to fight piracy on the high seas, to extremism in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.  If there is an executive committee or steering group out there making the major decisions in the world, Russia is definitely a member of that group.  So that's the second reason basic geopolitics.  The third and increasingly important is economics.  Our country's prosperity's are increasingly intertwined.  Russia is the largest producer of gas and oil in the world now.  They outstripped Saudi Arabia on a day to day basis in production of petroleum.  And America as we know is the largest consumer of energy on the planet.  Forty percent of the natural gas that's consumed in Western Europe comes directly from Russia.  So Russia has and will continue to have a very large role in how energy is produced and how it's distributed in the world.  And the geopolitics of the energy equation will be pivotal to determining how stable the world we live in, in the 21st Century.  Russians are also doing business in the United States and vice versa.  This past summer, I helped the Chairman of PepsiCo open the largest soft drink bottling plant in Europe just outside of Moscow.  A year before in 2008 even amidst all of the friction of the Georgia invasion and its aftermath, I joined President Medvedev and helped him open a General Motors plant in St. Petersburg.  Before the crisis hit, Russia had become the largest car buying country in Europe, larger than Germany.  And when the crisis ends, it will be again.  Even if you factor in the last 14 years of economic downturn which hit Russia quite hard and I'll talk about that later, American companies are still enjoying an incredible 10 year round of growth and prosperity, taking advantage of the business opportunities that exist now in Russia, taking advantage of the growth of what looks like a middle class for the first time in Russia, Russia historically, and we had a bourgeoisie, you have the beginnings now of a middle class with all of the social implications for that.  I don't know if American companies are taking advantage of that.  And finally, Russian investment in the United States especially that that started before the crisis has created or saved thousands of jobs, especially in the steel industry and you need only drive a little bit down 994 Dearborn to the old Rouge plant, to see a very good example of that.  Against this backdrop, so there are 3 crucial reasons why I would say this relationship matters and we've got to get it right.  But another point to keep in mind, and we were talking about this with some of the students today is that today's Russia is not the Soviet Union, and many American still conflate those two and don't realize what changes have taken place in Russia.  It is a far different country than the country I first visited in 1976 as a student or where I served as a diplomat in the 1980's.  Russia is now more connected with the rest of the world than at any time in its history and connected with the United Sates, and you need only talk to the Russian students who where studying here at the University of Michigan who I meet every time I come here to be confirmed, to be convinced to that fact.  The most conspicuous evidence of this change, really a revolutionary change in Russia, is the fact that Russians are traveling more than ever.  In 2008, Russians made 36 million trips abroad outside Russia.  That same year, almost 200, 000 Russians came to the United States.  That was a record including 32,000 students who came during the summer just to work on the famous Summer Work and Travel program and you've probably ran into some of those kids when you went up to Mackinac Island or Belle Isle serving you or cleaning your rooms.  Those kids come, they add to our economy, they see what America has to offer, they go back to the United States, they spend the money, they buy a car, excuse me they go back to Russia.  And what we're finding is the kids who take part in that program for 3 or 4 years learn about--enough about the United States that many of them enter grad school here in the US on their own dime.  Russians are getting used to freedoms, basically that they didn't have before.  Its--Russia is one of the top 10 countries now in internet use.  A third of Russia is now online and unlike in China, there's no censorship with the internet in Russia.  And the pervasive fear that Mel and I and many of us remember as the leitmotif of existence in the Soviet Union is pretty much gone now.  An entire generation has grown up, being able to read and say whatever they want.  Now that's far from the whole story and I'll have more to say on some of the more worrisome democratic trends in Russia over all but my point is that we are no longer dealing totalitarian levels of repression.  So, that I hope sets some of the contexts why we need to work to have a better relationship with Russia and why we can have a different relationship with Russia than we did have with the Soviet Union.  The reset is just a means to build that more productive, more constructive relationship so that we can serve our own interest.  It's about identifying pragmatic ways that our countries can work together to advance our respective interest which we find when we sit down to start working our often common interests.  And while we have significant differences and we'll continue to have differences on a number of important issues, I'll talk about those.  Russia and the United States being 2 very large countries are bound to have a different [inaudible] from time to time.  President Obama and President Medvedev have basically agreed that we can make a lot of progress by focusing first in the areas where our interest and objectives are the most closely aligned, and build back some of the trust, some of the confidence that I talked about having been lost over the last 7, 8 years for many reasons, for many reasons many of which come out of Russia, and aren't the fault of any administration.  And this effort really does start at the top.  It starts between the 2 presidents who spent a lot of time together in 2009 almost 8 or 9 hours in various groupings either at the negotiating table or having dinner together or talking on the phone.  I was with them for very many of those hours and I saw that these are 2 men who have fair amount in common.  They're both law, students of both law, professors actually, both relatively young, they are both very open to new ideas technically they're very savvy, both plugged in, Medvedev has his own blog now in Russia.  And most important, they are open to a vision of how you can and how you need to modernize institutions, to prepare them for all the changes that we've already seen in the first decade of the 21st Century and the ones we can't even foresee on the horizon.  The 2 of them met for the first time in April.  And in the first declaration, the final declaration that came out of that meeting in London, they made a commitment to try to move beyond the old habits of confrontation and the Cold War and to make a fresh start in the relationship.  Now to be fair, many US presidents have come to power declaring the Cold War is over, we're going to make a fresh start with Russia.  What President Obama and President Medvedev determined was that more needed to be done structurally to ensure that that could actually happen so it would go beyond whatever good relationship the two presidents themselves came up with.  