John Beyrle outlines the current Russian political environment and describes a post-Putin Russia and possible directions. February, 2018.
0:00:01: Welcome, everybody. Thank you for coming. I'm John Ciorciari. I'm the director of the International Policy Center here at the Ford School, and we're delighted to welcome you to this event with Ambassador John Beyrle. I'd like to thank a few people. Our co-sponsors, including the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, also known as CREEES, here within the International Institute at UM. I also wanna thank those here within the Ford School who helped bring this event together, including Ambassador Levitsky, Emily Hickey, Cliff Martin, and Susana Wisley, among others. And we're just delighted to have Ambassador Beyrle back to the University of Michigan. As some of you may already know, he's a career service... A foreign service officer who joined the State Department in 1983, served his first tour as a political and consular officer at the US embassy in Moscow, before later returning as deputy chief of mission, and then later serving as the US Ambassador to Russia from 2008 to '12. He was the ambassador in Moscow during the period of the reset of Russian-American relations, which saw the signing of the New START Arms Control Treaty, agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Russia's accession to the WTO, and liberalized visa formalities for Russian and US travelers.
0:01:22: He was also Ambassador to Bulgaria from 2005 to 2008, where among many accomplishments Ambassador Beyrle helped to bring about an important bilateral security agreement between the two countries. He's also occupied a number of other important roles in the State Department and National Security Council, working closely with several secretaries of state on a wide array of issues in politics, economics, and security in Central and Eastern Europe, and in the areas that comprise the former Soviet Union. He retired from the State Department in 2012 with the rank of Career Minister, which is the diplomatic equivalent of a three-star general. And his work has been distinguished both by his understanding of politics and foreign policy here in the United States, and also his grasp of the languages, the cultures, the societies, the politics, in his region of focus. I really think Ambassador Beyrle epitomizes the value of learned, experienced diplomats, and very much the types of skills and knowledge that we hope to cultivate here in the Ford School and at CREEES. He now serves on the Board of Directors of several non profit foundations, including the US-Russia Foundation, and as an advisor and business consultant on central and Eastern Europe, Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.
0:02:37: He still comes back to his home of Michigan. He was born in Muskegon, got his BA from Grand Valley before an MS at the National War College. And he also spent some time as a... I believe, he's a graduate student here at UM, studying Slavic languages before some intelligent people in Foggy Bottom got the idea to recruit him to the State Department and put him to very good use. He's gonna speak today about Russia 2018, preparing for the post-Putin era, please join me in welcoming Ambassador Beyrle back to the university.
0:03:08: Thank you, John. Thank you very much, John. I wanna thank first and foremost the Ford School and Dean Barr and my mentor Mel Levitsky, who helped me at so many stages of my career that I can't even count them. And I'm very happy to see him and Joan here. We spent some interesting years together in Bulgaria in the mid 1980s. But that will be another lecture in another seminar. I'm really happy to be back home in Michigan and back home at Michigan, too. That linguistic distinction there. I do feel a great affection and sense of loyalty to this place, and I'm happy to see so many students here. And some of the students, I think, I recognize both from the lunch that I had today here upstairs and from Mel's course. But also, when I was here two weeks ago, we had a lunch with some of the students. I see a lot of familiar faces in the audience as I look around, actually, some of the students in the Slavic Department. I'm, as John said, sort of living proof that all of those hours that you're spending toiling, learning the intricacies of Russian verbs of motion, or the interplay of Communism and Capitalism in Eastern Europe in the 20th century. All of that can have a pay off in what can be a pretty interesting career.
0:04:39: During my student days here in Ann Arbor and granted this is back in the 1970's, there was really no shortage of interest in Russia, in Russian and Soviet studies. And in those days, there was a fair amount of federal funding and private foundation money that was available to support that interest. After the Soviet Union disappeared in the late 1980's, and we were all celebrating what we thought was the end of history at that point then some of that interest in Russia and Russian studies, and a lot of the funding unfortunately disappeared along with it. So, I was really delighted when I was here two weeks ago and just today to see that Russia and Russian studies, Slavic studies, what Chris is doing, is really making a come back here. The number... And not just here at universities, I'm finding out around the country, the number of Russian language major is much higher than it was 10 or 15 years ago, when we were all making that pivot to Arabic and to Chinese. So, now we need to work on getting some of the funding that disappeared back. And that's what I was doing when I was here two weeks ago. And we can talk about that more in the Q and A, if you're interested.
0:06:00: But this renewal of interest in Russian, and in Russia area studies here at Michigan, really is part of a trend that we in the US Russia Foundation, who are tracking this pretty closely, are seeing around the country. And it started well before the current level of interest in Russia, which is driven by the headlines that we can't escape, by the interference, the Russian interference, in the 2016 presidential election. And I think, in a way, that really only validates the fact that it is important to try to understand what Russia is up to, as hard as that can be, as difficult as it can be. It is vitally important to this country and to the world because Russia really matters.
0:06:47: The relationship between the United States and Russia, in many ways, is a relationship of global consequence. The entire world watches how Russia and the United States are managing their affairs, and we need to do that in the most responsible way we can. We certainly need to avoid mismanaging the US-Russia relationship. And all of that is I think worth the extraordinary effort that always seems to be required to make something happen. And that effort, first and foremost, has to be founded on a better understanding of what exactly is going on in Russia today, and that brings us to the subject at hand today. Almost all of the attention on Russia today in the United States looks back to the 2016 presidential election in this country, and there is a lot to say on that subject. I will be happy to say some of it. Maybe some of it even hasn't already been said. We'll find out during the Q&A. [chuckle]
0:07:52: But first, I wanna take a closer look at a different presidential election where there is even more compelling evidence that the Kremlin is working very hard to influence the outcome. And of course, I'm speaking about the presidential election which will take place in just about one month on March 18th in Russia. When, once again the Russian people take part in a national vote to choose their new president. Now, as the date of that election has drawn closer, jokes started to circulate around Russia and it goes like this, "What's the difference between elections in the United States and elections in Russia?" The answer is, in the United States everybody knows what the rules of elections are but nobody knows who's gonna win, as we found out in 2016. [chuckle] In Russia, it's just the opposite. [chuckle] Everyone knows who will win the election but nobody knows exactly how it's gonna happen. [chuckle] Now, the Russians have a saying of...
