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

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
April 4, 2012


Featured Successes

Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev met in Seoul, South Korea on March 26 during the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit. Following their meeting, President Obama said the Bilateral Presidential Commission “will be working actively around a number of the trade and commercial issues, not only with respect to WTO but how we can more vigorously expand the kind of investment and the kind of cooperation on the economic front that can benefit both Russia and the United States.”

Date: 03/26/2012 Description: Presidents Obama and Medvedev meet in Seoul at Nuclear Security Summit © White House Image Presidents Obama and Medvedev in Seoul. (Photo: Russian Presidential Executive Office)

In conjunction with the meeting, the U.S. Department of State and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs were pleased to release The 2012 Joint Report on the Bilateral Presidential Commission (please click to access). The Report offers a group-by-group snapshot of the Commission’s recent achievements and areas of potential future collaboration.

Date: 03/26/2012 Description: 2012 Joint Report on the Bilateral Presidential Commission. - State Dept Image
The 2012 Joint Report on the Bilateral Presidential Commission.

Inaugural Innovation Working Group Meeting Takes Place in Silicon Valley

During a daylong series of discussions on March 27, Innovation Working Group members (including innovation experts from the Russian and U.S. governments, private sectors, non-governmental sectors, and universities) examined policies that encourage successful innovation systems around the world, as well as concrete cooperative projects to promote innovation coordination between the United States and Russia. U.S. Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Lorraine Hariton and Russian Deputy Minister of Economic Development Oleg Fomichev led their respective delegations, with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Robert Hormats addressing the group via video conference.

Date: 03/26/2012 Description: Russian and American members of the Innovation Working Group visited the NASA Ames Research Center on March 26, 2012. © NASA Image
Russian and U.S. members of the Innovation Working Group visited the NASA Ames Research Center. (Photo: NASA)

The group discussed plans to link innovation centers and regional innovation clusters, assessed the legal framework for innovation, and considered ways of leveraging resources and connections in the private and academic sectors to support the commercialization of innovative technologies in both countries. The two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation with Russia’s new Skolkovo Innovation Center. The Working Group meeting was preceded by a daylong program of site visits hosted by NASA’s Ames Research Center. (Innovation Working Group)

Uranium Removal Completed in Ukraine

Date: 03/22/2012 Description: HEU from Kharkiv, Ukraine loaded on an Antonov 124 airplane. © NNSA Photo
HEU from Kharkiv, Ukraine loaded on an Antonov 124 airplane. (Photo: NNSA)

The governments of the United States, Russia, and Ukraine completed the removal of more than 280 pounds (128 kg) of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from two sites in Ukraine during the week of March 22. These shipments marked the successful completion of a two-year effort to eliminate all HEU from Ukraine, fulfilling commitments made by Presidents Obama and Yanukovych at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit. A total of six shipments, totaling 234 kilograms of HEU, were made over the two-year period. All HEU was shipped to Russia, where it will be downblended into low enriched uranium, which—unlike HEU—cannot be used to make a nuclear weapon. This effort was led on the U.S. side by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative, working with partners in Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM, the Government of Ukraine, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Security WG)


Counternarcotics Leaders Meet in Austria

Co-chairs of the Counternarcotics Working Group, Director R. Gil Kerlikowske, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and Director Victor Ivanov, Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), met on the margins of the annual United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meeting in Vienna, March 11-13. In addition to bilateral discussions and the CND activities, their meetings included an ONDCP-hosted breakfast with representatives from 10 countries. That event focused on enhancing coordination on current drug policies and encouraging all countries to sharpen public messaging on the importance of science-based drug policies and the health risks of drug legalization. Participants agreed to meet again at the World Federation Against Drugs meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, which will provide an opportunity to advance discussions towards influencing drug policy on the global level by working with anti-drug NGOs. (Counternarcotics WG)

Date: 03/11/2012 Description: FSKN Director Victor Ivanov (left) and ONDCP Director R. Gil Kerlikowske (right) meeting in Vienna, Austria.   © ONDCP Photo
FSKN Director Victor Ivanov (left) and ONDCP Director R. Gil Kerlikowske (right) meeting in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: ONDCP)