And so, they agreed that President Obama would come to Moscow in July and he spent 3 days there in a full blown summit on a broad agenda of concerns, meeting not only with the President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin but also with civil society and business leaders, so that Obama could get the best understanding of the situation in Russia and try to understand not just from the leadership but from others and the Russian leader and Russian business where the areas for potential cooperation common interest lay.  And at the end of that meeting, they issued Joint Declarations on reaching a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty which we're working on right now, cooperating to assist NATO in the United States in Afghanistan which I'll talk about, and addressing bilateral and global nuclear security questions.  These agreements really reaffirmed that Washington and Moscow share some common definitions of what the problems are out there, and agree in large part on how we see the world.  It doesn't mean we don't have disagreements but in large part especially on the major nuclear and extremist terrorist challenges, we have common, a common view.  And at the end of the day I'd say the recognition was when you add it all up, there is still is a lot more that unites Americans and Russians than divides us.  Now, to bring that down to a level of detail talking about the specifics, I would start by the strategic military nuclear relationship between the 2 countries which is really of primary existential importance as I said.  There are a lot of pressing issues on the bilateral level that demonstrate the improved climate of cooperation between the two countries but I really point to 3 in particular and the first is the need to conclude a new Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, reduction treaty actually.  See, I dated myself there by calling it SALT when it's actually START.  This would be the follow-on to the START treaty that expired in December, and the fact that we posses 95 percent of the world's nuclear arsenal gives the United States and gives Russia a unique global responsibility to reduce the risk that these weapons pose not only to ourselves but to the world as a whole if they were to fall into the wrong hands.  Reducing nuclear arsenals and strengthening safeguards against proliferation are the highest foreign policy priority of the Obama Administration and Russia's cooperation there is really essential to our success.  Now, we had hoped, I had hoped that I would be celebrating the signing of the START treaty at this event today.  But we worked very hard on it to the end of the year and we didn't quite get there.  The technical details are very complex.  The idea that you can really negotiate a follow-on treaty on nuclear reductions in 6 months was ambitious.  We set a very ambitious goal but we didn't quite make it.  Nonetheless, there is a very broad agreement in both governments from the very top that we have to reduce the arsenals below the levels we agreed in the last agreement and there's a lot of political will on both sides in Washington and Moscow from the 2 presidents from Prime Minister Putin to make this happen.  Work is really continuing almost non-stop now in Geneva, the discussions in Copenhagen between the 2 presidents on the margins of the Climate Control Summit brought us closer together so I'm convinced really that by the end of this month, we'll have reached agreement and I expect and hope very much that we'll have a signing of that document sometime if not the end of this month then certainly in February.  And this is important really, again for a global reason.  The whole world is watching us.  If we, the two largest nuclear powers, the remaining nuclear superpowers can agree to reduce our arsenals then we're setting an example then we have a better standing to urge others to join us to reduce their arsenals and control their nuclear weapons and materials as well.  So that's the first issue.  The second area of special interest and focus for the US-Russia relationship in 2009 going into 2010 is non-proliferation.  We have really reaffirmed that we have this shared responsibility to reduce the levels while safeguarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy and both presidents issued a Joint Declaration at the July Summit that we would work together to make further progress on this, drawing on the 17 years of cooperation that we already have under our belts which destroyed tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons, intermediate range nuclear weapons gone because Russia and the United States agreed to eliminate them.  Both the US and Russia now confront transnational terrorist and criminal groupings which are intent on getting their hands on some of these nuclear technology and trafficking in it.  And of course there were regimes that pursue nuclear weapons under the cover of peaceful nuclear programs as we know.  President Obama and Medvedev committed themselves to the global initiative to combat nuclear terrorism which was actually started under the Bush Administration and which now unites 75 countries.  We agreed that we would strengthen U.N. provisions to prevent none-state actors from obtaining material and technology related to weapons of mass destruction.  And as you may know this year the United States is playing host both to the review conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a stand alone Nuclear Security Summit which will take place in the spring in New York which President Obama called for in a speech he made in Prague last year.  And these 2 international forums, United States and Russia need to showcase the fact that we are cooperating and not arguing about these things anymore, otherwise we don't have a prayer of making any progress with the rest of the world, set aside Iran and North Korea both of which I'll talk in a minute.  We've also seen fresh cooperation through existing multinational policy and action groups and institutions to address the specific challenges that are posed by Nuclear Security by Iran and North Korea.  And there is further evidence that the reset is actually paying dividends, the position of Russia and the United States vis-a-vis Iran and vis-a-vis North Korea has never been closer than it is right now.  The United States as you know, remains gravely concerned about Iran's nuclear program, about Iran's nuclear ambitions and we have worked very closely with other partners through the U.N., through the International Atomic Energy Agency to develop a package that would demonstrate to the Iranians that the international community respects it's right to a peaceful nuclear program provided that Iran complies with it's obligations under the nuclear None-Proliferation Treaty.  And through this past year, Russia and the United States have partnered together as never before cooperating to develop a very creative proposal that would have brought out 12 hundred kilos of the enriched Uranium that the Iranians are working to stockpile, and there by slowing down the nuclear clock towards development of a weapon that we're all concerned about.  Unfortunately, Iran has not responded positively at all to this but not because of anything that Russia did.  Russia is in many ways as annoyed and frustrated by the recalcitrance of the Iranians as we now are.  