0:09:02: "In every joke, there is a kernel of truth." Spoiler alert, or trigger alert maybe even, some people might be offended by this, Vladimir Putin will be re-elected as president of Russia in a month for another six-year term. That much is not a mystery at all. The question that's being asked here in the United States, in Europe, and increasingly in Russia itself, and I travel to Russia a lot is this one "For how much longer is Putin's hold on power to be taken for granted? What are the factors that could weaken him? Or even lead to an unplanned, unmanaged succession scenario in Russia and what would the outcome of that scenario be in terms of American interests, in terms of global stability, better or worse?" Those are some of the questions that I want try to get at today. But, any attempt to try to answer questions about Putin's presumed upcoming fourth term as president requires us to make at least a brief review of his first three terms as president.
0:10:18: So first, just a brief prologue, recapping his youth and his early professional life. Putin was born in 1952, he just turned 65 last year. He was the only surviving son of working class parents in Leningrad who survived World War II and the horrendous 900-day siege of Leningrad. Putin, of course, was born after that. He describes himself as something of a street hooligan in his youth; very unmotivated student who really only found his calling in the intelligence services. The KGB, which he joined after finishing an undergraduate law degree at Leningrad State University in the mid 1970s. I was actually at Leningrad State University at the same time in the mid 1970s an inside conversation with Putin at one point, we established that we probably ate in the same cafeteria, cafeteria number eight on the campus of Leningrad State in 1976, who knew? [chuckle] Putin, as a member of the KGB, was sent to East Germany as a counter intelligence officer, you see him in his uniform there he's actually lieutenant-colonel and he was in East Germany when the Berlin wall came down and when the Soviet Union began to fall apart. He returned home obviously to massive change. His country had a new name even his hometown was now called St. Petersburg. And Putin rose very quickly through the city administration of St. Petersburg, you see the picture here of Putin carrying the briefcase of the then Mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak.
0:12:09: But Putin then became his Adviser and then Deputy Mayor, and as often happens to promising regional officials, the people in Moscow had their eye on him and he was promoted down to Moscow where he became Deputy Chief of Staff to Yeltsin and later head of the FSB, the successor of the KGB. Now during my career, I probably met Putin, was in meetings with Putin 10 or 12 different times. But one of the first meetings with him was the most memorable. It took place in December of 1999. By that point, he was already Boris Yeltsin's Prime Minister. And there were only three of us in the meeting from the US side. It was a very small meeting in the Russian White House, the seat of government. And I remember that we were all struck by how in control, in charge, self-confident Putin seemed to us. He was only Prime Minister at that point, but he had an aura of control that was unmistakable. And we later found out that that was for good reason. On that very same day that we were meeting with him, earlier that morning, unbeknownst to us, he had had a meeting with Boris Yeltsin in which the two of them had finalized the terms of Yeltsin's resignation as President.
0:13:35: And in fact, two weeks after that, Yeltsin stepped down. Putin became acting President of Russia for three months. Yeltsin designated him as his preferred or maybe even anointed successor. And three months later, Putin himself was elected to his first term as President of Russia. Now, Putin's main focus during that first four-year term was on restoring order in Russia, which had really become a dangerous and chaotic place during the Yeltsin years, especially the last of the Yeltsin years. Oligarchs in Russia had already amassed medium to large size fortunes during the Yeltsin years as the Soviet economy privatized, and ordinary Russians were experiencing currency defaults, inflation, they saw their savings wiped out. Putin said, "I have to change that." So he quickly called in the Russian oligarchs, and like a new sheriff in town, he laid down the law. He said, essentially, "Here's the deal. You can keep whatever you made or whatever you stole during the 1990s, but there are two new rules. From now on you have to pay your taxes, and you have to stay out of politics," which they had conspicuously not done during the Yeltsin years. The Russian oligarchs who tried to cross him on this found themselves fleeing the country in a couple of cases or jailed.
0:15:09: This is a photo of Putin talking to Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2000. At that point, Khodorkovsky was probably the wealthiest man in Russia. He ran a very large oil company called Yukos, but he did not stay out of politics. And in 2003, Putin had him arrested and jailed for 10 years. About the only oligarch that he had to do that to, but the Russians have a saying. If there are 10 birds on a wire and you shoot one bird, how many birds are left?
0:15:38: No birds. Because you only have to shoot one, the rest take the appropriate lesson. Meanwhile, down in Chechnya, which is the southernmost province of Russia, the Islamic separatists had been fighting a bloody civil war for independence since the early 1990s and they'd been carrying out murderous terrorist attacks across Russia in the Yeltsin years. Yeltsin had tried but conspicuously failed to deal with the situation. Putin made it clear very early on that things would be different under him. And he launched a crackdown which was ruthless. It killed thousands of civilians, but in the end the terrorists were defeated and Chechnya was brought to heal. I met again with Putin in 2001 when he had his first meeting with President Bush in Slovenia. This is the famous meeting where Bush said that he had looked into Putin's eyes and gotten a sense of his soul. Now Bush was roundly mocked for that comment, but there was actually a payoff of sorts three months later after the 9/11 attacks.
0:16:52: Everyone knows, or has heard, that Putin was the first or one of the first leaders to call Bush and pledge his support after 9/11. But less well-known is the fact that four days after that, Putin had a meeting with his war cabinet, his closest security advisors, and he overruled all of them, against their advice, and gave the green light to Bush and the United States to put military bases in central Asia, Russia's backyard. He could have made that very difficult, but he decided not to do that. But the era of good feelings that occasionally takes place between Russia and the United States never lasts for very long, and Putin later joined with Germany and France in opposing Bush in the American invasion of Iraq. And his relationship with President Bush really never recovered.
0:17:46: Now, Putin was reelected to a second term in 2004. At that time, he faced really only token opposition, but the election was still criticized by international observers and by the US embassy, I was deputy ambassador at that point, as less than free and fair. The main feature of Putin's second term, the 2004-2008 period, is the remarkable reversal of fortune that Russia experienced. For the average Russian, household incomes tripled between 2004 and 2008. And you can see the reason for that quite clearly, because the price of oil almost quadrupled from $22 to over $80 a barrel. And not surprisingly, along with this reversal of fortune, the attitudes of the average Russian also improved quite a bit. A respected polling firm, Levada polling firm, began doing surveys in Russia in the mid-1990s asking the classic polling question, "Is our country headed in the right direction, or the wrong direction?" And you can see here, quite clearly, that in that 2004 to 2008 period, wrong direction line crossed right direction line, right direction line went up. Black is good in this case. And hit a high point in about 2007. And Putin's own approval ratings also, not surprisingly, experienced a nice bump from 2004 to about 2008, reaching in fact the highest point that they've ever reached. We'll talk about those later years a little bit later.
