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

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
September 22, 2011


Upcoming BPC Events

In Progress - September 19-22: Health Working Group: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius will lead an HHS delegation to participate in the United Nations’ High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases in New York. Among other priorities, HHS will use this opportunity to expand international cooperation on tobacco control and cessation initiatives, particularly through a text messaging program called Quit-Now-Text and a Clinton Global Initiative program to create completely tobacco-free workplaces. BPC Health Working Group coordinators Dr. Nils Daulaire, Director of the HHS Office of Global Affairs, and Russian Deputy Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova will meet on the margins of the High-Level Meeting. Along with Dr. Roger Glass, Director of the NIH Fogarty International Center, and Dr. Jonathan Hale, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia, they will discuss plans for the fall 2012 U.S.-Russia Forum on Science and engagement with civil society.

In Progress - September 19-23: Defense Relations Working Group: U.S. and Russian delegations will meet in Geneva to continue negotiations on a proposed Defense Technology Cooperation (DTC) Agreement.

September 22: Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Security Working Group: The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Federal Customs Services (FCS) of Russia recently completed the installation of radiation detection equipment at all 380 Russia border crossings. NNSA’s Deputy Administrator Anne Harrington will meet with Vladimir Malinin, First Deputy Head of the FCS of Russia, at FCS Headquarters in Moscow on September 22, to recognize this major milestone. The installations were completed on schedule with the work and costs shared by both sides. NNSA Assistant Deputy Administrator John Gerrard will also participate in a demonstration of the Automated Agency Management Informational System (AAMIS), a joint effort between NNSA and FCS to integrate the FCS’s radiation monitoring infrastructure to allow for real-time alarm monitoring.

October 2-5: Education, Culture, Sports, and Media Working Group: Working group co-chairs Ambassador Mikhail Shvydkoy and Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Ann Stock will open the second meeting of the Media Sub-Working Group in Moscow. Sub-group chairpersons Mikhail Gusman of the ITAR-TASS News Agency and Dawn McCall, Coordinator of International Information Programs at the Department of State, will lead the event. Discussions hosted by ITAR-TASS on the first day will focus on the future of media and the evolving business of media. The second day will include a panel discussion about ethics and journalism hosted by the Russian State University for the Humanities.

October 3-5: U.S.-Russia Business Council Annual Meeting: On October 4, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor I. Shuvalov will open the 19th Annual Meeting of the U.S.-Russia Business Council (USRBC) in Chicago, a sister city of Moscow since 1997. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns will deliver remarks at a dinner at the Art Institute of Chicago during the preceding evening. Additional event details are on the USRBC website.

October 7: Environment Working Group: Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will attend two workshops in Moscow on black carbon in conjunction with the inter-governmental Arctic Council and the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). On October 6, the EPA and members of the Arctic Council will co-host a workshop to share experiences across the Arctic on black carbon and diesel emissions. On October 7, the MNRE will host a related workshop to discuss U.S.-Russia cooperation on black carbon. The workshops will examine the link between black carbon—considered a major contributor to climate change, particularly in the Arctic—and diesel emissions, pollution mitigation, and clean technologies that can improve the efficiency of energy systems in the Arctic's remote regions. Experts from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the University of Alaska will participate in the first workshop and share their countries’ experiences in reducing diesel emissions. The non-U.S. participants have been invited as observers to the bilateral workshop.

October 9-18: Health Working Group: Director of the Information Technology (IT) Department at the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development, Vadim Dubinin, will lead a delegation to the United States to discuss the latest trends and pressing issues in health-related IT. The group will attend a Cerner Health Conference in Kansas City, October 9-12, followed by visits to some hospitals in the Chicago area. Dubinin is also planning to meet with his HHS counterpart, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, and visit the Veterans Administration to learn about its work with Kaiser Permanente to share electronic health information to improve veterans’ care.

October 11: Education, Culture, Sports, and Media Working Group: The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts will open an exhibition of works by American photographer Annie Leibovitz, whose works are being brought to Moscow as part of the Embassy’s year-long “American Seasons” series of cultural programs. There will be a VIP opening at the Pushkin Museum followed by a reception in Leibovitz’s honor at Ambassador Beyrle’s residence, Spaso House. Ms. Leibovitz’s work was displayed recently at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, where it received much critical acclaim.