And for that reason we and Russia are now working on a new tougher round of sanctions against Iran which we hope again will dissuade them from what we think is their ultimate aim here.  Similarly, the US and Russia are working closer than ever in the six-party process that's aimed at a complete and verifiable denuclearization of this Korean Peninsula, the North Korean nuclear ambitions.  Russian support was absolutely critical this year when the U.N. passed a sanctions resolution which was the singles toughest sanctions revolution to ever come--resolution to ever come out of the United Nations, and Russia joined us and made no effort at all to water this down.  Our special envoy, Ambassador Stephen Bosworth passed through Moscow in December after his most recent trip to North Korea to brief the Russians on what it learned and to work together to consult a bit on how we go forward in keeping the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese, and others together in delivering a common message to Pyongyang, to the North Koreans.  A third area of cooperation that is really essential is conflict resolution, and that includes helping defeat Al-Qaeda, restarting the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and reinforcing the principle of sovereignty and independence and the territorial integrity of all states.  We are working effectively now with Russia, with France and other European countries to try to resolve the frozen conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.  Again, we and the Russians tactically have never consulted or cooperated more on this issue in my experience.  These are all unheralded, unheadlined results of the reset.  Russia has also shown its support for our efforts and NATO's efforts to build a stable Afghanistan that doesn't harbor extremists.  Russia obviously has a pressing interest there since it's a much closer neighbor of Afghanistan than we are, and Russia's concerns are even less about terrorism and more about opiates, more about drugs coming out of Afghanistan and contributing to what has been an explosion of drug use and related HIV/AIDS in Russia directly related to what's happening to the instability in Afghanistan.  So, during President Obama's visit to Moscow in July, he and President Medvedev actually signed an agreement whereby Russia gives its consent to the over flight of American military transport planes across Russian airspace carrying troops and lethal military equipment to help us resupply our forces and NATO forces in Afghanistan, unprecedented.  And a signal of the fact that Russia sees its interest in helping the United States and helping NATO defeat a common goal in Afghanistan more importantly than it sees the needs sometimes to control what happens in central Asia or control everything that passes through it's airspace.  It's a very, very important decision which is going to help us do what President Obama said is job one for us and that is get the upper hand and win the fight eventually in Afghanistan.  So those are three strategic areas in which the reset and the desire for a better relation between the United States and Russia is really starting to pay some dividends or has prospects to pay dividends.  If you move on from that strategic picture, it would be almost impossible to discuss the last year without also mentioning the growing economic and business relationship between the United States and Russia.  I referred to that a little bit earlier even amidst the economic downturn in both of our countries.  During his July visit to Moscow, President Obama stated a simple fact.  America needs a strong and prosperous Russia to be a partner with us, and quite simply good political relations between the two countries are necessary but they're not sufficient to have a stable relationship.  We need solid foundation of trade and economic relations that can serve as something of a shock absorber as we go through these inevitable cycles of political agreement and disagreement.  Now, I already mentioned some of the many American companies that are well established and I would say even thriving in Russia, creating jobs and opportunities back here in the United States and also contributing to their communities in Russia through their accent on corporate philanthropy, an issue which Russia doesn't have a strong tradition of.  Despite the crisis American companies in 2009 continued to open or expand plants in Russia, in addition to the PepsiCo plant I mentioned I went to the opening expansion of a major Alcoa Plant in Russia, guardian glass and Kraft foods opened or made major expansions in 2009 and US companies high tech companies like Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Corning, Google, are all established in Russia and they're all helping support those Russians who want to modernize and innovate the Russian in economy in a way that certainly answers our interests.  And increasingly, American companies are investing in Russia also to tap into what is or at least was until the crisis a more affluent growing Russian market on the global market place.  Microsoft for example, announced that it would invest 300 million dollars in Russia over the next 3 years and establish a technology center in November in which Russian scientists and Microsoft engineers are partners.  Intel has about a thousand engineers in Russia working on research and development of advance computer technologies.  We are dealing with the highly literate, highly mathematically and scientifically inclined population.  American companies had figure that out and they are tapping into that in a way that helps the Russian economy grow in the right way but also helps our economy very, very much.  Cisco Systems has invested millions of dollars in the joint venture capital fund that's investing in Russian high technologies startup.  It's basically an investment fund.  GE has done the same thing.  But the best example for me is Boeing.  Boeing's investment in Russia is a very good example of how U.S. investment in the high tech sector is win-win pays dividends on both sides.  When Secretary of State Clinton came to Moscow in October, we went with her to the Boeing Design Center in Moscow.  It's the largest center for computer aided design of aerospace structures in Europe.  And Russian engineers who were working for Boeing and have had worked for Boeing in this facility for the last 10 years helped design the aerodynamics of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which recently had it's maiden flight in December in Seattle and all of the titanium in that Dreamliner, that new 787 is coming from a joint venture production facility with the Russians in Central Russia.  Now all of this level and--of trade and investment activity is obviously good for us and it is paying dividends but it's remarkable also because in many ways Russia is still a very tough place, not an easy place to do business.  The combination of bureaucratic, administrative obstacles, intertwined with the pervasive corruption in Russia especially at the local and the regional level still constitutes a pretty significant risk premium for American investors, American businessmen who want to enter the Russian market or grow their businesses.  