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Diplomacy in Action

U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission: Monthly Look-Ahead and Wrap-Up

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
June 18, 2011


Look Ahead

American Seasons in Russia:  In late June, the U.S. will ramp up cultural exchanges with our Russian partners, highlighted by the upcoming "American Seasons in Russia." The name “American Seasons” is a tribute to Sergei Diaghilev and his efforts at the beginning of the last century to introduce Russian culture to Europe. Starting in 1906, Diaghilev spearheaded an endeavor to bring the best of Russian music, dance, and art to the European stage; a project he called “Russian Seasons” in Paris. “American Seasons” is designed to bring a similarly wide spectrum of cultural offerings to the Russian public in order to introduce them to contemporary artists from the United States. Taking its cue from Diaghilev’s love of ballet, “American Seasons” starts with a tour by a troupe whose name has become synonymous with contemporary American dance: the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Visual artists’ works will also be featured in exhibitions such as the upcoming Annie Leibovitz exhibit at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. “American Seasons” will conclude with performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Moscow and St. Petersburg next April. Get more detail on Embassy Moscow’s website

June 6-18: Science and Technology Cooperation: Two scientist-entrepreneurs and two technology transfer professionals from Russia will travel to Boston to showcase their expertise and receive commercialization training as part of their participation in a travel grant program sponsored by the Civilian Research and Development Foundation’s (CRDF) Basic Research and Higher Education (BRHE) Innovation program.

June 14-18: Energy Working Group: Following the signing of a Smart-Grid Partnership MOU between the cities of San Diego and Belgorod, a delegation from the city of San Diego and the San Diego Gas & Electric utility company will travel to Russia. The delegation will meet with officials from the city of Belgorod and from the Russian Interregional Distribution Grid Company (MRSK) to develop a joint plan for implementing initial smart-grid projects.

June 18-19: Continuing the longstanding tradition of U.S.-Russia hockey competition, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) will play the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) in a game of hockey, followed by the Legends of the USSR team challenging a team of FDNY and NHL alumni. The event commemorates the events of 9/11 and proceeds will be donated to charity.

June 21-22: A Russian delegation headed by Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Klimashin and General Sherstyuk will visit Washington, DC for consultations on cybersecurity. This meeting is a follow-up from a U.S. delegation of cybersecurity experts meetings in Moscow in February.

June 22: Science and Technology Cooperation: CRDF President and CEO Cathy Campbell and Minister of Education and Science Andrey Fursenko will sign an MOU in Moscow on science and technology cooperation. They will also discuss the development of potential projects, including scientist and academic exchanges programs and joint research projects.

June 23: Counternarcotics Working Group: Gil Kerlikowske, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will travel to New York to join the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Director Yuri Fedotov and the Russian Federal Drug Control Service Director Victor Ivanov to release the UN’s World Drug Report. Kerlikowske and Ivanov will conduct a bilateral meeting following the release event, in which they will discuss the recent successes in U.S.-Russia counternarcotics cooperation and hold a dialogue on future Working Group activity.

June 25-July 1: Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group: Originally scheduled forApril, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will host a delegation of Russian Ministry of Economic Development (MED) officials, mayors, and NGO representatives in Pittsburgh and Detroit. The delegation will meet with local officials, federal government representatives, NGOs, and the business community to exchange expertise on industrial restructuring, local economic development, and small business.

June 27-July 1: Emergency Situations Working Group: The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) is inviting an international team of experts to observe and assess a live field exercise and disaster simulation as it seeks to meet the highest standards of the United Nation’s International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG). With the INSARAG classification, Russia will be better able to coordinate disaster assistance with other responders, and will be recognized by recipient countries as having state-of-the-art procedures and practices. Representatives from the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) will participate as observers, and a member of L.A. County’s Search and Rescue team will serve as one of the classifiers. Learn more about INSARAG

June 27-July 15: Science and Technology Cooperation: The 10th annual English Language Intensive Training for Young Scientists (ELIT) will take place in St. Petersburg. The ELIT program is designed to improve the ability of young Russian scientists to interact with their international colleagues by improving their English language skills. Participants are undergraduate and post-graduate students from the 20 university-based Research and Education Centers of CRDF Global's Basic Research and Higher Education (BRHE) Program.