0:19:37: This period, 2004-2008, is important for a different reason though. It also marks the period in which Putin began to turn away from the West. Now, that turn away from the West had a number of causes, obviously the war in Iraq, which Russia opposed, the Russian contention that the US was supporting regime change on its borders in places like Georgia and Ukraine. But the main driver, I would argue, is right here. This line. It was economics. Because a view took hold in Russia around that point that... Because Russia suddenly, having dealt with shortages for a long time and being in an era of sudden surpluses, the Russian elite and Putin himself began to think, "We really don't need any more help or advice from the West, and we certainly don't need any more lectures from the West. We're doing quite fine these days. Thank you very much." And on the heels of that, a kind of parallel narrative took hold that, in fact, the things that were wrong in Russia, or the things that Russia disagreed with on its borders, were in fact the fault of the United States or the West.
0:20:53: Rhetorically, I would say, this burst of self-confidence by Putin was best expressed in the speech that he gave at the Munich Security Conference, just 11 years ago, February 2007. And you can easily Google this, "Putin Munich 2007," and read what he had to say. It's essentially a veiled declaration of war against the West, and much of what he had to say there continues to animate his policies to this day. Worth rereading. So that was the rhetorical expression of this rethinking that Putin was going through. On the ground, in terms of actions, Russia's invasion of Georgia in August of 2008 was probably the clearest evidence that Putin, from now on, was determined to play not by the rules that the West laid down, but by his own rules, by Russia's rules.
0:21:53: So, at this point, with Putin's popularity surging, with Russia flexing its muscles on the world stage, Putin was faced with a dilemma, a problem. And the problem in 2008 was the Russian Constitution, which says very clearly that a Russian president can run for only two consecutive terms. There were calls to amend the constitution, ignore it. Putin chose a third way. He designated his Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, to be president or to run for president. And of course, with Putin's blessing, he won quite easily. Putin took over as Prime Minister. So, in essence, they swapped jobs. There was not a lot of doubt that Putin was the power behind the throne in those days, but he did afford Dmitry Medvedev a fair amount...
0:22:47: He did afford Medvedev a fair amount of latitude in foreign policy, and this led to the reset in US-Russia relations that John mentioned, and it coincided with my own time as ambassador in Moscow. Now, the reset is often characterized as a failure, but it produced some results that were clearly in US interests. John mentioned some of them. We signed a new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, reestablishing inspections, notifications in a way that really brought transparency back to the US-Russia nuclear relationship it'd been missing for a while. Russia also joined with the US in the UN to sanction Iran, which brought Iran to the negotiating table for the agreement that we reached with them. Russia was very much on our side in that negotiation. And most importantly and surprisingly, Russia helped with the resupply of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, actually allowing American troops and lethal military hardware to cross Russian territory on its way to Afghanistan. And this was extremely important because this coincided with the period when our relationship with Pakistan was such that we weren't getting much up through the Southern route.
0:24:13: So Putin, again, and Medvedev, during the reset, managed to do some things that answered our interests as American. The problem with these productive periods in US-Russia relations, and they recur periodically. We always give them names. They're called detente, or a period of peaceful co-existence. The problem is not that they don't produce results. The problem is they don't last. And what follows them, usually, is a period of disagreement and rancor, intentions much like what we are living through right now.
0:24:48: So this brings us to act three in our drama, because while the Russian constitution allows only two consecutive presidential terms, it says nothing about non-consecutive terms. So after four years, Putin and Medvedev simply swap jobs again. Putin returned as president, but this time for a six-year term, because they had changed the constitution while Medvedev was president. This is the term that he's serving now. When Putin announced that he was coming back in the fall of 2011, that Medvedev would not get another shot as president, the popular response was... I was in Moscow at this point, serving as ambassador. It was definitely more muted. It was less effusive than before. It was even negative in some quarters. And commentators began to talk about a new phenomenon, Putin-fatigue. And after a parliamentary election in 2011, the end of 2011, which was blatantly falsified, suddenly Moscow and St. Petersburg see the biggest street demonstrations they have seen in 20 years. People are carrying signs that literally say "Putin must go," "No to Putin," they've got his face X-ed out.
0:26:05: These are the demonstrations that Putin famously claimed that Hillary Clinton had inspired, somehow, to get people out against him. And not surprisingly, they were followed by a crackdown against protests, sometimes forcibly but more often in subtle ways. They passed a law in Russia in 2013, I don't know if it's still on the books but it definitely had its effect, that made participation in an unsanctioned political demonstration like this punishable by a fine. Well, so what? Well, the fine was equal to a year's salary. That will definitely give some people pause to taking part, and demonstrations in Russia have never really rebounded to that amazing level.
0:26:52: So, despite these protests, Putin was reelected in 2012 to the term that is expiring now. And those past six years were, I would say, the most contentious and controversial that Putin has had to lived through. In 2013, as we recall, he gave asylum to Edward Snowden, and in the process doomed any chance, if he had wanted, of a improved relationship with Barack Obama, the Obama Administration. And Putin sent forces to intervene in Syria. He basically threw a lifeline to President Assad at a time when Assad was about to go down beneath the water, and also reestablished Russia's military presence in the Middle East. They've got permanent bases now in Syria. But of course, most conspicuously and probably most notoriously, in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, the first change of borders in Europe by force since the end of World War II. And following up on that, Russian military forces went into Southeast Ukraine, the Donbass, sparking a kind of proxy separatist civil war that's going on to this day and has cost over 10,000 civilian and combatant lives.
0:28:16: The response in the US and Europe to all of this was equally dramatic. Russia was expelled from the G8. Sanctions were, basically by executive order, laid on the Russian economy, including some of the biggest state run enterprises in the energy sector. And visa restrictions made it impossible for Putin's closest cronies to travel freely to the US and Europe. The hope was that these sanctions would somehow weaken Russia's economy and cause support among Putin... Support for Putin among the Russian elite to begin to drop. The sanctions have had an effect on Russia's economy. Although most economists would say that the drop in oil prices that started in about 2012, 2013, had a bigger effect on what really was a steep recession in Russia and has only been a very anemic economy since then.