Just look at the Swedish company IKEA, which has had phenomenal success in Russia over the last 10 years opening exactly the same kind of furniture stores that they operate here selling to that Russian middle class.  IKEA made a statement in the middle of 2009 saying they're suspending all new investment in Russia and they had a lot of significant investment on top because simply they're tired of dealing with corrupt local and regional officials.  This should be a wake up call.  US meat and poultry exporters are very much in the same boat.  The biggest exports that we have to Russia are meat and poultry, pork in particular.  But exporters face constant pressure from protectionist forces inside Russia which want to build walls and keep our products out to the detriment of Russian health and the Russian economy since our protein, our chicken is cheaper and more protein-laden than theirs.  But this is one of the reasons why another priority for us is supporting the entry of Russia into the World Trade Organization.  Very, very difficult to do, there have been some backsliding over the last year but nothing--no single action will drive economic reform deeper into the Russian system than joining the WTO.  Nothing will do more to help us benefit from the free movement of goods and services that makes all of our economies more strong, more prosperous, and more stable.  Let me just talk briefly about another couple of promising areas, I want to leave some time for questions here.  Another promising area in the US-Russia partnership in the 21st century is one that Ambassador Levitsky, that Mel knows a lot about, and that is law enforcement on a global scale, fighting organized crime, cyber crime, piracy, counter narcotics, human trafficking, and other forms of lawlessness that don't respect international borders, and here again, there's a lot going on below the headlines that just doesn't get the publicity it needs.  For instance, the FBI and the Russian FSB, this is the successor to the KGB, are cooperating effectively now to cooperate to combat cyber crime, that is a plague of credit card fraud that's come out of Russia and washed over part of the US banking sector that the FSB and the FBI are working hand and glove to overcome.  The idea that the FSB, successor of the KGB and the FBI can cooperate on anything, makes my head spin from time to time but it is a fact.  America and Russia are also working in the drug front, the American Drug Enforcement Administration, and Russian customs last year partnered on a major seizure of drugs in the harbor of St. Petersburg, it was actually cocaine from South America.  And Russian Police and Immigrations Officers recently carried out a joint prosecution of an American citizen who was running sex trafficking ring in Russia using orphans.  These are areas in which we share the same values with the Russians, believe me.  We're also cooperating to address public health issues.  Russia faces challenges as I mentioned battling HIV/AIDS, and drug resistant tuberculosis.  In July 2009, I signed an agreement with the Russian Ministry of Health on cooperation in public health and medical science.  And under this agreement already, US and Russia experts are working to strengthen Russia's efforts to combat disease, to promote healthy lifestyle, less drinking, less cigarette smoking, and improve healthcare for mothers and children.  The US and Russia face similar environmental challenges.  We've got mutual concerns about the threat of pollution, about climate change, about the depletion of natural resources and biological diversity.  I'll give you just one example here.  Illegal logging, hazardous waste and pollutants in the Arctic dramatically affect both indigenous Russian and American-Alaskan populations.  If we're not cooperating with the Russians in that Arctic region, we're only doing half the job.  And this year, the US Agency for International Development and the Russian Forest Service, signed an agreement to strengthen cooperation and sustainable management of forests through 2013.  This is a very big contribution to the global fight against climate change because Russia is the most heavily forested country in the world, and protecting those forests will do a lot to help us battle the carbon challenges that we're going to face in this century.  A final word about exchanges.  We have reached now the end of the 1st decade of the 21st century that might be overtly fast, and it's very clear that we can still do a lot more to exchange and share ideas between the two of our nations.  America and Russia have always been two of the biggest exporters of ideas and culture to the rest of the world, and one of the best ways for Russians and Americans to share their insights, to bridge their differences, and to learn more about each other is through academic and scientific exchanges, and we're not doing enough of it.  A lot of it is a resource problem, we do go back to Congress but there is increasingly ability to tap private sources of funding for this as well.  I have--I am a living proof of the power of exchanges.  When I left Ann Arbor in 1976, I went to Russia on that student exchange, and the value of that program in exposing me to the paradoxes of the Soviet Union changed my life.  I stopped studying Slavic linguistics, and started studying international relations, and political science, to help me unravel the riddle of the Soviet Union at that time.  I wasn't doing too well on those case endings in 16th century old church Slavonic either so, probably it wasn't a bad, bad choice for me.  But we need to increase and expand the exchange that we have with Russia because there's still too little understanding between the two countries.  Sixty five percent of Russian's surveyed still think America wants actively, is seeking actively to weaken Russia, to make it a weaker country.  For us, a weak Russia is really a nightmare especially a weak Russia armed the way that Russia is armed now in the neighborhood Russia lives in.  But very difficult to convince the bulk of people who grew up in the Cold War and have been fed a steady diet of anti-American propaganda through much of their lives.  So let me just talk briefly in conclusion about the next steps, what's on top for the reset in 2010 and 2011.  One of the most promising developments of the past year, one of the best two or the best things that the two presidents came up with, with the new idea is actually an old idea, and it's one that Mel referred to and that's a bilateral commission between the two countries, headed by President Obama and President Medvedev.  This was agreed at the July summit, it was agreed there would be about 16 working groups under this presidential commission focusing not only on nuclear security or health but also issues like space, cultural exchanges, sports, a whole range of issues to build a structure of interaction below the level of presidents.  The commission really aims to provide that structure that you need to have in the US-Russia relationship especially in Russia where a green light from the top sometimes opens the door in a way that our more decentralized bottom-up system doesn't need.  And this commission focuses not only on government to government context at a high level but it also strengthens the people to people and business context that already exist and helps expand them.  