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

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
March 5, 2012


Featured Successes

Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov traveled to Washington, D.C. February 7-9 to meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Their interagency teams held two days of open and productive discussions on such legal topics as the service of process under the Hague Convention, probation and alternatives to incarceration, as well as asset recovery. The experts made substantial progress on all of these issues and agreed to cooperate further on each. In addition to his government meetings, Minister Konovalov also met with the American Bar Association, the International Law Faculty of the George Washington University Law School, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he stressed the importance of rule of law to economic modernization and expressed his interest in working more closely with the business community to ensure that the Russian legal system protects property rights and facilitates commerce. Minister Konovalov also obtained the agreement of the ABA Section of International Law to participate in the Ministry’s St. Petersburg Legal Forum in May, an important annual event that focuses on the nexus between the rule of law and economic prosperity. (Rule of Law WG)

Date: 02/07/2012 Description: Attorney General Holder, Deputy Justice Minister Lyubimov, and Minister of Justice Konovalov, in Washington, D.C.  © Department of Justice Image
Attorney General Holder, Deputy Justice Minister Lyubimov, and Minister of Justice Konovalov, in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Department of Justice) 

Ambassador McFaul and Minister Fursenko Sign MOU on Educational Cooperation

At a February 10 ceremony at the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, Ambassador Michael McFaul and Minister of Education and Science Andrey Fursenko signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Educational Cooperation. The culmination of efforts lasting more than two years, this agreement opens the way for unprecedented new possibilities in educational cooperation, and is an important accomplishment of the Bilateral Presidential Commission. Ambassador McFaul remarked, “This agreement will advance the goals of both Russia and the United States in education, science, and technology, while strengthening our long-term ties through educational exchange. What we have signed today is a very important step towards creating new joint academic initiatives and university partnerships to expand our cooperation.” For his part, Minister Fursenko stated, “The most important initiative in the sphere of education is mutual cooperation between our higher education institutions.” (Education Sub-Working Group)

Date: 02/10/2012 Description: Ambassador McFaul and Minister Fursenko shake hands at the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Educational Cooperation. © U.S. Embassy Moscow Image
Ambassador McFaul and Minister Fursenko shake hands
at the signing ceremony. (Photo Credit: Embassy Moscow)

Co-Chairs of U.S.-Russia Civil Society Working Group Meet in Washington

The new co-chairs of the Civil Society Working Group of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor Thomas O. Melia and Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Ambassador Konstantin Dolgov, met in Washington on February 10. The co-chairs reviewed the existing bilateral engagement and discussed new approaches and topics regarding the role of civil society groups.

In keeping with the mandate established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev, the Civil Society Working Group is intended to strengthen the peer-to-peer ties between civic groups in the United States and the Russian Federation and to facilitate a dialogue on civil society development. (Civil Society WG)

Date: 02/10/2012 Description: Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia with Ambassador Dolgov. - State Dept Image
Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia with Ambassador Dolgov. (Photo Credit: Department of State)

Culture and Society

American Pianist Joyce Yang Wows Audience with Rachmaninoff

 On February 20, American pianist Joyce Yang performed at Tchaikovsky Hall with the Russian National Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Embassy’s “American Seasons” yearlong series of cultural programs. The concert was truly an international evening of music, as Yang played alongside her Russian colleagues under the direction of visiting German conductor Ken-David Masur. The musicians performed as part of Tchaikovsky Hall’s efforts to showcase the next generation of classical music stars. Yang wowed listeners with her virtuoso performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini,” which earned her numerous curtain calls from the rapt audience. (Education, Culture, Sports, and Media WG)

Date: 02/20/2012 Description: Masur and Yang performing together. © U.S. Embassy Moscow Image
Masur and Yang performing together. (Photo Credit: Embassy Moscow) 

New York and Moscow Actors Team Up for the Play “Gorod. OK”

As part of the “American Seasons” program, the Public Affairs section of Embassy Moscow co-sponsored performances “Gorod. OK” at the stage of Mossovet Theater on February 2 and 3. A joint American-Russian project, the play was based on the “History of New York” by Washington Irving and “The History of a Town” by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin. The cast of 16 was split down the middle—eight actors from Moscow's “SounDrama Studio” and eight actors from “Studio Six,” a New York company consisting of actors who studied at the Moscow Art Theater School for four years and graduated in 2005. The play was warmly received by Russian audience and both performances were sold out. (Education, Culture, Sports, and Media WG)