July 5-July19: Education, Culture, Sports, and Media Working Group: Partnering with USA Basketball, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will send 20 American boys and girls, ages 14-17, and 4 coaches to Moscow and St. Petersburg for a two-week sports exchange program. This program is the fifth sports exchange under the Commission, and is the follow-on exchange to the May 2010 basketball program that brought 20 Russian youth and their coaches to the Washington, DC area. 

Date: 2010 Description: President Barack Obama takes a shot alongside Russian youth sports visitors on the White House basketball court. © White House Image
President Obama met the Russian youth sports delegation in May 2010 for a basketball game at the White House. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State)

July 6-8: Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group: The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Department of Commerce will host a delegation from the Russian government to exchange expertise on standards issues and technical regulations, particularly in the construction, chemistry, and food industries. The delegation, led by the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, will also hold consultations at the National Institute of Standards and will meet U.S. private sector industry representatives.

July 12-22: Environment Working Group: Daniel Reifsnyder, the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Oceans, Environment, and Science Bureau will lead an environmental delegation to Russia. In conjunction with the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), he will attend the Russian-American Pacific Partnership (RAPP) taking place in Kamchatka. He will also travel to Vladivostok and Khabarovsk to advance ongoing U.S. – Russia environmental cooperation in the Russian Far East.

Previous Events Wrap-Up

On May 26, President Obama and President Medvedev met on the margins of the G-8 meeting in Deauville, France. The Presidents issued joint statements on priority bilateral issues, including cooperation on counterterrorism and aviation security, liberalization of the visa regime, and our commitment to enhanced ties between native populations in the Bering Strait region. Commission Coordinators Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov issued a joint report on the BPC’s activity and announced new Commission Working Groups on Innovation and Rule of Law. The Presidents also took the opportunity to highlight recent Commission achievements, including Memoranda of Understanding on joint polio eradication efforts, biomedical research and HIV/AIDS cooperation, and the Smart-Grid Partnership Program between Belgorod and San Diego. See the BPC’s webpage dedicated to the Deauville meeting

Presidents Obama and Medvedev held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Deauville, France. (Photo Credit: AP)

June 6-7: Civil Society Working Group: On June 7, 2011, Michael McFaul, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia for the National Security Staff, and Vladislav Surkov, First Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration, hosted the third plenary session of the Civil Society Working Group in Washington D.C. The co-chairs and both government and NGO members of the four Sub-Working Groups (Prison Reform, Migration, Child Protection, and Anti-Corruption) reported on progress in their discussions and cooperation over the past year, and had the opportunity to discuss their issues with and seek input from the Working Group as a whole. Michael Posner, the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) participated in the meetings and offered reflections on the intersection of national security and human rights in remarks and discussion over lunch. The Working Group meeting concluded with a reception hosted by Assistant Secretary Posner, during which representatives from the NGO and think tank community beyond the Working Group discussed the day’s events with Working Group members.

Prior to the Working Group plenary session, the Sub-Working Groups conducted site visits and meetings on June 6th as described below.

Prison Reform Sub-Group: Building off a successful prison visit the previous week (described below) sub-group co-chairs Mary Mitchell, Deputy Assistant Attorney General with the Department of Justice, and Vladislav Tsaturov, Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Corrections Service, led their sub-group on a visit to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF), a pre-trial and short sentence detention center. The delegation was hosted by MCCF director Arthur Wallenstein and Warden Robert Green, who led them on a tour of the facility and led a frank dialogue on prisoner healthcare, cell size, recreation, and inmate violence, among other topics. Main topics of interest included: prison oversight and transparency, where participants stressed the role of NGOs in prison reform and monitoring; classification of prisoners, where prisoners’ health concerns are balanced with the need for security; the development of universal prison standards; and re-integrating prisoners back into society, a problem faced by Russians and Americans alike. Emphasizing the importance of legislation in prison oversight, the U.S. participants explained the U.S. Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) and the role it plays in U.S. prisons. The meeting concluded with the delegation agreeing that each system had its strengths and weaknesses and further cooperation will be of interest to both sides. During the June 7th plenary session, the sub-group proposed broadening participation to include more U.S. and Russian NGOs engaged in prison reform issues.