Recent BPC Events

Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Security Working Group: On September 20, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the signing of a Joint Statement on the strategic directions of U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation with the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Rosatom Director General Sergey Kiriyenko signed the Joint Statement at the conclusion of bilateral consultations at the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference in Vienna, Austria. This Joint Statement recognizes that the U.S. and Russia have together actively and consistently demonstrated leadership in the nuclear sphere, particularly in the areas of nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism. Read the full press release here.

Agriculture Working Group: In partnership with the Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa State University, and the Russian Farmers Union (AKKOR), the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted the first phase of the “Best Practices in Agricultural Sustainability” program from August 29 to September 6. Four Russian agricultural experts traveled to Iowa and Illinois to learn about U.S. agricultural technologies and practices. Participants attended the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Summer Policy Conference and visited the Monsanto research facility in Huxley, Iowa. They also toured the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and Iowa State University Extension and Research facilities. Their trip included a three-day home stay with Iowa farm families, where the participants experienced family farming in the United States and the everyday life of U.S. farmers.

Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group: Assistant Administrator James Hammersley of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Deputy Assistant Administrator Bruce Purdy traveled to Moscow during the week of September 4 for a series of discussions with Russian government and non-government counterparts concerning small and medium enterprise (SME) finance and technical assistance. Since 2010, the SBA and Russian Ministry of Economic Development (MED) have had a memorandum of understanding to exchange best practices and compare SME development, through a BPC sub-working group on the same topic.

The SBA team had discussions with the head of the MED’s SME section about future exchanges and activities, particularly following a summer 2011 study trip by Russian mayors of single-industry cities to Pittsburgh and Detroit. The SBA visitors also spoke with faculty and students at Moscow State University, the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, Russian Microfinance Center, banks, and NGOs focused on the SME sector. The U.S. and Russian officials discussed possible future activities, such as a delegation of American bankers to Russia in 2012 and alternating joint SME development conferences in each country.

Counternarcotics Working Group:

  • Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), met with Nikolay Aulov, Deputy Director of the Russian Federation’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), in Washington, D.C., on September 15. They discussed topics on the agenda for the planned November 2011 session of the BPC Counternarcotics Working Group in Chicago.
  • Working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS/ICE), and Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), the Embassy Moscow Law Enforcement Section led a border counternarcotics seminar, August 29-31, in Chelyabinsk. The State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs funded the seminar, during which representatives from DEA, DHS/ICE, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection made presentations following Yekaterinburg Consul General Michael Reinert’s opening remarks. The event concluded with a trip to the Russian-Kazakh border at Troitsk. The U.S. visitors met their FSKN counterparts from the regions bordering Kazakhstan as well as from FSKN headquarters in Moscow.
  • The DEA and FSKN participated in the 5th meeting of the Northern Route Working Group in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 7. Attendees included representatives of the Afghanistan Minister of Interior, the Drug Control Agency under the President of Tajikistan (DCA), the FSKN, and the DEA. At the meeting they discussed ongoing drug investigations targeting the distribution of Afghan heroin along the Northern Route and the possibility of future joint-counternarcotics operations.
  • The FSKN participated in a DEA-led international money laundering symposium in The Hague, Netherlands. The September 12-16 events included law enforcement officers from throughout Europe. The goal of the symposium was to discuss tactics and trends in money laundering investigations.

Defense Relations Working Group:

  • The Russian Ministry of Defense hosted the second meeting of the Global and Regional Security Sub-Working Group in Moscow on September 12. 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, co-chaired the meeting. The two sides discussed the current developments in the Middle East, security in and around Afghanistan, and NATO-Russian cooperation. Talks highlighted commonalities and differences in U.S. and Russian thinking on these issues, and concluded that politics should not stand in the way of ongoing and future U.S.-Russian bilateral efforts.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense hosted the second meeting of the Social Welfare Sub-Working Group at the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) center in Indianapolis, Indiana, August 24-25. Steve Galing, Deputy Director for Military Compensation within the U.S. Department of Defense, and Aaron Gillison, Deputy Director for DFAS Indianapolis, led the U.S. delegation. The Russian delegation was headed by Anna Kondratyeva, Director of the Social Protection Department within the Russian Ministry of Defense. The Russian delegation toured DFAS facilities and received a series of briefings on the American military and civilian payroll systems.