Date: 02/02/2012 Description: A scene from a performance at the Mossovet Theater in Moscow of ''Gorod. OK.'' © The Chekhov Festival Image
A scene from a performance at the Mossovet Theater in Moscow of “Gorod. OK.” (Photo Credit: The Chekhov Festival)


Experts Discuss Defense Technology Cooperation Agreement in Switzerland

From January 23-27, a Defense Technology Cooperation (DTC) Agreement meeting took place in Geneva, Switzerland. Both sides noted longstanding efforts to conclude the DTC Agreement and the need to expedite efforts to agree on final text, given the high priority of the Agreement for both sides. (Defense Relations WG)

Counterterrorism Leaders Meet in New York

Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Daniel Benjamin, and Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cooperation in the Fight Against Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime, Aleksandr Zmeyevskiy, met in New York on February 22 to discuss U.S.-Russia counterterrorism cooperation. Ambassadors Benjamin and Zmeyevskiy, co-chairs of the U.S.-Russia Counterterrorism Working Group, discussed multilateral counterterrorism cooperation, including in the Global Counterterrorism Forum; countering violent extremism; countering terrorist threats to the tourism industry; terrorist designations; and preparations for the Sochi Olympics, among other issues. The principals will meet again in the coming months. (Counterterrorism WG)

Commerce, Energy, and Agriculture

Yekaterinburg CG travels to Tyumen Oblast

From February 12-16, Yekaterinburg’s Consul General traveled to Tyumen Oblast and its two autonomous districts of Yamalo Nenetsk and Khanty Mansiysk to reinforce existing U.S. cooperation and to explore more such opportunities. While in Khanty Mansiysk’s commercial capital of Surgut, the Consul General met with executives of UTair. The air carrier has a longstanding relationship with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to train its engineers, and recently the company agreed to purchase 40 Boeing aircraft. In Tyumen, the Consul General met with the oblast’s investment department head to discuss prospects for cooperation with the American oilfield service industry as well as other regional sectors in which U.S. and Russian businesses can work together. (Business Development and Economic Relations WG)

Detroit Automakers Look at Russian Market and Opportunities

Matthew Edwards, Acting Director of the Office of the Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia of the U.S. Department of Commerce, joined the U.S.-Russia Business Council at the North American International Auto Show, January 12, in Detroit, Michigan to brief U.S. companies on the opportunities that the Russian market holds for automotive parts suppliers, and as well to discuss implications of Russia’s upcoming WTO accession. (Business Development and Economic Relations WG)

Date: 01/12/2012 Description: Matt Edwards, U.S. Department of Commerce, addresses U.S. auto parts suppliers at a U.S.-Russia Business Council roundtable in Detroit. © U.S.-Russia Business Council Image
Matt Edwards, U.S. Department of Commerce, addresses U.S. auto parts suppliers at a U.S.-Russia Business Council roundtable in Detroit (Photo Courtesy of the U.S.-Russia Business Council)

Health and Sciences

Joint U.S.-Russia Team Visits Antarctic

For the first time, a joint team from the United States and Russia concluded a six-day inspection of foreign research stations, installations, and equipment in Antarctica on January 28, pursuant to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and its Environmental Protocol. Officials from the U.S. Department of State and the Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the inspection, which visited three stations. The U.S.-Russia team examined the Treaty Parties’ adherence to their obligations, including with respect to limiting environmental impacts, ensuring that Antarctica is used only for peaceful purposes, and that Parties honor the prohibition on measures of a military nature. An inspection report will be jointly presented by the United States and Russia to the other Treaty Parties at the next Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Australia this June. (Environment Working Group)

Date: 01/28/2012 Description: Members of the first joint U.S.-Russia inspection team. © U.S. Embassy Moscow Image
Members of the first joint U.S.-Russia inspection team. (Photo Credit: Embassy Moscow)