It encompasses as I mentioned sports, education, I left out drug trafficking, energy, the environment, and much of the progress that we hoped to achieve in the US-Russia relationship over the next year will come as a result of the work in this commission.  The ultimate goal is a more multidimensional US-Russia relationship that doesn't just depend on whether or not the two presidents or the two Secretaries of State, Foreign Ministers, get along.  So, all of that is a very positive, very forward looking picture of the US-Russian agenda.  It's substantial.  It holds a great deal of progress.  But as I said before, the US-Russia relationship, the reset in the relationship aims for progress not only in the areas where we have and can identify common interest or where the interests are at least easy to describe.  It also aims to get at those issues where we have to narrow our differences or our world views are somewhere, somehow divergent.  And one of those areas in which we hoped to be able to make more progress as we build trust back into the relationship is Russia's relationship with its nearest neighbors, the Independent States of the former Soviet Union, the former Warsaw Pact nations of Central and East Europe.  The problem is that those states still feel under pressure from Russia and from those people in Russia who still measure Russia's power the old fashion way by the degree to which Russia's neighbors are weak.  And I would say that Moscow's recognition of the disputed territories in Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, is a conspicuous example of this problem.  It happened after the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, and even though Russia hasn't had a tremendous diplomatic success in winning other nations to that recognition, I think only Nicaragua and Narao have recognized.  Russia has made very, very clear that it is not back tracking on its own recognition of these two parts of the independent sovereign nation of Georgia.  This is part of what's Zbigniew Brzezinski recently call and I think very astutely an imperial nostalgia, a Russia, a part of Russia that defines Russia's strength by how much it controls the border lands and how much it can push back against the United States and Western Europe as opposed to pulling with us on joint issues.  So, where do we go?  We need to find a way to talk to Russia about the sovereignty and independence not only of Georgia but also of Ukraine, the other states of the former Soviet Union, including the [inaudible] that makes clear that we do not accept any pretensions on the part of anyone in Russia that Russia enjoys a unique or privileged sphere of influence or sphere of interest in those countries.  The difficulty is there because many Russians will take a long time to be convinced to that.  But we need to agree on the tactics to make this happen.  Another area of legitimate concern and focus for us is Russia's democratic development.  I mentioned earlier that in many ways, Russia has never been more open to the outside world than the Russian people have never been more free to express their opinions or speak their mind and it's a real paradox that many of those Russians in speaking their mind are quick to say that the Russia that they live in is not the kind of democratic society that they hoped to see when the Soviet Union fell apart.  Because organized political activity is still closely controlled by the Kremlin to make sure that the ruling party, United Russia enjoys something of a monopoly or at least enjoys no significant competition.  News broadcasts on the main Russian television channel which is where most Russians get their news, are still closely controlled and monitored by the Kremlin.  And Russia as we know sadly is still one of the most dangerous countries on the earth to be a journalist it.  We had a meeting at a graduate seminar with a woman from Russia who works for Novaya Gazeta, one of the really fearless online and also print newspapers in Russia, and she said she has had 4 or 5 of her colleagues killed, murdered in Russia.  Sixteen reporters have been killed in Russia since 2000 and only one of those murders has been solved, that's according to the committee to protect journalists.  Corruption in the Russian Government and especially in the judicial system as I mentioned with regard to investment is still rampant in Russia.  As in many other countries of the former Soviet Union, the transition to a freer and more democratic society that all envisioned in the early 1990's is not smooth.  It's not without setbacks.  It's not without backsliding.  But I lived long enough in what was a very morally bankrupt system.  The totalitarianism of the 1970's and 1980's when I lived in Russia, to know that there is no going back to that level of control and repression, there is no going back to the worst excesses of the Soviet Union, a system of a Gulag.  That road back I would say is definitely closed off.  But the road ahead for Russia is not completely clear.  And so for us, our national interest demands that we maintain a productive, constructive relationship with this country to ensure that her transition to a prosperous democracy, the prosperous democracy that my Russian friends in Moscow tell me they deserve after everything they have been through in the last 20 years, happen sooner to them rather than later.  A final thought, Secretary of State Clinton came to Moscow in October and she said in answer to one of the students who talked to her at Moscow State University and asked her about the multipolar world, she said, "We don't want to live in a multipolar world.  We want--Americans want to live in a multi partner world."  As global powers, Russia and the United States have interests in almost every problem that faces the world today as I've said from non-proliferation of nuclear weapons to the faith of the polar bears in the Arctic region.  And we need to have open creative minds, looking for ways which we can learn from each other, show some respect for each other when warranted, and work together on behalf of our mutual interest.  As I've tried to stress, there is a strong streak of pragmatism that runs through the US-Russia relationship going back far beyond the beginning of the Cold War or even the Russian revolution, going back 200 years to when Russia and the United States first established diplomatic relations.  And the current momentum surrounding the reset can be used to build a more productive, a more cooperative relationship between the United States and Russia and that'll be a great thing for our country and it'll be a great thing for the world, and it is a great honor for me to be involved in that in any small way.  I am greatly honored to have been asked by President Bush to take this job, I'm very honored that president Obama saw fit to keep me in the job, and for as long as I am earning your taxpayer dollars, I pledge to you every ounce of my creativity and my energy to try to make this important relationship pay dividends for all of you.  And now, since I sense there is a great deal of experience, and even expertise out there, I look forward to the best part of this event for me and that's a chance to hear your feedback and your reactions to what I've had to say, so that I as an American Ambassador representing the American people can get it right, thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> So, if we--we have a microphone here, please come up here if you want to ask questions, please.