0:29:18: So there's not a lot of evidence to date that the sanctions have had much of an effect on Putin's calculation. They have not to date made him more willing to strike a deal on Ukraine, which was the main reason for levying the sanctions. And as for any weakening of support for Putin, either among the elite or among the Russian people, this tells you everything you need to know. Before Crimea, after Crimea, and it really has not fallen since then. And if you look at our old favorite, the right direction-wrong direction poll, it's even more dramatic. Before the Crimea annexation, after Crimea. Now, there've been some drops there, and we'll talk about those in a little while. But as we begin to look at Putin's upcoming fourth term in power, we need a better understanding of the factors that underlie this high popularity rating. The charts don't tell the whole story.
0:30:26: Clearly, the Crimea annexation was a big factor, but so was the Kremlin's ability to portray support for Putin as a kind of patriotic duty in the face of Western sanctions. The Kremlin has mastered the information space inside of Russia, and this allows the government to ride out the economic recession that we saw, the slow recovery, by claiming that it's not due to its true causes, which is corruption and mismanagement of the Russian economy, it's something that the West is doing to Russia. And not supporting Putin is somehow supporting that. But there's another deeper factor behind these ratings, and that is the information space in Russia that portrays Putin in exclusively positive terms. It's interesting to see that while Putin's numbers have stayed high, as we see here, the polling numbers for the Russian government, for regional governors and for mayors, have dropped sharply in the last two years. And that's some of what we see right here. So, "Our country's not moving quite in the right direction that we thought it was, but it's not Putin's fault."
0:31:52: So there is unhappiness out there, but for now at least, it works to Putin's advantage. Something like a pressure escape valve that allows him to keep popular unhappiness directed away from him. As long as he can fire ministers, replace unpopular governors, and he's replaced 11 or 12 of them just in the last three or four months, then his own popularity rating is likely to remain high. Now, this is not to say that Putin is immune to criticism, not subject to criticism. I said that I travel to Russia a fair amount. I was there three or four times last year. And when I go, I talk to people that I've known for 20 or 30 years. These are members of the Russian elite. These are journalists, these are ex-military officers, diplomats. Some people who are still serving in the government. And there's agreement... While there's agreement that Putin has succeeded in making Russia great again, to appropriate a phrase, there's also widespread concern that Putin has committed three or maybe four strategic blunders that will actually, in the long run, end up weakening Russia.
0:33:03: The first of these strategic blunders, that Russians I talk to point to, concerns Ukraine. Through the annexation of Crimea, through that ongoing proxy war, Putin has alienated a generation of Ukrainians who had been disposed to at least see Russia in neutral, if not favorable, terms. And that will last for a generation at least. Russia, for centuries, has had close cultural, historical, economic relations, religious ties, with Ukraine. As one Russian friend of mine said, "This is as though you Americans went out of your way to antagonize the Canadians. Not really in your long-term interest." So that's one mistake that people quietly mention around their kitchen tables. Not a lot of this being talked about in the Russian press.
0:33:53: Secondly, Putin has reawakened NATO as an adversary. As recently as 2012, NATO doctrine talked about Russia as a partner in the global war on terrorism. Now NATO forces are being deployed in the Baltic states as a deterrent, and NATO commanders have started planning for a defensive war in case Russia comes across the border in the Baltics. Again, a Russian said to me, "NATO was like a dog dozing by the fire and Putin made it sit up and bark suddenly. Is that in our long-term interests?" Increasingly Russians, some Russians, are saying, "No, it's not."
0:34:35: The third mistake, and this is in many ways the most worrisome to people in the Russian elite, because these are people who need a strong economy and need to be sure that their money is protected, is that Putin has shown no desire to reform the Russian economy and begin to wean it away from its overdependence on oil and gas. In 2004, during Putin's first term as president, revenues from oil and gas amounted to about 30% of federal revenues. By 2014, 10 years later, that figure had risen to over 50%. Over 50% of Russia's budget revenues come out of the ground in terms of oil and gas. That was 2014. Now it's closer to 60%. Also not in the long term interest of a country, which aspires to be a global competitor on the economic scene.
0:35:26: And many Russians that I talked to, on my last trip especially, have now added a fourth strategic blunder to Putin's catalog of shame, as they call it, and that was the decision to meddle in the 2016 American presidential elections. There is still more to be revealed about that, obviously, although we can see a lot already, and the motivations also need to be studied. But the consequences of this are very, very clear. At the government level, US-Russia relations are as bad as I can remember seeing them in my lifetime. And I've been dealing in US-Russia relations for a long time, and I can even go back to '83, the worst period of the Cold War that I remember and say, in many ways, it's worse now. American popular attitudes toward Russia have also never been lower since the worst years of the Cold War and all of this will take a long time to repair it.
0:36:23: So some of the Russians that I talk to, and I tend to talk to Russians on the liberal end of the spectrum, obviously, are starting to wonder, how any of this is really in Russia's long-term strategic interest. In the short term, it feels good, but sugar high may wear off. So there's definitely some concern out there about where Putin is taking the country. But a lot of that concern is submerged as we saw from the polls, and he approaches the 2018 elections in many ways at the peak of his popularity, but to call the 2018, to call it an election is really a misnomer. It's not an election at all. It's really more of a plebiscite. It's designed as a referendum to allow the Russian people to express their support for Putin. It's not a competitive political contest. Still, there will be opposition candidates, and although they don't have any chance of winning, I think it's worth, just taking a brief look at who they are and what they might represent for the future.
0:37:26: So here they are, all five. Now the bottom three, these three older gentlemen, we can dispense with fairly quickly because they basically represent the past. From right to left, you have the head of Russia's nationalist far right party, Mr. Grudinin represents the Communist Party of Russia, still a political force, obviously not what it was in the Soviet time, and Grigory Yavlinsky who was actually a respected economist. He actually drafted some of the economic reforms under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. All three of these guys or their parties have been running against Putin in presidential elections since 2000. They will struggle together to reach 10% of the vote. So we'll say goodbye to them and we'll focus on these two.
