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U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission: August Newsletter on Upcoming and Recent BPC Events

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
August 19, 2011


Upcoming BPC Events

Just Concluding - August 10-18: Nuclear Security and Nuclear Energy Working Group: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Nuclear Energy is hosting Rosatom Deputy Director-General Pershukov and his delegation to tour DOE’s Argonne, Idaho, and Oak Ridge National Laboratories and two universities that have a major focus in nuclear energy engineering. This trip supports the goals of the U.S.-Russia Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Action Plan. Deputy Director-General Pershukov will close out the tour in Washington, D.C. with wrap-up meetings at DOE.

August 24-25: Defense Relations Working Group: The Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) center in Indianapolis, Indiana, will host the second meeting of the Social Welfare Sub-Working Group. Steve Galing, Deputy Director for Military Compensation within the U.S. Department of Defense, will lead the U.S. delegation. The Russian delegation will be headed by Anna Kondratyeva, Director of the Social Protection Department within the Russian Ministry of Defense. Discussions will focus on military payroll systems and internal auditing and controls.

August 28-September 6: Agriculture Working Group: In partnership with the Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa State University, and the Russian Farmers Union (AKKOR), the USDA will initiate the first phase of the “Best Practices in Agricultural Sustainability” program. Six Russian regional farm leaders will travel to Iowa to learn about U.S. agricultural technologies and practices as well as identify priority areas for future collaboration. As a follow-on step, a group of Iowa farm experts will fly to Russia in October to share more in-depth information on those priority areas with the Russian regional leaders and local farmers.

September 2-6: Education, Sports, Media, and Culture Working Group:

  • The second annual “Show US! Documentary Film Festival” will take place at the 35mm Theater in Moscow. This follows last year’s successful festival, which several media reports praised for successfully highlighting the documentary genre. The festival will feature six films, and two of the films’ American directors will attend and lead discussion sessions after the screenings of their films. The Festival is part of the Embassy-sponsored “American Seasons” series of cultural programs.
  • The program entitled “A Century of American Music” will also run as part of the “American Seasons” series. The first program, broadcast July 4 to a national audience, was devoted to the music of Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris and other composers. The second program was broadcast August 1.

September 3-10: Business and Economic Relations: Assistant Administrator James Hammersley of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Deputy Assistant Administrator Bruce Purdy will visit Moscow to take part in a September 6 meeting of the Sub-Working Group on Small and Medium Enterprises, hosted by the Department on Small and Medium Enterprise Support of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development (MED). The week-long visit will include meetings with Russian banks and government agencies focused on small business financing, women’s entrepreneurship, high-technology entrepreneurship, and revitalization of single-industry cities. The sides will discuss Sub-Working Group activities in the coming year. SBA and MED are cooperating under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2010, and activities so far this year have included a study trip in June by Russian mayors to Pittsburgh and Detroit.

September 12: Defense Relations Working Group: The Russian Ministry of Defense will host the second meeting of the Global/Regional Security Sub-Working Group in Moscow. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, and Sergey Koshelev, Chief of the Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Defense, will co-chair the meeting. The two sides will discuss a host of pressing regional and global challenges.

Mid-September: Counternarcotics Working Group: A week-long trip is being planned for the FSKN Deputy Director/Chief of Operations General Nikolay Aulov to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with DEA Deputy Administrator/Chief of Operations Thomas Harrigan. Additional meetings will be scheduled with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Department of State. Deputy Director Aulov will introduce the FSKN Drug Liaison Officer recently assigned to the Russian Embassy to U.S. government counterparts.

September: Education, Sports, Media, and Culture Working Group: Starting in September, the Fulbright Science and Technology Award will send five U.S. scientists and engineers for up to nine months of teaching and collaborative research at universities in Moscow, Southern Russia, Siberia, and the Russian Far East. These Fulbright Scholars will work with Russian faculty and students to strengthen the educational and training needs in science and engineering in conjunction with the Russian Ministry of Education and Science’s reforms in higher education.

Recent BPC Events 

Agriculture Working Group: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hosted three Russian officials from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) on August 15 and 16 in Washington, D.C. On the first day of the visit, the officials toured Maryland farms to learn about animal genetics in the United States. On the morning of August 16, they toured the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s National Center for Animal Health and Emergency Management and attended an emergency outbreak simulation exercise. Afterward, the MOA officials met with the USDA’s animal health team to discuss cooperation in that field. In the afternoon, MOA Assistant Minister Bobkov discussed MOA’s information operations and possible areas of cooperation. As the visit concluded, the officials met public affairs officers from the USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service, Food Safety and Inspection Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service to learn more about how they utilize social media outlets as well as radio and video broadcasts.

Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group: MAKS 2011, the 10th International Aviation and Space Salon, took place in Zhukovsky, Russia, August 16-21. Comparable to Le Bourget in France and Farnborough in the United Kingdom, MAKS Salon is one of the largest aerospace shows bringing together major Russian and international industry leaders to showcase the most advanced products and services in this sector. Despite the competition from European countries that have traditionally been very active in this market, the U.S. company participation featured 12 U.S. aerospace exhibitors, including several industry leaders with long and successful histories in Russia. The U.S. Commercial Service’s Moscow office provided information, counseling, and general support to U.S. exhibitors.