>> You spent time talking about nuclear weapons in relation to North Korea and Iran.  I wonder if you could remind us how many nuclear weapons are in our friends in India, Pakistan, and Israel?  Which of those 5 countries have signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?  And what's being done about these other countries, thank you.
>> It is absolutely true that India, Pakistan, and Israel are acknowledged as nuclear powers.  Some declared, some not.  It's also a fact that none of those 3 countries signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  And thereby--thus, they did not obligate themselves to maintain a strictly peaceful Nuclear Program, in the way that the Iranians and the North Koreans did when they joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, when they signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The dangers that the world faces from any potential nuclear capability in Israel, I would argue are less than those the world faces from a nuclear armed Iran, and you need only look at Saudi Arabia and Egypt which existed--coexisted with a great deal of equanimity over the years with a supposed Israeli Nuclear Program but have only begun to talk about developing their own Nuclear Programs in response to what they see happening inside Iran.  To me, that is the probably single, biggest litmus test of where the real threat from those Nuclear Programs lies.  Sir.
>> I'm a high energy nuclear physics professor here, or [inaudible] professor I should say, and I've been heavily involved with working in Russia under the Peaceful Use of Atomic Energy Agreement.  You probably know this was started by a speech by President Eisenhower at the United Nations in 1953, I think he waited until Stalin died because he knew Stalin from World War II and didn't expect much.  And this was I think one of the first agreements between Russia and America after World War II, and during the middle of the Reagan Era, I think in 1983, all cultural and scientific agreements were canceled except this one.  Then in 2002, just as we were shipping 4 and a half tons of high tech electronics to Russia for our next experiment, it was suspended and our equipment was impounded and held for 8 months.
>> What year was that?
>> '02, '02.
>> I'm sorry, maybe on this to 2002--
>> No, no, you didn't, I just want to make sure I got it right.
>> Yeah, well I probably said it wrong.
>> No.
>> And this caused lots--a lot of us a big problem, and I think it really upset the Russians a great deal because it was not suspended in 1983 in the middle of the evil empire crisis, and it still hasn't been restarted, and is there any idea when it's going to be restarted, it was a very inexpensive but mutually beneficial thing?
>> What--give me the name of the program again?
>> Peaceful Use of Atomic Energy.  Eisenhower made a speech by that title at the United Nations, and a few months later the International Atomic Energy Commission was founded under the auspices of the United Nation, and Eisenhower and--my history is not good, I'm not sure who is head of Russia at that time but they signed the agreement and since then it's been resigned every 5 years by the Secretary of Energy or the Atomic Energy Commission in those days.  So, it--there was a lot of talk about it.  It was kind of getting to be, just after Obama was elected but as far as I can tell not much has happened.
>> I'm not familiar with that specific agreement, I know we have a range of agreements falling under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program that none more popularly as the Nunn-Lugar Programs that I referred to when I said we've had 17 years of success in lowering the nuclear threat destroying weapons, but also in safeguarding and securing nuclear materials, and making it possible for there to be more peaceful use of nuclear materials in places like radiological centers and hospitals.  I think also one of the most promising areas for the United States, Russia and other countries to cooperate on peaceful maintenance of nuclear stocks is the idea of a nuclear fuel bank where countries which desire to have enriched Uranium for their peaceful nuclear power plants don't even need to develop [inaudible] themselves, they can simply go to a bank of this material which is held in Russia and Russia is building a facility right now that we're supporting, or eventually some other country.  And this reduces--helps us reduce the proliferation risk from the transfer of this material.
>> [Inaudible] I perhaps in my year--you're not involved in nuclear reactor, we work [inaudible] I think that's why I should have a [inaudible] our ancestors started the atomic bomb [inaudible].
[ Inaudible Discussion ]
>> Okay, thank you, thanks very much.
>> Well, I'm sure you're aware Vladimir Putin has made several authoritarian gestures within Russia such as shutting down TV stations, arresting Russia's most wealthiest businessmen and yet he still maintains approximately a 70 percent approval rating.  I'm just wondering does that authoritarian movement, were you at all as far as the future of democracy goes as the far as the future of United States-Russian relations and the reset.
>> It does, I mentioned that Russia's democratic development is not of marginal importance to United States.  It is extremely important for us to understand that Russia--intends to develop and cultivate the core freedoms that we see as part and parcel of a strong prosperous society, freedom of speech, freedom of political association, freedom of the media, and a judicial system which actually responds to the people and is accountable to them at the end of the day.  As I said, it's not a clear straight path and when we see deviations from that path, when we see pressure against independent media.  When we see peaceful demonstrations in Russia broken up through violence, when we see peaceful people like Ludmila Alexeeva, an 82 year old human rights activist that Mel and I knew in the 60's, in the 1970's when we see her thrown in jail.  We have a lot of concern as to whether or not Russia really intends to build that kind of society which we at the end of the day, know we can trust and partner with.  When I was nominated to be Ambassador in my statement at the confirmation here and in the Senate I said that Russia's capability and willingness to build the institutions of civil society of a democratic [inaudible] will be the--the I don't know will be the signals to us that we are dealing with a Russia that over the long term we can build a stronger partnership with.  And I was criticized by that, by some Russian officials who said you're lecturing, you are telling us what way we need to build our society.  All I was stating and all I state is what I think is an elementary fact that societies which respect the rights of their people and--and governments which are ultimately accountable to the will of the people are stronger in the long run and stronger partners is what we need in the 21st century, not weaker ones.