Officials Discuss Environmental Cooperation Plans in Moscow

Steven Kohl, Chief of the Russia-East Asia Branch in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s International Conservation Division, met with counterparts in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Russian Federal Natural Resource Oversight Agency, Academy of Sciences, State Fishery and Oceanography Institute, National Bird Banding Center, Moscow Zoo, Moscow Botanical Garden and other agencies and organizations February 4-11. They discussed bilateral activities to be conducted under Area V of the 1972 U.S.-Russia environmental agreement which relates to nature conservation efforts. (Environment WG)

New Research Program on Genetic Verification of Tree Species

The U.S. Forest Service, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, is launching a scientific partnership to support collaboration between leading scientists and institutions in Russia, the United States, and Germany to conduct research on genetic variation of tree species, including larch and oak. The partnership, an effort under the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission’s Environment Working Group, will support pilot studies to develop the application of cutting-edge technologies for genetic verification of commercial tree species. The project will seek to use data gathered from samples of selected species of interest and identify appropriate genetic markers that could be potentially used in DNA-based timber tracking. These pilots will enable scientists to explore using the technology and adapt its use for a variety of purposes. The pilot studies will build on existing work in Russia and around the world to provide the basis for more substantive proposals for future research and collaboration. This project could provide a foundation for creating a genetic database and genomic map of select high-value timber species for use by forest companies, government regulators, and other stakeholders. (Environment WG)

Rosatom Visit to the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light-water-reactors

A delegation of Russian scientists visited the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light-water-reactors (CASL) at the Energy Innovation Hub at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory during the week of February 21. While at CASL, they discussed nuclear energy modeling and simulation, supercomputing technologies, nuclear safety code development, as well as the mechanics of the virtual collaboration aspects of the Hub. This falls under the auspices of the U.S.-Russian Civil Nuclear Energy Action Plan. (Nuclear Energy and Security WG)

Text4baby Russia Launched

Text4baby, a new health information service which delivers via text messages on mobile phones to new and expectant moms, was officially launched on February 20. Text4baby began in the United States as a way to deliver critical health messages to mothers in underserved communities. The initiative is a public-private partnership developed under the auspices of the BPC Working Group on Health. Johnson & Johnson, experts from the Kulakov Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Perinatology, and the Health and Development Foundation have all contributed to the project. Ms. Donna Norton, wife of U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul, noted at the launch, “It is essential to have programs like Text4baby, which use modern technology to provide women with information they need, when they need it, to live healthier lives.” Also in attendance was Russian tennis star Anastasia Myskina, who is a spokeswoman for the initiative. (Health WG)

Other Related Events

Now on iTunes: The Bilateral Presidential Commission

From iPad giveaways to iPad classrooms, Consulate General Yekaterinburg is reaching out to new audiences through Apple products. The Consulate General’s Public Affairs Section will now broadcast Russian language podcasts from iTunes. This placement means we can communicate across multiple platforms since the podcasts will also be incorporated into a new iPhone app and included in our free e-course on distance education in the United States.

Since podcasts can be downloaded, shared, and enjoyed from anywhere, Russian youth will have the opportunity to learn about the Bilateral Presidential Commission and important cultural ties between the United States and Russia while interacting with our iPad classroom or when using their own personal devices.

Civil Society Partnership Program Launches Grant Competition's Next Stage

The Civil Society Partnership Program, which comprises 11 civil society working groups focusing on areas such as anti-corruption, education, human rights and child welfare, has launched the second stage of its grant competition. These grants, called linkage grants, will be awarded to the best proposals submitted by the working groups themselves. The deadline for submissions is March 30; the awards will be announced on April 30. The dates for the second bilateral civic forum, which will build on the progress of the previous forum held in Moscow in November 2011, are under consideration; time slots in mid-June or September are among the options.

New Skolkovo R&D Center Announced

EMC Corporation, an American information infrastructure technology and solutions provider, plans to open a new R&D center at Skolkovo that will focus on innovative technologies, including cloud computing, bioinformatics and energy efficiency. EMC’s announcement coincided with the February 8 signing in Moscow of an MOU between EMC and Skolkovo. Embassy Moscow Deputy Chief of Mission Shelia Gwaltney spoke at the event. Under the agreement, EMC’s center at Skolkovo will employ 50 people by 2015. The center will become a part of EMC’s global network of R&D centers. Currently EMC has offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk and has completed numerous projects with local companies working in the telecom, scientific, financial services and manufacturing sectors. 