Child Protection Sub-Group: Group co-chairs Andrew Oosterbaan of the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and Pavel Astakhov, Russian Presidential Ombudsman on Children’s Rights led the sub-group on a site visit to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Russian and American NGOs were joined by various government representatives on a tour of NCMEC led by the organization’s President, Ernie Allen, who detailed the process and technology used to report, track, and detain suspected offenders. Follow-on discussions focused on how NGOs can work more effectively with law enforcement agencies in the area of child protection, how corporate support can enhance missing persons and awareness campaigns, and how NGOs can work with internet providers and websites to report and remove illegal content. Underscoring the success of cooperation in the area, Mr. Oosterbaan cited an exchange between U.S. and Russian forensic professionals of cutting edge computer software which has been used to obtain thousands of sex offender convictions in the United States. The meeting concluded with an NGO members’ discussion of topics for the Child Protection Forum to be held in Ulan Ude, Russia, in August. 

Pavel Astakhov (left) at NCMEC with Ernie Allen (middle) and Andrew Oosterbaan (right). (Photo Credit: Russian Ombudsman on Children’s Rights)

Migration Sub-Group: Group co-chairs Ambassador Luis CdeBaca of the State Department’s Office on Trafficking in Persons, and Yekaterina Yegorova, Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Migration Service, led the group’s morning discussions regarding ongoing sub-group work and future joint projects at the Migration Policy Institute. The group then visited Mount Vernon, Virginia, where they engaged in a dialogue on forced labor in U.S. history, and concluded the day with a visit to the Arlington Asylum Office to observe the U.S. asylum application and interview process. Discussion focused on migration’s role in economic policy, working with employers to reduce illegal migration and labor trafficking, and working with community and non-governmental organizations to combat xenophobia. U.S. and Russian participants also exchanged expertise and ideas for creating policy for recruiting highly skilled migrants, as well as outreach campaigns to ensure migrants know their full range of rights in their receiving country.

Anti-Corruption Sub-Group: Group co-chairs Brooke Darby, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, and Yuriy Lyubimov, Deputy Minister of Justice, led a meeting of their sub-group at the Department of State. Participants discussed best practices to counter corporate corruption and how public-private partnerships can be used to increase accountability. Participants stressed the importance of U.S. and Russian civil society cooperation outside of government channels as a means to create transparency and build and trust between American and Russian companies. In concluding the meeting, U.S. and Russian participants agreed that the agenda moving forward should include information technology transparency, whistleblower protection, transparency in procurement, and judicial accountability.

Civil Society Working Group: As part of the Prison Reform Sub-Group, a delegation of Russian human rights activists from Russia's public monitoring committee and NGOs active in prison reform, including several attorneys, visited Washington, DC, from May 23 to 27 to exchange expertise on successful strategies to improve conditions in pretrial detention and prison facilities. The group met with U.S. NGOs on effective advocacy for prisoners' rights, access to legal counsel, and the protection of vulnerable groups, such as juveniles, immigrants, and prisoners with mental and physical disabilities. The group visited the Baltimore City Detention Center to learn how a large pre-trial facility is managed in the U.S. They also met with Department of Justice Civil Rights Division prosecutors who enforce the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which is aimed at protecting the constitutional and federal statutory rights of persons confined in state and local detention and prison facilities. The group also interacted with U.S. Senate and House Committee representatives to learn about Congress’s advocacy role on detention and human rights issues.

St. Petersburg International Economic Forum: From June 16 to 18, St. Petersburg hosted the 2011 International Economic Forum, attended by government and business leaders from around the world. The U.S. was represented by Ambassador Miriam Sapiro, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative. Lorraine Harrington, the State Department’s Special Representative for Business and Commercial Affairs also attended.

Energy Working Group: On June 9, 2011 U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Russian Minister of Energy Sergey Shmatko co-chaired the second plenary meeting of the Energy Working Group in Moscow. The co-chairs agreed to support continued cooperation for several projects in joint research and large-scale energy efficiency, including a project on biofuel research and a Smart-Grid sister city pilot project between Belgorod and San Diego. Secretary Chu and Minister Shmatko noted the success of the working group and discussed potential ways to expand cooperation. Sub-groups on energy efficiency, energy security, and clean energy technology each reported on the progress of implementing joint activities. Read the Smart-Grid MOU between San Diego and Belgorod on the BPC Deauville Page.

