WASHINGTON, Sept 25—This year marks the 200th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations between Washington and Moscow—a time when a productive U.S.-Russian relationship is especially needed to address many of the major global and regional issues, yet continued tensions and increasingly harsh rhetoric threaten to further undermine the progress made in the post-Cold War era.

On September 24 and 25, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace convened former Russian and American ambassadors to discuss factors that have helped or hindered the bilateral relationship: in short, to examine what has and has not worked. Drawing on their unique diplomatic experience spanning a period of more than four decades, the ambassadors produced the following joint-statement outlining a strategic framework for productive diplomacy to resolve old problems and meet new challenges.

This statement was printed in the September 25, 2007 edition of the International Herald Tribune and is available online at: www.carnegieendowment.org

Joint Statement

A New Century of U.S.-Russia Relations

This year marks an important anniversary. In 1807, the Russian Empire and the young American Republic agreed to establish diplomatic relations. Soon after, Russia's first envoy, Alexander Dashkov, arrived in Washington, and John Quincy Adams traveled to St. Petersburg.

Since this modest beginning, our relations, at their best and worst, have borne out de Tocqueville's prophecy that America and Russia are "marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe."

Today, with the Cold War and immediate post-Soviet transition behind us, we face a new world in which an effective U.S.-Russian relationship is central to addressing many global challenges.

As American ambassadors to Moscow or Russian ambassadors to Washington, we are all direct descendants of those envoys who pioneered the bilateral conversation.

We are diplomats - not politicians - who represent a half-century of experience of "doing U.S.-Russian relations." We have come together on this diplomatic bicentennial at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington to reflect on the prospects for U.S.-Russian relations.

Our careers have seen our countries face critical, at times existential, challenges. We have known the success of close cooperation when we defeated common foes and developed a safer world, but also the consequences of estrangement and rivalry.

Today, unprecedented globalization of communications, economic dynamism and the movement of people, goods and ideas have broken down traditional barriers and opened our nations to new and powerful influences for positive change. But change also brings with it new threats.

The threats posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and organized crime, unprecedented stresses on our environment and energy security, and a host of unresolved and frozen regional conflicts are among the pressing issues that require joint attention. In these and many other areas, our two countries have the experience and responsibility to provide leadership.

Faced with so many important tasks, we cannot afford to let miscommunication or mistrust derail our relations. When we have pursued active dialog and creative diplomacy based on agreed principles, we have brought about positive change. How do we regain that relationship? What lessons have we learned?

First, America and Russia are large, complex nations with different histories, geography and cultures. It is normal and inevitable that we each see the world through the lens of our own national interests, compete in global economic and political affairs and have legitimate disagreements.

The task is to identify and advance shared interests even as we manage our differences and disagreements. As Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, who was instrumental in negotiating the Cuban missile crisis, wrote, "We should always be able to find a way to disagree without damaging a profoundly important strategic partnership."

Second, both countries have experienced profound change in the past quarter century. The Cold War's end and the dissolution of the Soviet Union into independent states brought a sea change across Europe and Eurasia, the consequences of which continue to reverberate. Russia has entered a difficult period of economic, social and political transformation as well as of reshaping its global and regional strategies. The United States has undergone the national shock of 9-11. The emergence of violent anti-U.S. extremism poses an imminent threat to Americans everywhere, challenging traditional U.S. policies, perceptions and priorities.

Third, U.S.-Russian relations work best when we avoid demonizing one another and hone in on common interests to develop shared solutions. For example, we have markedly improved our work together in combating terrorism. We must concentrate on opening new areas of cooperation in nuclear matters, including prevention of WMD proliferation.

Much remains to be done. There is growing concern that our successful arms control regime may disappear, with unacceptable consequences for the world. Present disagreements about missile defense in Europe, the shape of future security structures for Europe and how best to proceed in Kosovo have brought new tensions between us. Our diplomacy must find a way forward.

Fourth, as we begin our third diplomatic century, it is important to continue to rely on the power of diplomacy. Keeping our channels always open and busy spared us from nuclear annihilation in the 20th century and can help us surmount the threats that lie ahead. Today, in addition to regular diplomatic channels and contacts between leaders, we should explore further institutionalization of our dialog at the cabinet and sub-cabinet levels.

Finally, we need a wider conversation between our societies to strengthen the foundation of shared values. Encouraging the broadest possible open contacts among scientific, social, and religious organizations is equally important. To this end, our visa systems should facilitate exchange rather than hinder it.

Expanding our economic ties can also promote a more stable and predictable relationship. We must move beyond the WTO issue and remove politically motivated barriers that have held up U.S.-Russian commercial exchange so that Russia takes its place as a full member of the global trading community.

Our two countries have already proven themselves able to bridge wide political and cultural gaps. We can now work together in the broad context of democratic values and market economics. Today the U.S. and Russia need to build a well-defined new strategic framework for productive diplomacy to resolve old problems and meet new challenges. Our future work should be worthy of a third diplomatic century.

Alexander A. Bessmertnykh

James F. Collins

Yuri V. Dubinin

Arthur A. Hartman

Victor G. Komplektov

Vladimir P. Lukin

Jack F. Matlock Jr.

Thomas R. Pickering

Yuli M. Vorontsov

Notes

  • The Carnegie Russia and Eurasia Program has been a leader in its field since the end of the Cold War. The senior research team comprises an unparalleled group of experts in the United States and Russia on Eurasian security and development, economic and social issues, governance and the rule of law, as well as security issues such as strategic nuclear weapons and nuclear nonproliferation. The Program has adapted to changing policy priorities during the region's dramatic evolution in the past fourteen years—from the collapse of the Soviet Union, through the early phase of post-Communist transitions, into the post-9/11 era, and the current period under President Putin.
  • The Carnegie Moscow Center was established in 1993 and accommodates foreign and Russian researchers collaborating with Carnegie's global network of scholars on a variety of topical areas and policy-relevant projects. Carnegie Moscow Center Associates work independently on their own research in areas covering a broad range of contemporary policy issues—military, political, and economic.
  • Press Contact: Trent Perrotto, ph: 202/939-2372, tperrotto@ceip.org
  • The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing cooperation between nations and promoting active international engagement by the United States. Founded in 1910, its work is nonpartisan and dedicated to achieving practical results. In 2007, the Endowment embarked on the first phase of its transformation into the first global think tank, adding operations in Beijing, Beirut, and Brussels to its longstanding offices in Washington and Moscow.  These five locations include the two centers of world governance and the three places whose political evolution and international policies will most determine the near-term possibilities for international peace and economic advance. www.CarnegieEndowment.org