Date: 02/08/2012 Description: EMC Corporation meeting. © EMC Corporation Image
Igor Goryanin, Executive Director of the Bio Medicine Cluster of Skolkovo Innovation Center, Roman Romanovsky, Managing Director of Skolkovo Foundation, Victor Vekselberg, President of Skolkovo Foundation, Joel Schwartz, Senior Vice President, EMC Corporation, Vyacheslav Nesterov, General Manager of the EMC Center of Excellence in Saint Petersburg, Sheila Gwaltney, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Moscow. (Photo Credit: EMC Corporation) 

Center for American-Russian Engagement of Emerging Leaders Issues Report

The Center, which finances, organizes and promotes collaborative U.S.-Russia exchange programs, issued its 2011 annual report highlighting the group’s work. Richard Portwood, the Center’s Executive Director, and Cooper Henderson, the Managing Director, traveled to Russia in 2011 in student exchanges under the auspices of the Bilateral Presidential Commission. To read the full report, please click here.

Calendar of BPC Upcoming Events

February 28-March 5: “American Seasons” comes to the Russian Far East. Ty Stephens and “SoulJaazz” band will give five concerts in four cities of the Russian Far East: Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Nakhodka, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.

March 1-9: A delegation of representatives from Russian state-owned enterprises will travel to the United States to look at innovative practices in power generation and distribution. The Russian government has an ambitious program to foster innovation at state-owned enterprises to increase efficiency and leverage innovation across the economy.

March 3-9: Jeffrey Broussard Ensemble and Christine Balfa Quartet perform in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, and Moscow.

March 9: Festival of Traditional American Music at the DOM Cultural Center in Moscow.

March 11-15: Sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center and CRDF, six Russian scientists are traveling to San Francisco to attend the Society of Toxicology Meeting. They will discuss nano-material toxicity as it relates to public safety with U.S. and other international counterparts.

March 12-13: The 55th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) will meet in Vienna, Austria. Counternarcotics WG Directors Kerlikowske and Ivanov will conduct a bilateral meeting as well as discuss recent successes in U.S.-Russia counternarcotics cooperation.

March 22-23: In support of the Health Working Group, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. will host a panel discussion on healthcare financing and related meetings with representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development, and Higher School of Economics.

March 24: U.S. Education Fair in Vladivostok. Representatives from over eight U.S. universities will promote their institutions and educational opportunities in the United States for students in the Russian Far East.

March 24-30: Wylie and the Wild West performs in Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Kazan, and Nizhny Novgorod.

March 26-27: The Innovation Working Group inaugural meeting will take place in San Jose, California. Lorraine Hariton, Special Representative for Business and Commercial Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and Oleg Fomichev, Russian Deputy Minister of Economic Development, will head the U.S. and Russian delegations, respectively.

March 26-April 2: Avant-garde musical ensemble Bang on a Can will perform in Moscow, Kazan, and Chelyabinsk.

March 27-28: Two Russian experts from the Higher School of Economics will participate in the OECD Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impacts of Nanotechnology in Washington, D.C. Russia is actively participating in the OECD Working Party on Nanotechnology.

April 4-24: Charles Slender and his modern dance company FACT/SF will give a series of workshops on contemporary dance and perform in Primorye Regional Philharmonic Hall in a program entitled “The Consumption Series.” The group will then continue on a Trans-Siberian tour, performing in eight cities of Russia including Moscow and St. Petersburg.

April 6-12: The Annual U.S. Forest Service-Russia Federal Forest Agency-USAID Forestry Working Group meeting will take place. A high-level delegation from the Russian Federal Forestry Agency will visit the United States to discuss illegal logging, fire, and inventory, and to sign a cooperative work plan for 2012-2013.

April 12-18: Northern Kentucky Brotherhood performs in St. Petersburg, Kirov, Kaliningrad, and Nizhny Novgorod.

April 18-21: As part of “American Seasons,” the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

April 22-28: The U.S. Department of Commerce is leading an “Automotive Parts and Components Business Development Mission” of approximately 15 U.S. companies to Russia.

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