Education, Culture, Sports, and Media Working Group:

  • Consulate General Yekaterinburg partnered with EducationUSA to create a free Internet-based e-course designed to connect Russian students with American colleges through distance learning programs. Participants can access the course and post on a discussion board, upload assignments, take a quiz, and check their grades. The course includes guidelines for applying to U.S. educational institutions and links to homepages of online schools. To promote the program, the Consulate’s Public Affairs Section will visit regional high schools and universities in the next year.
  • The second annual “Show US! Documentary Film Festival” took place at the 35mm Theater in Moscow, September 2-6. The festival featured six films; two of the films’ American directors led discussion sessions after the screenings of their films. The Festival is part of the Embassy-sponsored “American Seasons” series of cultural programs. 

Date: 09/23/2011 Description: Ambassador Beyrle (center), producers Jordana Glick-Franzheim (far left) and 
Mitchell Block (far right), and the winners of the recent Embassy Documentary Contest.
 © U.S. Embassy Moscow
Ambassador Beyrle (center), producers Jordana Glick-Franzheim (far left) and Mitchell Block (far right), and the winners of the recent Embassy Documentary Contest. (Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy Moscow)

  • Native American composer Brent Michael Davids visited the Russian Far East, stopping in Khabarovsk, Birobidjan, and Vladivostok, September 8-17. He shared his musical legacy with school and university students, professional musicians, and representatives of indigenous people of the Russian Far East.
  • Consulate General Vladivostok supported the 9th “Pacific Meridian” Festival that took place September 10-16. American filmmakers Evan Glodell and David Blood came to Vladivostok to present their films in the contest program. Legendary American actress and singer Liza Minnelli opened the festival and hosted a question-and-answer session and press conference for hundreds of fans. Consul General Sylvia Curran also hosted a reception in honor of Ms. Minnelli.
  • Consulate General Vladivostok hosted a strong-man competition called “Pacific Strong: Russia vs. U.S.A.” In this battle of brawn, powerful men from both “superpowers” competed for the title by taking part in various athletic challenges. The two-man teams demonstrated their super-human abilities before more than 500 spectators. 

Date: 09/23/2011 Description: The winners of the ''Pacific Strong'' competition celebrate. © U.S. Consulate Vladivostok
The winners of the “Pacific Strong” competition celebrate. (Photo Credit: U.S. Consulate Vladivostok)

  • From September 8 through 14, American hockey legend Doug Brown gave a series of master-classes for young Russian hockey players in Vladivostok.
  • American playwrights Betty Shamieh, Bob Kerr, and Bekah Brunstetter took part in Moscow’s Lubimovka Festival September 8-11. Working with Russian playwrights, they completed translations of their works that Russian actors read at the Festival’s end. These performances were part of U.S. Embassy Moscow’s ongoing effort to introduce young playwrights to American and Russian audiences. This latest round of readings continued a series started earlier in 2011, when Oliver Award-winning author Katori Hall’s play “The Mountaintop” was read at Moscow’s famous Satirikon Theater in March. That event received widespread coverage in the Russian press.

Environment Working Group:

  • At the end of August, the U.S. Geology Survey and National Science Foundation once more extended a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Russian Ministry of Education and Science and the Russian Academy of Sciences. Valid through September 2012, the MOU provides for research cooperation, data exchange, and the establishment and operations of joint stations in the field of seismology and geodynamics.
  • Mary Wagner, Associate Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, met with Alexander Panfilov, the Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Forestry Agency, in China on the margins of the APEC Forest Ministerial on September 7. They discussed a number of issues, including future forest-related programming under the U.S.-Russia Protocol of Intent on forests, and expressed interest in collaborating on joint projects to combat illegal logging in the future.
  • With more than 225 participants from across the Bering Strait region, the Beringia Days International Conference was held in Nome, Alaska in early September. Organized by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) and Alaska’s Institute of the North—and supported by numerous regional organizations—Beringia Days celebrates the shared natural and cultural resource heritage of the cross-strait Beringia region. Native leaders, scientists, governmental representatives, and local residents from both Russia and the United States gathered to learn more about projects funded by the NPS Shared Beringia Heritage Program. They shared ideas about what a proposed joint U.S.-Russia Beringia heritage area would look like and offered insights on the importance of greater bilateral cooperation in the Beringia region for native families and communities. A youth forum also took place concurrently. Photos of Beringia Days are available on the NPS website.
  • Prior to Beringia Days, BPC Environment Working Group coordinator Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Reifsnyder visited four native subsistence villages with the Superintendent of the NPS's Western Arctic Parklands unit. They heard local concerns about increased commercial development, shipping, and the impact of climate change on the region.