0:38:18: One of these two, younger, obviously, appealing maybe to a younger generation in Russia, one is on the ballot, and one is not. The one who is on the ballot is this woman, Ksenia Sobchak, who is a journalist, who's a news anchor, a blogger on a Russian internet TV channel which is fiercely critical of Putin. Wait, what? A Russian TV, internet TV channel that is fiercely critical of Putin. What's that about? Why doesn't the Kremlin shut it down? Because it's another of these safety valves that the Kremlin permits, tolerates, to take some of the pressure away. It has a small audience. Most Russians, Putin's base certainly, they get their news from Russian state television, and there's no fierce criticism of Putin on Russian state television. But it does provide a platform for Ksenia Sobchak, who already has a large social media following from her days as a Russian TV reality show star. This start to sound familiar? We actually wanted Russia to become more like America. Be careful what you wish for. And just to make things even stranger, this is Russia, she is the daughter of the Mayor of St. Petersburg that Putin carried the bag for back in the 1990s. You can't make this stuff up.
0:39:44: So Sobchak's appeal for votes... And she's a serious candidate. I met with her in Washington two weeks ago and I was prepared to be underwhelmed, and I was impressed. Her appeal to the voters through her various social media, internet platforms, goes something like this, "We all know I can't come close to winning, but we need to show how many of us in this country think Putin has this country on the wrong track, the wrong direction, and how many of us want real change. A vote for me," she says, "is a vote against all, a vote for real change in Russia." Now, Sobchak has been criticized as being the Kremlin's handmaiden, that she was allowed onto the ballot, and you have to be permitted onto the ballot to contest against Putin, solely to boost voter turnout, because obviously if there's high turnout, Putin is gonna win, that makes his win more legitimate.
0:40:40: Her chief critic on that score is the other opposition leader in Russia, the only person who I would say could conceivably pose a real challenge to Putin in a free and fair election. So of course, he's the one who is not on the ballot, and that is Alexei Navalny. He's a charismatic political activist. He's a talented organizer. His operation is set up across Russia in all 85 regions of Russia, hundreds of thousands of people who are actually working for Navalny, and this is tolerated to a certain degree from the point of view of the Kremlin. His appeal to the Russian people sounds a little different than Ksenia Sobchak. He says basically this and he goes on internet. He does these amazing YouTube videos which say to the Russian people in a very entertaining, and amusing way, but very well researched that "Our country is being run by crooks and thieves. They are stealing you blind. They are living lives of obscene luxury" and he shows, he gets drone videos of these mansions that Russian government officials, on government salaries have built. They're living in mansions while you're struggling to make ends meet. We need change in this country. And they're well done and they're fun to watch.
0:42:11: And a lot of Russians... He gets million of hits, millions of views on the internet. The Kremlin is not amused by this, obviously, not surprisingly, and it engineered a criminal conviction against Navalny so that he could not be on the ballot. He now has a... It's kind of a trumped up tax evasion case that nobody really takes seriously but it keeps him off the ballot. And in addition to that, he is actually quite often physically attacked. He's a very impressive guy. He's somebody that I admire. I admire his fearlessness. And unlike Sobchak, he is calling on the Russian people not to vote. He wants to essentially effect maximum damage to Putin and his cronies, and call attention to their illegitimacy. Here you have the two polls of the nascent political opposition in Russia. Revolution, small "r" revolution, versus evolution. Let's change the system from the inside. And for now the Kremlin seems content to try to observe this and control it rather than destroy it, and why not? This is the expected outcome of the vote next month. Sobchak, almost nothing. Navalny, not on the ballot. Our old friends here literally getting their usual, maybe a little bit above 10%.
0:43:56: And will not vote, don't know, will end up somewhere in the middle here. But Putin has another problem, and it's the pesky Russian constitution again. Because the day after his election on March 18th, he becomes, officially, a lame duck. He is prohibited from succeeding himself in a second term. Now, most of the Russian analysts that I talk to and read really do think that this term coming up will be Putin's last term as president. Apart from the constitutional problem, he'll be 72 years old in 2024 when that term runs out. And after more than two decades at the helm of the Kremlin, people think that Putin is tired, especially tired of all the ceremonial and official things that he has to do as President. You need only watch him on Russian TV when the ministers and the governors parade into his office, and the body language as he sits back in his chair and listens to them profess or plead, speaks volumes. It reminds me of President Obama at one point incautiously said that Putin... Meetings with Putin are like having a meeting with the bored kid in the back of the classroom. He said that publicly. But this, is in a way, Putin is tired of being President. It's a big job.
0:45:24: But Putin cannot simply retire and that's the problem. A much bigger problem for him lies at the heart of the system that he's created over the last 20 years. And it's a system that lacks any of the institutional or legal guarantees for the fortunes, and the families, and the fates, of the men who have grown fantastically wealthy around Putin over the last 20 years and made a lot of enemies. So all of this argues in favor of some kind of a mechanism that will allow Putin to remain in power or at least retain power and continue to perform this essential role he plays as the great balancer, balancing the competing political forces that surround him at the top of what Russians call the vertical power. Now one idea has already been floated for how you square this circle and that's the creation of something called the Supreme State Council, a supreme supra Presidential entity, a new executive organ to which Putin would be installed as the head.
0:46:30: It's a little bit similar in a way to what Lee Kuan Yew became in Singapore when he stepped down as Prime Minister but then became Senior Minister and Minister Mentor for a while. Putin, in this scenario would be replaced by president, as president by a younger leader, maybe one of these younger governors that he's taken to installing over the last few months that will go through a winnowing process and a grooming process over the next four years to see which one of them wins the sweepstakes to be the next president. But Putin will always have to remain in that supreme oversight role. Obviously, there are other scenarios yes, they could amend the constitution they could have a more competitive political process. They have six years to work all of this out. The point is Putin is unlikely to leave the stage completely for as long as he remains healthy. So Putin's fourth term in power is not likely to be his final act. And from all I see, all I hear, all I understand about "How Russia Is Ruled," that great Merle Fainsod book that I read back in the day that hopefully some of you are studying as well.