>> Oh yes Ambassador on--how do you see Russia's role in the world politically, economically, and also the relationship with United States changing with the relatively new rise of India and China as great powers, as a--with their drawing level of--of economic and military importance?
>> It, it is I think an indication that this is an extremely complicated world and that certainly the bipolar model that existed through the cold war and maybe even immediately after the demise of the Soviet Union no longer applies that we are dealing with the rise of countries like India, like China which will be significant stake holders in the International System in the 21st century and which are demanding a bigger say in how the world is governed in the 21st century, and the fact that we've move from the G8 or G7 which included Russia but didn't include China, didn't include India to a G20 which is much more inclusive of the major world economies I think is a recognition of the fact that we need to evolve, that we need to take look at the power relationships that served us fairly well or atleast were familiar to us in the 20th century, and explore how those can be restructured so that we can both confront and resolve some of the most pressing challenges that are facing in this century.  Ones that didn't even exist 20 years ago, for instance cyber crime.
>> Thank you.
>> Thank you Ambassador for--this is not working, sorry about that.  Thank you for your beautiful, inspiring speech and very comprehensive--it was very enjoyable.  I have two questions?  One is with regards to Ukraine, and up coming elections.
>> Now, wait a minute, let us not see.
>> Yes.
>> Okay.
>> We will try to turn the microphone out of the way so I'll have to repeat the whole question.
>> How is it now?  No?
[ Pause ]
I don't know.  What is it?  It's--there is, that is to the--that is a, hello A, B, C, one, two, three. [laughing], No.
>> Okay well just, just ask your question and I'll summarize it for those who didn't hear.
>> I'll ask a question as loud as I can.
>> Let's make it easier.  Why don't you come here?
>> Okay.
>> Here, tell you what, take this off--
>> Yeah.
>> And you just carry this.
>> Oh yeah--it's okay.  I can manage.
>> I used to work, I use to work--
>> Is it on?  No.  Sorry, okay.  Sorry, okay.  Back to where we were.
>> You better stay in your job as ambassador.
>> Okay.
>> I think I will.
>> Okay, so I have 2 questions.  One is which is with regards to the upcoming elections in Ukraine and the how much weight, and how much lever does the United States have been ensuring the more or less democratic elections and whether the United States are willing to pull those levers in case the Russia as a silent--silent partner behind antidemocratic and anti Western candidates are using for to their benefit so, what is America can do?  What can America do?  In order to remove the silent partner, partner out of the [inaudible]?  It's the first question and the second is related to politics.  It's about the Arctic Circle exploration of the ocean floor and the Russians claims very imperialistically.  They consider themselves owners of the--yet to be discovered deposits of energy [inaudible] and fossil fuels.
>> Okay.
>> Thank you.
>> With regard to the Ukrainian presidential elections which are coming up January 17th then what can the United States do to ensure--of lets say a favorable outcome there?  I think what we can do is what we are doing right now.  We are supporting those Ukrainians who are determined to ensure that those elections are conducted fairly and represent the will of the Ukrainian people.  We in United States have made it very, very clear that we support a fair and open process.  We do not support individuals as the desired outcome of the process.  We will have a relationship with whatever president of Ukraine, the Ukrainian people in the end agree to elect.  If it is a free and fair election and there is a great deal of international observation going on right now and a great deal of internal Ukrainian monitoring as well to make sure that those elections are conducted in a free and fair way.  We will deal with the outcome of that election and frankly, a free and fair process means an absence of undo outside influence in the lead up to the election as well not simply the fact that the polls are conducted fairly on election day, but that the media of environment, that the ability of opposition candidates to have access to the media and have access to campaign rallies and the people is respected.  And my feeling is that until now we are--the United States is fairly happy with the level of competition that we've seen take place in Ukraine.  The outcome of the election again to be determined and we will deal with whatever emerges from that because we have a very important stake in an independent sovereign, strong Ukraine as much as we do an independent, strong, and sovereign Russia.  With regard to the Arctic shelf and the claims on the part of some--in Russia that verge on territorial.  I think our view on that is that we have a lot of work to do with Russia on the scientific front to ensure that we understand what's happening in the Arctic regions now with respect to the effects of climate change.  The Russians have atleast as much interest as we do in this.  There are some people who argue, somewhat frivolously I think that Russia has a stake in global warming because it increases the amount of arable land in Russia.  My discussion--my discussion with Russian scientists and Russian leaders is that they're very concerned in understanding what the effects of global warming are in their northern regions since Russia is an Arctic country and we are very, very much focused on the scientific cooperation that can give us both a better understanding with that.  Right now there are American scientists and Russian scientists working in Siberia, drilling down to an ancient lake, which have been frozen in the permafrost for centuries to actually discover what the earlier cycles of warming and freezing were.  That's the kind of cooperation we want to focus on and I think we do a disservice sometimes by paying attention to those loud voices in Russia that want to plant flags in places because there is really no practical effect to that at all.
>> Any other questions?
>> Well since your microphone doesn't work, I'll speak very loudly, it's a brief question--
>> Standup, standup please.
>> If you see.
>> Come talk to this one.
>> A reduction in emphasis in American universities with regard to Russia and the former Soviet Union countries and a shift away toward arabic languages for example and minimizing and reducing departments in the Russian language for example.