Defense Relations Working Group:

  • On April 27, the Defense Policy Sub-Working Group held its inaugural meeting in Washington, DC. During the Sub-Working Group, participants discussed each country’s planning and programming systems, and provided an overview of methodologies for linking strategy to resources.
  • On May 19 to 20, the Logistics Sub-Working Group held its inaugural meeting in Moscow, Russia. Following the delegates’ discussion of respective logistics structures, acquisition authorities, life-cycle logistics, inventory management, and distribution processes, participants commented on the significant commonalities in the challenges that logisticians face.
  • On June 1 to 2 in Brussels, Belgium, the Enhanced Missile Defense Cooperation Sub-Working Group held its fourth meeting. The Sub-Working Group further discussed the concept for two missile defense centers and a missile defense joint analysis as potential areas for cooperation.

Health Working Group:

  • From May 23 to 27, experts from the U.S. and Russia spent a week in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan monitoring and observing national polio immunization campaigns. This joint effort was the first activity under a recently signed U.S.-Russian agreement to eradicate polio. Monitoring teams consisted of representatives from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization, and the Russian Ministry of Health. The team visited a number of regional health facilities and accompanied local mobile immunization teams door-to-door in order to identify strengths and gaps in current immunization campaigns and provide suggestions for improvement. Team leaders reported a high level of immunization coverage and excellent public awareness of campaigns. Looking forward, U.S. and Russian participants agreed to explore the possibility of providing immunization training to Central Asian health workers. View Embassy Dushanbe’s video press release.  
Ellyn Ogden, Worldwide Polio Eradication Coordinator at USAID, observing polio immunization programs with Dr. Galina Chistyakova in Tajikistan. (Photo Credit: USAID)

  • Yekaterinburg hosted the Third All-Russian “Health or Tobacco” Forum May 26 to 27, jointly organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Cancer Institute, and the American-Russian Cancer Alliance. Participants included Joe Hartford, Director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, who spoke about the role of health care professionals in helping the public stop smoking. The forum drew an array of state and public leaders from across Russia, who presented smoking reduction programs from their regions.

Emergency Situations Working Group:

  • On May 16, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) kicked off the National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE2011), which focused on a scenario involving a catastrophic earthquake in the central United States. In addition to multiple states, localities, and private partners working with a wide variety of federal agencies on their response to this type of catastrophic event, NLE2011 also included the active participation of six foreign governments—Canada, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, Israel and Chile—and the European Union. A key objective for the international partnership of NLE2011 was seeking global support for urgently needed relief supplies as well as the deployment of Urban Search and Rescue Teams to the U.S. to support FEMA’s 28 domestic teams. During the simulation, Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) supported the Exercise from its Central HQ in Moscow with an offer of the Moscow Air and Search Rescue Team, as well as a wide variety of relief supplies.
  • On May 19, Dr. Denis Onieal, Superintendent of FEMA’s U.S. Fire Academy and Acting Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration, travelled to Russia and addressed an EMERCOM conference entitled “Preparing for Disasters.” Speaking on the organizational and operational aspects of disaster preparedness and response, Dr. Onieal shared his experience from September 12, 2001, when he led the U.S. Fire Administration’s team at the World Trade Center to help the New York City Fire Department re-establish their systems of command, control, and on-site communications. 
Dr. Onieal and Director of EMERCOM’s International Relations Office observing a disaster relief simulation. (Photo Credit: FEMA)

Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group:

  • The U.S. Department of Commerce hosted a delegation from the Russian Ministry of Economic Development (MED) in Washington, DC for a series of exchanges on procurement practices with U.S. government agencies, including: the Department of Commerce, the Office of Management and Budget, the General Services Administration, the Government Accountability Office, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The Russian delegation, led by Deputy Minister Savelyev, came away with a better understanding of U.S. procurement practices. Topics included the principles of transparency and fair competition in the U.S. procurement system, methods of procurement, contract price determination, reverse auctions, use of e-government to enhance efficiency, and an overview of the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement.
  • The U.S. Commercial Service in Moscow hosted its first Invest in America event at the Embassy May 23. The Department of Commerce, in support of promoting increased bilateral trade, presented information on investment opportunities in the United States and the incentives offered by federal and state governments. The event also featured presentations by private investment companies which specialize in Russian-American trade and investment.