0:47:44: Russia in the 18th century, a lot of that all is very, very relevant today. Putin is not going anywhere for the near future whether we like it or not. And that brings me to the close and the close is, what does that mean for us. What kind of policy do we build with Vladimir Putin who has essentially abandoned the turn toward the west, that he started his career as President with in the 2000s and who's actually been strengthened over the years of his presidency by playing the anti western, anti-American card. How do we deal with that? We're not likely to see change, regime change in Russia. We are not gonna fomented ourselves, I would not recommend it. We'd end up with something much worse. Our efforts to sanction Putin, to isolate him, to exact a prize for his actions, to force him to recalculate, only have this paradoxical effect of making him more popular. Historically, Russian American, Soviet American relations have been dependent on the relationship between the top leaders. Nixon and Brezhnev, Reagan and Gorbachev, Bill and Boris as we called them back in the day there were a lot of Bill and Boris phone calls and meetings. Bush and Putin in the early days, not gonna happen. The level of mistrust, the level of misunderstanding between Russia and the United States now is as bad as the worst years of the cold war that Mueller and John and I live through in the Soviet Union.
0:49:30: Both governments acknowledge that this situation is bad, that it somehow needs to change, but they continue to blame each other as the sole source of the problem. And there is blame to go around on both sides. On the Russian side, Moscow continues to underestimate, misunderstand the magnitude of the problem that it created by interfering in the election in 2016. Despite the mounting volume of evidence that ties the interference directly to the Russian government, the Kremlin denies any responsibility for what happened. Now, it is not surprising that they will not confess to this in public, but I am told that in the private official meetings that we're having with Russian officials, and those were taking place between Tillerson and Lavrov, between other officials in the US government below the Trump and Putin level, the Russians are pushing the same line. And that's making a bad situation worse. Big problem on the Russian side.
0:50:30: On the American side, of course, there's not very much to be encouraged by at all. Under the cloud of the ongoing investigation, in the shadow of the President's refusal to acknowledge or take any action against what Moscow did, the Trump Administration effectively has handed over control of policy toward Russia to the US Congress. The package of sanctions that were passed against Russia in response to election meddling in August of 2017, those were passed by Congress and signed almost under duress by President Trump with reluctance. He didn't wanna sign those into law at all. That's probably the most conspicuous example of this.
0:51:18: Now, sanctions can be a useful tool of statecraft, although, as I hope I showed, it's not really clear that they have had or can have any effect on Putin's calculations. But this is especially true when the sanctions aren't tied to any kind of credible negotiating process, a process that offers believable incentives to the Russians, in this case some lessening of the sanctions in return for Russia agreeing to do something different in Ukraine or agreeing never to do again what it did to the American election. But we're nowhere near that at all. As long as Congress and the White House are split over how to deal with the Russians, then Mr. Putin has zero incentive to deal at all.
0:52:10: Now, I would like to end on a positive note, but I have to be honest and say that I don't see really any early or easy resolution to this stalemate at the top of the US-Russia relationship. But it is, I think, clear to everybody here that there's too much at stake to allow things to spiral downward any further than they already have. So, what can we do? Well, in the first place, I think maybe we need to acknowledge the obvious fact that Trump and Putin are not gonna be able to build any kind of a close personal relationship. And maybe we need to think of that as not such a bad thing. A lot of us who worked in US-Soviet, US-Russia relations for many years thought that for too long the US-Russia relationship was top heavy. That it depended too much on how well Bill and Boris got along together, or even in the day Nixon and Brezhnev, a totally different era.
0:53:13: So let's try to make a virtue out of that necessity and focus instead on maintaining and possibly strengthening the contacts between Russia and the United States that already exist below the level of Presidents in three areas that are absolutely crucial to our security. The first is contact between our militaries. The single biggest threat. The thing that you all need to worry about at night is the chance of an accidental clash between Russians and American military forces, that could quickly escalate out of control in a dangerous confrontation. US and Russian forces are carrying out operations in the skies over Syria every day. And that brings our personnel into too close for comfort contact. And as we've seen, Russia has also taken back the habit of buzzing our planes. In the Baltics, over the black sea. So it is almost a matter of time.
0:54:17: Here, there is some good news. The Trump Administration has actually renewed some of the highest level contacts between the US and Russian military. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, has had a couple, maybe three meetings now with his Russian counterpart, General Gerasimov. And we have lower level deconfliction contacts between our forces in Syria. In fact, a US Air strike in Syria about 10 days ago killed somewhere between four and 30 Russian mercenaries, not Russian uniform soldiers, but mercenaries. Because we told the Russians ahead of time, "Don't keep those guys coming, or we're gonna have to fire." We were able to mitigate what could've made a much worse situation.
0:55:03: And I understand just from conversation that I had a couple of days ago, before I came here, that Defense Secretary Mattis is looking at setting up a meeting with his counterpart, Shoygu, the Defense Minister in Russia. We haven't had contacts at that level for... Well, since Crimea, Certainly. There's no higher priority. And I'm glad to see actually that the militaries, below the level of presidents, are actually taking action to make something better. The second area, in which we need to maintain safeguard the relationships that exist is business relations. The sanctions tied to Ukraine have made it much more difficult to do business in some areas of the Russian economy, especially in the energy sector. But overall, American companies continue to do business in Russia and do business well. International Paper, Microsoft, Ernst & Young, Citibank, a long list. Those are only the biggest. Boeing, they continue to operate in Russia and they're welcome to operate in Russia. And American business connections support the right kind of economic reform in Russia. They play by international rules and they ensure that the Russians, that they deal with, get used to dealing in a transparent world, including corporate governance.
0:56:25: Despite the anti western sentiment that's being pushed by the Kremlin. Overall, American businesses are welcome in Russia and we need to keep that going. Especially at a time when at the political level, there is very little going. This can be something that will help modulate a very unsteady political relationship, it's happened in the past and it needs to continue. The third crucial area. And this is really where I wanna end, because in a way, it takes us back to where we started at the beginning. These are the contacts between Russian and American societies. The past 20 years have seen an amazing growth in engagement in contacts between Russian scientific, cultural, educational institutions and their counterparts in the United States. Despite the high volume of anti western rhetoric that we hear coming out of the Kremlin and Russian media. The number of people lined up to get visas at the US embassy has not diminished at all. In fact, in some ways, it's higher than it was.
0:57:31: The differences that we have with the Russian leadership are very clear, and we're likely to have those for many years to come. And while we try to work those out, and we have to try to work those out, it's essential that we continue to build ties with Russia's civil society, with the intellectual and scientific communities inside Russia, with cultural institutions. The Kremlin's control over the country is neither monolithic nor absolute. Russian society remains diverse. There is a lot happening below the surface. And we further our interests, and we further our desires for the right kind of change in Russia, for staying engaged with that substantial body of Russians who see their country's future tied up in some sort of a more positive, less obstructive, relationship with the outside world. A long-time observer of Russia like me, an American, said to me a while back, pretty simple, "Don't give in to Putin but don't give up on Russia." There is an intense internal debate going on in Russia right now. We saw some hints of that just now. And it's a debate of Russian people who wanna try to define the course that their country is gonna take over the next 25 to 50 years. And that's how long that debate is gonna go on.