Date: 09/23/2011 Location: Warren Air Force Base Description: U.S.-Russian collaboration in action during exercise CRIMSON RIDER 2011. © Matthew Bilden, Warren Air Force Base

Date: 09/23/2011 Location: Warren Air Force Base Description: U.S.-Russian collaboration in action during exercise CRIMSON RIDER 2011. © Matthew Bilden, Warren Air Force Base

U.S.-Russian collaboration in action during exercise CRIMSON RIDER 2011. (Photo Credit: Matthew Bilden, Warren Air Force Base)

Military Cooperation Working Group: The U.S. and Russian militaries conducted Exercise CRIMSON RIDER 2011 in Wyoming, August 9-11. The Air Force Global Strike Command and 20th Air Force, with support from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, hosted a static display at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base demonstrating transport and security equipment used by U.S. security forces. Russian presentations highlighted similar practices by Russian military forces. A nuclear warhead transport exercise followed, which included the exchange of best practices used by each country in the secure transport of nuclear weapons. Exercises like this enable beneficial technical interaction among security experts from both countries and contribute to enhanced security of nuclear weapons. This exercise was conceived by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen and Chief of the Russian General Staff Makarov, co-chairs of the BPC working group, and is a tangible demonstration of U.S. and Russian commitment to enhancing cooperation in the nuclear security realm. Planning for a follow-on event in this exercise series will occur next year in Russia.

Health Working Group: The Washington-based Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences have prepared a joint report titled “The New Profile of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in Russia: A Global and Local Perspective.” The report is based on a U.S.-Russia workshop held in Moscow in May 2010, which was attended by a large number of medical and health policy experts from the public and private sectors in both countries. The 2010 workshop and resulting joint report fulfill a goal set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development in a July 2009 memorandum of understanding. The report is available in paperback and electronic formats through the IOM website.

Other Related Events

Upcoming - Civil Society and Innovation: On September 24-25, Russian and U.S. computer programmers will take part in a two-day code-writing marathon called “Code4Country.” The marathon aims to produce software solutions to a social challenge facing both countries: increasing government transparency and accountability to citizens. Volunteers from several high-tech companies, including Yandex and Google, the Skolkovo Foundation, and USAID will come together under the framework of the Bilateral Presidential Commission to put on the event, the first of its kind involving U.S. and Russian computer programmers and civil society representatives. The event complements broader cooperation between the governments of the United States and Russia to make government more open and transparent, particularly through the use of innovative technology. The overall theme was selected because of the emphasis that both President Obama and President Medvedev place on open government and the fight against corruption.

The programmers involved in Code4Country will work on problems proposed by members of the public. To ensure broad public participation in defining the problems, the event organizers have set up a bilingual web site where programmers can register for the competition and anyone can define a problem related to government transparency and accountability that they think can be solved with a software solution. At the event, programmers will develop solutions to the problems that are best solved through a programming solution. In addition to addressing a vital social challenge in both the U.S. and Russia, organizers hope that this bilateral project will help forge long-term relationships between civil society and information and communication technology (ICT) experts from both countries.

Upcoming - Business Development and Economic Relations: Coinciding with the U.S.-Russia Business Council’s 19th Annual Meeting in Chicago (above), a delegation from Chelyabinsk Oblast will visit Chicago and California, October 3-6. Led by Governor Mikhail Yurevich, the delegation will attend the USRBC event October 4 in Chicago. The delegation intends to meet business leaders and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce to acquaint its membership with the oblast and to explore investment and cooperation possibilities with Illinois companies. The group then plans to travel onward to Silicon Valley and meet with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce on October 6.

Upcoming - Health: The October 3-6 USRBC Annual Meeting will also be a platform to address healthy workforce issues. The Russian government has plans to boost the quality of healthcare as well as to educate the country about healthy lifestyles. In Chicago, healthcare experts, industry experts, and government regulators will discuss the Russian government’s “Health 2020” and “Pharma 2020” plans to improve the health of the workforce and thereby increase labor productivity.

Upcoming - Health: The “MDG-6 International Forum” (click here for more information on Millennium Development Goal 6) will take place in Moscow, October 10-12. The purpose of the Forum is to identify the main challenges in meeting Millennium Development Goal 6 and make recommendations on achieving it by 2015 through strengthened international cooperation. The Forum will also focus on strengthening cooperation in the Eastern European and Central Asian region to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other infectious diseases. Co-chaired by UNAIDS, the World Bank, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Forum will include representatives from governments, international organizations, civil society, and academia, as well as medical and policy experts, scientists, and media.

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