>> Yeah, I actually watch that fairly closely and we were looking at that in particular in the working group with the presidential commission devoted to education and educational exchanges.  I think it is a natural maybe unfortunate but a natural consequence of the end of the Cold War.  When Russia when the Soviet Union was central to the existential interest of the United States and that's simply less true now.
>> But what I think--hope I try to point out is that we still need a productive relationship with Russia and there is still a great deal of misunderstanding if 70, 60, 70 percent of Russians really believe that America wants to weaken Russia then we've got a problem.  If the majority of American high school students think that the United States fought against Russia in the second World War on the side of Germany then we also have a problem there--we there's a great deal of misunderstanding about this 2 great countries which share kind of common destiny [inaudible] got it right in the 19 century.  When he talked about this 2 sleeping giants as we were then, and the kind of cultural and educational exchange that we need to foster and frankly with the advent of great 21st century communications can do much more easily and cheaply now is not being tapped into enough.  I know that from my own experience and I can tell you only that we are determine to try to increase the level of interest and understanding on the part of American students vis-a-vis Russia and vice versa.
>> I guess I get the luxury of one question and you can ask the last.  Could I?  I was struck by the--if you read the New York Times this morning about Ludmila Alexeeva there were a couple of quotes from human--Russian human rights groups that struck me that lead me to this question.  What they were basically saying is we have the elite, the elite educated class in Russia intellectuals--this is a common thing in the Russia after all.  Understand the need for democratic development, what we don't have are 70 percent of the population that supports actually the kind of strong arm politics that President Putin has either instituted or sponsored at least allowed and so the question becomes, you know, if we are for democratic development and the Russian populations seems more concerned about stability order, economic well being getting their pensions and that kind of think.  What is it that the United States can do?  We've been sort of kicked out of the working with NGO's in many respects, what is it that we are doing or what, what plans do we have on this Binational commission or whatever kind of institutions will exist.
>> Well there are still a lot of work interms of programs and projects that the United States is caring out in Russia to help bolster institutions of civil society, non-governmental organizations, human rights groups.  That hasn't stop that work got more difficult over the last 4 or 5 years.  Especially in response to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine the [inaudible] revolution in Georgia which some in the positions of power in Russia's saw as a US-inspired plot to weaken Russia which lead to something that someone called the kind of Orange Paranoia on the part of Russian leaders and actually got them to criticize US funding for Russian non-governmental organizations in a way that made those organizations drop not just American but western funding as well.  I think some of that over reaction I would call it is beginning to ride itself and as I said we are still continuing through USAID to carry up programs that help Russians who want to strengthen their society through stronger human rights non-governmental organizations to have the understanding and the wherewithal and the capacity to do that.  And again we do that not because we somehow want to weaken Russia but because we are convinced and those Russians themselves are convinced that they want a stronger--this will make their country stronger.  And I think we and the Russians probably just need to do a better job of talking about that in a way that begins to get that at that 70 percent if its infact 70 percent of Russians who still doubt that this somehow ultimately is a plus for their country.  These are people in that 70 percent who suffered a lot over the last 20 years, who lost a lot of wealth and who in many ways are nostalgic for a kind of stability and  predictability that the Soviet Union represented having forgotten a lot of the bad aspects of that.  And much of this has to do with public education, public policy and outreach.  My abilities as a US Ambassador to go on television speak Russian, gets to add some of that but if we don't have Russian leaders talking about the importance of those values and those standards it, it would be while before 70 percent goes down to 50 or even 40.  Last question?
>> Okay, the last question is about East Asia.  I'm from Japan so I'm [inaudible] current issues in East Asia and the like--as you said, there are no [inaudible] or the major exercise of China.  So historically there are--loose here, [inaudible] the United States about their influence to their--those regions as a known Asian countries, and like we change is--does Russia still have ambition to take up control of [inaudible] on these regions or, or there are less priority compared to these other regions.
>> Well I think you are right that historically the United States and Russia sometimes have competed for influence in the East Asia regions in the Pacific region but I see us really cooperating more than competing now through institutions like APEC, through the 6 party talks to dissuade the North Koreans from their nuclear ambitions.  And I think the fact that China is rising now and will be a major world power already is and will be even stronger over the next decades really underscores the importance for Russia of getting that equation right because when I talk to thoughtful Russians they really admit at the end of the day that the expansion of NATO is not the major threat to Russian security in the 21st century.  They see a major challenge arising from a China which is on their border with a huge population pressing into areas which are resource rich but population poor.  And Russia's ability to have a productive relationship with Japan with South Korea and with the United States gives Russia more leverage to help confront that challenge from a rising rush a rising China which may not have aggressive designs on Russia but just inexorably through the force of population growth and the lack of population in those regions will inevitably encroach on Russian interest.  And Russia needs a strong multinational relationship in order to have another lever to confront that challenge.
>> Well, it's the final word.  Thank you all for coming on behalf of the Weiser Center since I have a foot in the Weiser Center as well and of the Ford School, the International Policy Center, thank you so much.  So many of the issues that we study in these, in these institutions have been raised in your talk and in your and the answers to the, the questions as you had.  To paraphrase but be more serious about this than with the original quote I feel a little bit safer in knowing that you are there in Moscow, I sleep better at night.  But I say that seriously, it is--it is a real pleasure to see a trained career diplomat with that kind of knowledge of both the language, the culture, and the history of a country that is so important to us serving the United States in Moscow and I think on that basis and for your remarks today lets all give Ambassador John Beyrle--
[ Applause ]
>> We are going to expect this many people so there is a reception outside but