0:58:55: And we can't be parties to that debate, but we certainly have an existential interest on how it comes out. So what's required, above all, from all of us in this room and from all Americans who care as we do, is a better understanding of what a complex place Russia is, and a steady resolve to stay engaged, and to support the institutions and the individuals in Russia who wanna see their country as a respected member of the international community. And that's why it's so gratifying to come back here and to see, slowly, in a small way, but significantly, the numbers are going up. And we all need to stay committed to that strategic, long-term goal. To ensure that that grows. And I offer my thanks and my support to the Ford School, to Crease, to the Slavic department, to any of you out there, who are willing to work at that lathe. Toil at the lathe for as long as it takes. 'Cause it's worth it. Thanks very much.
1:00:11: Thank you very much, Ambassador Beyrle, for an enlightening set of remarks. We're gonna have the Q&A section now, and to lead it are two of our excellent Ford School students, who will very briefly introduce themselves and they will then select representative samples of some of the good questions that you all have asked on index cards. Given constraint of time, we won't get to them all, but hopefully we'll be able to get at least to several questions that capture the themes that are indicated here in your various queries.
1:00:42: Good evening, my first name is [1:00:43] ____. I'm a first year MPP and MA.
1:00:48: Hi, my name is Ibrahim [1:00:49] ____. I'm a graduating senior in the undergraduate program here at Ford, studying international development.
1:00:56: Okay. So, our first question is, how are changes in Russia and China's relations in the near future likely to influence relations between Russia and the West? And I can repeat it if I'm reading it too slow or too fast.
1:01:12: No, no, I got it. I got it.
1:01:13: Okay. [chuckle]
1:01:14: In many ways, the biggest problem that Russia faces on the international scene in the 21st century is the same one that, I would argue, we face, and that is the rise of China to superpower status, not just economically but also, potentially, militarily. Because for Russia... Is there a way if we can actually put... I had a last slide which was a big map of Russia? And this is the perfect question, if you can lower the screen and put that last slide back on. Because you really need to look at the map to see what Russia sees when it looks at China.
1:01:52: The Russia-Chinese relationship obviously has a lot of history to it, and very deep roots. But it's characterized today, and will be characterized for the foreseeable future, by a fundamental asymmetry. Russia is rich in resources but poor, very poor in population, in people, especially in this part of Russia, which is where much of the wealth of Russia resides now, in terms of hydrocarbon, timber, precious metals, diamond, etcetera, rare earth. That's all here. All the people in Russia are here. And Russia only has about 145 million people. China, obviously, has a much larger population, but no resources.
1:02:46: In the border regions between Russia and China alone, there are more Chinese living and working, sometimes working in Russia, 200 million than the entire population of Russia. 140 million. So, this is what Russia sees when it sees China. And by the way, China looks at Russia's control over this sort of northern... What they call Northern Manchuria, as something that happened to China during a period of weakness, the century of weakness that they went through. They are not gonna make any immediate move to try to recapture that, they may never need to actually plant a flag there, but they certainly are making inroads in terms of economic influence.
1:03:32: The Fugal Valley now has Chinese tenant farmers in it, because there simply aren't enough Russians to till the soils, especially during harvest time. So, Russia's concern about China is deep, and it is something that comes out in longer conversations you have with Russian officials. Because the orthodox is to talk about threat from the West, they incursion... The encroachment of NATO and the European Union into Russia. But the thoughtful Russians that I talked to will admit that the bigger problem is right here.
1:04:13: And the worst way for us as Americans to think about this, and it's unfortunately the way that Russians occasionally when they do admit that China is their biggest concern of the 21st century, wanna formulate the problem and that is, "We the Russians and the Americans need to form some sort of an alliance or an access to help blunt the rise of China." That's the worst possible way for us to think about this. We, I would say, probably need to think about it in terms of Henry Kessinger said which makes a lot of sense to me, "We, in the United States, need to aspire to have a better relationship with both China and Russia, than the relationship that China and Russia have between themselves."
1:05:01: And the pivot to China that Putin made in 2014, in which they signed a bunch of inner longterm energy deals, were really a necessity for Putin because they occurred at a time when his access to western credits were cut off in response, or as a part of the sanctions. They're not really anything that Russia can look at as safeguarding in their longterm interest because they were negotiated in very unequal terms. In some cases, the price of the gas that Russia is supposed to be delivering to China for the next 20 years hasn't even been agreed on yet, even though they signed the agreement.
1:05:40: Thank you. Our next question is, are approval ratings and polling data accurate if people may fear punishment for any anti Putin opinions?
1:05:49: Good question. And it's a question that is increasingly being asked because Russians do look at these polls and the Kremlin itself uses these polls. So basically, after the Soviet Union fell apart and Russia opened up to international development, a lot of polling agencies from the West, Gallup pew, went into Russia and they're dealing with world class mathematician and statisticians. And basically it was a very quick school for those people to learn how to do good public opinion polling. The question is not really the polling numbers itself, it's the input. Are the Russian people actually honestly describing what they feel? And in the first 10 years, 15 years, polling was pretty straight in Russia. And what you saw was what you got.
1:06:44: Now, there's a bit of a fear percentage that has crept in, specially to some of the polls done by state pollsters. There's one independent pollster left. Because there is a feeling that under Putin, people are just less likely to tell a stranger who calls them on a phone what they really think about the Russian President. From those polls that we saw that put Putin at 80% approval rating, you could probably knock 10% off of those I would say, but 70% is still something that is a respectable. But the Kremlin does its own polling. In the same way that the White House did its own polling as well. The Kremlin watches all of this very, very carefully, because Putin realizes that his hold on power is dependent on support of the people to some degree.
1:07:42: Okay, thank you. In your opinion, how much of a role does ideology still plays in international politics, and Russia's foreign policy specifically?