Counternarcotics Working Group: The DEA, Russian FSKN, and Brazilian National Police successfully completed a joint investigation following the August 1 arrest of a drug trafficking organization’s leader in Brazil on Brazilian charges. His organization had been responsible for shipping cocaine from South America to Russia by sealing the illicit narcotics in luggage.

Civil Society Working Group (CSWG): The inaugural Russian-American Forum on Child Protection was held August 1-6 near Lake Baikal in the Siberian region of Buryatia. Organized by Russian NGO National Foundation for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NFPCC), the Forum was also supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the U.S. Department of Justice, USAID/Russia, and the Offices of the Children’s Rights Commissioner for the Russian President. The week kicked off with a meeting of the CSWG’s Child Protection Sub-Working Group, and was followed by six days filled with events and speakers. The over 250 participants from 32 Russian regions and eight U.S. states included government, child welfare experts and service providers, universities, and NGOs. Participants discussed a variety of problems related to child physical and sexual abuse, pornography, trafficking, and abandonment. Within the framework of the Forum, NFPCC (also the implementing partner of the USAID-supported Compass for Childhood project) conducted a roundtable on the objectives and achievements of Compass, a four-year project which aims to strengthen the system of care for vulnerable children and families through the development and dissemination of a toolkit for planning, implementation, and evaluation of regional child welfare projects. It was clear at the Forum’s conclusion that the many U.S.-Russian working relationships in this important field will continue to benefit children in both countries. For more information, please visit the Forum website at

Date: 08/01/2011 Description: Raeline Freitag of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children speaks about the importance of a decision-making strategy for child social services workers. © U.S. Embassy Moscow photo
Raeline Freitag of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children speaks about the importance of a decision-making strategy for child social services workers. (Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy Moscow) 

Education, Sports, Media, and Culture Working Group:

  • The first Fulbright International Summer School on Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology took place in Kazan, Russia, June 14-26. The summer school was the result of collaboration between the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan State Technological University, and the Fulbright Program Office in Moscow under the auspices of the BPC. With a focus on nanotechnologies and nanomaterials, the summer school brought together 25 leading graduate students and junior faculty from throughout Russia with leading Russian and U.S. specialists and provided them with two weeks of intensive lectures, discussions, and laboratory tutorials.  
Date: 06/14/2011 Description: Russian students in Kazan use microscopic technology as part of a laboratory practicum. - State Dept Image
Russian students in Kazan use microscopic technology as part of a laboratory practicum. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State)

  •  Americans and Russians gathered on stage for the First International Bluegrass Festival in Yekaterinburg, July 14-15. The event marked the official opening of the Embassy-sponsored “American Seasons” for the Urals and Western Siberia. Headliners of the festival included Donna Ulisse and the Poor Mountain Boys (from Nashville, Tennessee), Izumrud (Yekaterinburg), and Cheerful Diligence (Obninsk). In support of the new project, the U.S. Consulate in Yekaterinburg hosted a Facebook contest whereby local country and bluegrass musicians submitted video performances through the site. Five finalists were invited to play during the festival and the winner received an American banjo.
  • The Far Eastern Arts Museum in Khabarovsk opened a new exhibit on July 29 titled: “Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World.” Created by the Meridian International Center and supported by the Department of State, this unique collection of photos shows legendary American jazz musicians’ travels around the world from the 1950s to the 1980s. During the opening ceremony, local students danced as Russian musicians added a special zest to the exhibit by performing their own improvisations of classic jazz tunes. Deputy Minister of Culture Olga Zavyalova, Museum Director Valentina Zaporozhskaya, and U.S. Embassy Moscow staff were on hand to receive guests.  
Date: 07/29/2011 Description: The ''Jam Session'' exhibit opened July 29 in Khabarovsk. ©  U.S. Consulate Vladivostok photo
 The “Jam Session” exhibit opened July 29 in Khabarovsk. (Photo Credit: U.S. Consulate Vladivostok)

  •  Contemporary Russian dancers from the Urals, Siberia, and the Far East gathered in Chelyabinsk in early-August, where American hip hop had center stage in the ten-day International Summer Dance Lab. Visiting American choreographers Corey Action and Barbara Hayley hosted a series of master classes culminating in a live street dance festival on August 10. Even the local train station and zoo were transformed into open-air performance spaces. Mr. Action performed alongside his Dance Lab students and gave interviews with Russian media. 
Date: 08/10/2011 Description: Dancers break it down in Chelyabinsk. ©  U.S. Consulate Yekaterinburg photo
Dancers break it down in Chelyabinsk. (Photo Credit: U.S. Consulate Yekaterinburg) 

Health Working Group: The Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) signed an implementation plan with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on August 18 formalizing its commitment to jointly fund an unprecedented HIV/AIDS research competition. The publication day for the Funding Opportunity Announcement for the grant’s competition could be as early as October 1, 2011. 