Science and Technology Cooperation:

  • CRDF Global and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) jointly agreed on the selection of six finalists from the 2010 CRDF Global - RFBR V Energy Grant Competition. The competition was designed to support high quality, collaborative research in Russia in areas related to energy. The grants will provide funding to the six joint U.S. – Russian teams for up to two years. More information about the finalists can be found here.
  • The Innovation Capacity Development Program, part of CRDF Global's Basic Research and Higher Education (BRHE) Program, hosted a Technology Commercialization Practicum from May 23-25, 2011 in St. Petersburg. The event was open to scientists, entrepreneurs, and technology professionals from local organizations and universities. Experts from Russia and the United States led professional development and commercialization sessions for participants. The event concluded with CRDF awarding four participants travel grants to the U.S., where they will receive additional training and professional development.

Education, Culture, Sports, and Media Working Group: As the summer comes into full swing and the "American Seasons in Russia" approaches, U.S.-Russia cultural exchanges are at an all time high. Some highlights are:

  • Nine American theater students from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Los Angeles, led by the noted film and stage actress Mirjana Jokovic, arrived in Moscow on June 1 to continue work on a play with students from the Moscow State Theater Academy. The play, a drama entitled “Old Boyfriends,” premiered in Moscow at the Strasnoy Theater Center on June 13. Earlier this year nine Russian students went to Los Angeles, led by the prominent Russian theater director Yegeniy Kamenkovich, where they began work on the play. Read more on the CalArts website and Blog Archive.
  • Melvin Williams set out on a tour of Russia from June 2 to 11 as part of the State Department’s Rhythm Road Partnership with the Lincoln Center in New York. Williams performances took him to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk, Bryansk, and Tver’, where word of his popular blues, gospel, and soul music preceded him, leading to packed venues in every city he appeared in. Read more on the Rhythm Road Website.  View Melvin William’s Website.  
Melvin Williams and his band performing at an orphanage in St. Petersburg. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State)

  • The Merce Cunningham Dance Company performed for the very first time in Moscow as part of the Chekhov International Theater Festival. The Company, founded by legendary American choreographer Merce Cunningham, performed in Moscow three times to sold-out audiences. View the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s Website.
  • On May 14 to 16, three American musicians, Greg Howe, Dennis Chambers, and Stu Hamm, visited the Russian Far East under the auspices of the Commission and with the support of Primorye Regional Philharmonics. Their performances in Vladivostok and Nakhodka were well received by Russian audiences. Please click here for additional photos.
  • The Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra traveled to Russia May 19 to 24, performing in Moscow at the International House of Music in Svetlanov Hall and at Spaso House as well as in Kazan and Samara. For photos, please click here. Visit the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra’s Website.
  • American cellist Phillip Hansen toured Russia and performed in Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, including in local hospitals and orphanages. View photos of Hansen’s performances.
  • Jon Alpert, an award-winning investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, conducted investigative journalism seminars in Russia. Venues included the Moscow Journalists’ Club, which brings together film directors and young journalists; the Journalism Department of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow; and the Russian Union of Journalists, where he spoke with Moscow city authorities and local journalists. Additionally, he conducted journalist master classes virtually to audiences in the Russian Far East.
  • Three faculty members from the Yale School of Drama taught a week long program at the Center for Directing and Playwrighting in Moscow from May 30 to June 5. This project is part of the “New American Plays for Russia” program, a year-long effort to translate contemporary American plays into Russian and perform them in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities. The visiting Yale instructors discussed contemporary American theater, issues affecting modern theater in the United States, and modern techniques and approaches to the stage with students from the Moscow Art Theater School (MKhAT), the Russian Academy of Theater Arts (GITIS), and other academic institutions in Moscow.

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