1:07:54: Well, ideology was the underpinning of the Cold War, obviously. We had two competing ideologies, and we and Russia were the main geopolitical proponents of those, and the main adversaries and opponents. That kind of ideology has, I think, sort of thankfully gone away. What we have now between Russia and the United States is more of a great power rivalry, because Russia aspires to a great power status, and it sees, I think unfairly, but it definitely sees the West and the United States as working to keep Russia from taking its seat at the head table, internationally. But that's not a question of ideology. Russia is not seeking anymore to propound a view of the world that Russia will lead others to adopt and will lead eventually to a better world. The Russian ideology now is more an internal ideology which says, "We, Russia, are a unique, Eurasian civilization. We are not really of the West. We're between the West and Asia." And the values, especially the liberal values, of the West, gay rights, all of the things that we take for granted in this country, are alien to Russia's view of what makes it a great nation. So, that ideology exists inside of Russia but it obviously doesn't really have a lot of appeal outside.
1:09:33: Thank you. Our next question comes from Twitter with the hashtag policy talks. It says, "How does the American First foreign policy change Russia's global influence in the years to come?
1:09:44: How does America's...
1:09:46: The American First foreign policy of this administration.
1:09:48: Oh, the America First foreign policy. Well, I think America First has a bad history in this country in terms of slogans. So, I'm not a fan of America First. I understand the view of people in the Trump Administration. The President himself who feels that... Understand the view that America concluded unfair deals that somehow we were disadvantaged over the past, count back five, 10 years. He goes back to the Bush administration. But you're not gonna... Your foreign policy has to be built... Especially if you're a country like America, which is founded on some values which we've held to for a long time. Your foreign policy has to be built on a sense of trying to convince people, trying to build a consensus around your point of view. What we were fantastically successful with in the post war years after World War II, when we essentially created a new world, a new world of institutions, the UN, bread and wood institutions, that the rest of the world, obviously not in a strong position to oppose it. But also we didn't shove it their throats. We made consensus not coercion the basis of American foreign policy. And my fear is that when Americans hear or when people around the world hear Americans saying, "America First," it doesn't leave enough room for them to see where they fit in.
1:11:31: Okay. How do you account for the absence of criticism by Russia... Oh sorry. Of Russia by President Trump.
1:11:39: I can't account for it.
1:11:40: I'm sorry, sir?
1:11:41: I cannot account for it.
1:11:43: Okay. Next question.
1:11:51: The next question is, "Will Crimea ever be returned to Ukraine? Will this happen during Putin's next term, after Putin, or never? And should President Trump play a role in this?
1:12:02: I think that in the fullness of time, there will have to be some sort of settlement over Crimea. It is hard for me, understanding how Russia views Crimea. Crimea for a very long time was part of Russia. Catherine the Great got it from the Turks back in the 1700s. It's been a different place, but it was part of Russia for a long time. And kind of a different place. That by no means excuses Russia's violation of International Law, moving in to take over Crimea. But what I could foresee, and this is not in Putin's next term at all but somewhere in the 15 to 25-year timeframe, is an agreement between a very different Russia than the Russia we're dealing with now, and obviously a new government in Ukraine, in which Russia and Ukraine make a deal which includes perhaps some sort of payment, security guarantees, something where Russia's control over Crimea is accepted by the Crimean people. There might have to be, by the Ukrainian people, there might have to be a referendum as part of this. That really is the only way I could see this resolving itself because Russia is simply not gonna turn Crimea back over to Ukraine anytime soon.
1:13:32: This is Putin's legacy. When Putin passes away, the first paragraph in his obituary will say that he is the man who, among other things, got Crimea back for Russia. And as for the US playing a role in that, there's always a role for the US to play as an honest broker in negotiations at that level. But since we're talking about 15 or 20 years down the road, I'll let you come up with which president will be standing behind the Russian and the Ukrainians when they sign it. That's actually too much of a 20th century image. We won't be standing behind them at all, but we will have helped to broker the deal. I hope.
1:14:16: Okay. How influential are liberals like Alexei Kudrin on Putin right now?
1:14:23: Yeah. Alexei Kudrin is sort of on the side of the political spectrum, the left side of the political spectrum, where we saw Grigory Yavlinsky. Kudrin was the finance minister under Putin and under Medvedev, a well-respected Russian economist, and someone who understands that the Russian model of an economy built on extraction and natural resource rents is not the way that Russia will be competitive in the 21st century. He functions as a kind of informal adviser now to Putin. He's out of government, but Putin... They're kind of part of the St. Petersburg group. They grew up together in the 1990s under Sobchak. And he has some influence. We will see what happens after Putin is re-elected. There is some talk that he will move Dmitry Medvedev, his current Prime Minister, up to St. Petersburg to take over as head of the Supreme Court, and that he'll be looking at that point for a new Prime Minister.
1:15:29: Those who hope that Russia will begin to embrace the kind of economic reform that they feel it needs to be competitive, hope that Kudrin would be someone who would come in as Prime Minister. But as much as he's a liberal, there are many conservative Russian nationalists who would not accept that at all, who would not accept someone like Kudrin running the economy, because they feel it would threaten what they have amassed over the last 20 years. So whoever is named as Prime Minister, and wherever Kudrin goes in the years to come, there's gonna be a big fight in, about, and around him.
1:16:13: Thank you. And this is gonna be our last question for the night. In a number of cases, populist and authoritarian leaders have used defiance of international norms to attract nationalist support. How can one press Putin on issues like Chechnya and LGBTQI+ persecution most effectively in this context?
1:16:31: It has to come from inside of Russia. And it comes from what I closed with, ensuring that as long as Russia remains open, that as long as Russian students are able to travel here, as long as Russian businessmen can travel freely, as long as we can get in and out of Russia, that we talk to the Russian people and we simply explain to them what is happening in the world around them. For too long, Russians were cut off from that, and so whatever they were told by their government was what the truth was. Yeah, there was Voice of America, and some of the truth leaked in. But you simply can't wall the country off anymore. And especially in the Information Age, especially when you have Russians as wired and plugged in as they are now, young Russians. They understand very, very well the way things are happening in the world and how Russia could fit in, in a less doctrinaire, negative way. They don't have the power now, but they could well have the power in the future. And I would say that putting your faith in those Russians and keeping the lines of communication open to those Russians is probably the single most valuable thing that we could do as Americans to help influence that evolution.
1:17:54: Thank you. That brings us to a close for this session. Please stay tuned for further Ford School and CREEES events. And please join me in thanking Ambassador Beyrle and also our student questioners for their excellent job today.
1:18:10: Thank you.