Military Cooperation Working Group: The USS Carr conducted a two-day port visit to the city of Baltiysk, August 3-4, the first ever visit of a U.S. Navy vessel to Kaliningrad Oblast. The crew of roughly 200 personnel hosted local dignitaries from the city as well as from nearby Kaliningrad, including numerous political figures and senior military officials. In addition to several formal protocol meetings by the Carr’s Commanding Officer and a wreath laying event at the Baltiysk World War II memorial, the Carr’s crewmembers played sports with Russian counterparts, visited local museums, and were tour guests aboard a Russian warship. An evening reception aboard USS Carr was held for a local Russian veterans group, including retired admirals and senior officers, who also had their own tour of the ship. The Carr’s sailors built stronger community relations by volunteering to paint a local orphanage as well as sharing an “American” hamburger lunch and playing sports with the orphans. 

Date: 08/03/2011 Description: The USS Carr pulls in to the port at Baltiysk. © U.S. Consulate General St. Petersburg photo
The USS Carr pulls in to the port at Baltiysk. (Photo Credit: U.S. Consulate General St. Petersburg)

Environment Working Group:

  • U.S. Forest Service (USFS) specialists traveled to the lake Baikal area in May-June to share expertise and best practices on ecotourism and public participation in decision making with management of Pribaikalsky National Park, Baikalsky Reserve, Tahoe Baikal Institute, Great Baikal Trail, and other Russian counterparts. This followed a spring 2011 visit by the directors of the Baikalsky Reserve and Pribaikalsky National Park and 17 other delegation members hosted by USFS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. National Park Service as part of a protected area exchange under the BPC. At that time, it was agreed that technical cooperation on ecotourism and environmental education on protected areas was of mutual interest and a visit of USFS representatives to the Baikal region was suggested.
  • In July, five Inuit youth traveled from Nome, Alaska to Provedinya, Chukotka to participate in a boating festival in Lavrentiya. The youth traveled under the U.S.-Russia 1989 Bering Straits Region Agreement which allows for visa-free travel for indigenous residents of the region. Hosted by the Chukotka Minister of Sports and Culture, their memorable visit included finding relatives previously unknown to them. The Inuit youths’ visit highlights importance of deepening cooperation and strengthening ties in the Bering Strait Region, mentioned in the May 2011 joint statement issued by Presidents Obama and Medvedev.

Other Related Events

Upcoming - August 26-27: Health: Governor Dmitry Kobylkin and Deputy Governor Aleksandr Mazharov will head a delegation from Yamalo Nenetsk Autonomous Okrug (YaNAO, in north-central Russia) to Alaska. The group will travel to Anchorage at the invitation of the Northern Forum, an NGO devoted to the common challenges faced by sub-national and regional governments from eight Arctic countries. The YaNAO delegation intends to meet with Alaska Governor Sean Parnell to sign a memorandum of cooperation establishing relations with Alaska’s medical community to help combat YaNAO’s high child mortality rate. Like Alaska, YaNAO has a large native population and its officials are impressed by the medical and educational programs Alaska has established in support of northern native peoples.

Military Cooperation: The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Russian Air Force conducted the second iteration of exercise Vigilant Eagle August 5-9. Aircraft and personnel were deployed to Khabarovsk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Anchorage, and Colorado Springs. The exercise provided the opportunity for NORAD and Russia to enhance coordination and partnerships to cooperatively identify, intercept, and follow a suspected hijacked aircraft as it proceeded across shared international boundaries. Vigilant Eagle 2011 built upon the success of Vigilant Eagle 2010, which was the first live-flying event between Russia and the United States (through NORAD) since the Second World War. The exercise generated media interest in the United States, Canada, and Russia—especially in Khabarovsk—where the headquarters of the Russian Far-Eastern Military District is located. In June 2011, NATO countries and Russia also held Vigilant Skies, a parallel exercise under the NATO-Russia Council Cooperative Airspace Initiative that marked the first time that Russian jets participated in a live-fly exercise with NATO aircraft. The success of these exercises highlights the benefits to enhanced cooperation on aviation security issues. NORAD and Russia have already agreed to continue Vigilant Eagle in 2012.

The Bilateral U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission: This Commission, which met in Moscow for the third time July 27-29, is charged with implementing the 2000 Agreement between the United States and Russia on the conservation and management of the Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population. The Agreement seeks to balance conservation of the shared polar bear population with permission for the native populations of Alaska and Chukotka to engage in subsistence hunting—a traditional practice of the two-closely related cultures. The Commission includes representatives from the Russian and U.S. governments as well as representatives from the Native Alaskan and Chukotkan populations.

The Polar Bear Commission’s Scientific Working Group (SWG) convened ahead of time on July 26, and most of the subsequent, general Commission’s discussions centered on the SWG’s recommendations. The SWG recommended implementing a multi-year quota system, developing a joint U.S.-Russian research plan for the polar bear population, and expanding the SWG to include greater native representation. The Commission also proposed developing a joint outreach strategy. The Commission agreed to all of these recommendations from the SWG.

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