U.S. and Russian Defense Officials Talk Global and Regional Security

On March 27, the Russian Ministry of Defense hosted the third meeting of the Global/Regional Security Sub-Working Group in Brussels, Belgium. Dr. Celeste Wallander, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, headed the U.S. delegation, which included David Sedney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, and Major General John Nicholson, the Deputy Director of Operations/Intelligence Integration, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). Sergey Koshelev, Chief of the Main Directorate for International Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Defense, led the Russian side. Bilateral discussions focused on terrorism, the continued U.S. commitment to Afghanistan after 2014 and the transition of responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and the politico-military situation on the Korean Peninsula. (Defense Relations WG)

Combating Terrorism Sub-Working Group Meets in France

On March 6, General Major (Ret) Vladimir Iskulov, Department for Counterterrorism of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate, hosted a U.S. delegation at the Russian Embassy in Paris as part of the Combating Terrorism Sub-Working Group. Brigadier General Michael Nagata led on the U.S. side. The meeting strengthened the professional working relationship between the two sides and served as a forum to discuss bilateral activities that occurred in 2011 and those that are scheduled for 2012 and 2013. Both sides agreed 2011 was a successful year for bilateral engagements focused on combating terrorism, such as Exercise Vigilant Eagle in July 2011, Exercise Crimson Rider in August 2011, and a Russian visit to JIEDDO. (Military Cooperation WG)

Military Police School the Focus of Russian Delegation’s Visit

The U.S. Army Military Police School hosted a Russian Ministry of Defense delegation led by its Chief of Education, Ekaterina Priyezzheva, March 5-6. The Russian Ministry of Defense is in the process of standing up a new military police-type organization as part of Russia’s ongoing defense reform efforts. The delegation’s visit to the Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri-based school supports efforts to develop a military police training program for Russian military members. (Defense Relations WG)

Date: 03/04/2012 Description: From left to right, U.S. and Russian counterparts tour the U.S. Army Military Police Training School. - U.S. Department of Defense Image
U.S. and Russian counterparts tour the U.S. Army Military Police Training School. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

Culture and Education

“Bang on a Can” Draws Russian Crowds

As part of the “American Seasons in Russia,” a year-long series of U.S. cultural events in Russia, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow is sponsoring the four-city tour of the renowned U.S. experimental music group “Bang on a Can All-Stars.” Formed in 1992 in New York, the “Bang on a Can All-Stars” are recognized worldwide for their ultra-dynamic live performances and recordings of today’s most innovative music. Freely crossing the boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world and experimental music, this ensemble has consistently forged a distinct category-defying identity. (Culture Sub-Working Group)

Date: 2012 Description: ''Bang on a Can'' performs at Moscow's International House of Music.  © U.S. Embassy Moscow Photo
“Bang on a Can” performs at Moscow’s International House of Music. (Photo: U.S. Embassy Moscow)

Traditional American Music Festival Begins

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow, together with CEC ArtsLink and the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, has organized a concert series called “The Festival of Traditional American Music” as part of “American Seasons.” The series presents the diversity of the U.S. artists and the vitality of contemporary American artistic communities. Christine Balfa and Balfa Toujours Trio (Cajun) and Jeffery Broussard et Ses Amis (Zydeco) represented Creole traditions while performing in Moscow at the cultural center “DOM” on March 9. U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul was among the attendees. (Culture Sub-Working Group)

Two U.S. Photo Exhibitions Open in Moscow

For the Ninth Moscow Photo Biennale, U.S. Embassy Moscow co-sponsored an exhibition of the work of U.S. photographer William Klein as well as the exhibition “The Art of Archive-- From the Criminal Archive of the L.A. Police,” both as part of “American Seasons.” The opening of the exhibitions took place at the Moscow Multimedia Museum on March 6. William Klein’s work changed the rules of photographing cities and their inhabitants, while the LAPD photographs have become some of the best examples of 20th century documentary photography. William Klein himself was at the opening to greet the audience, and the Embassy’s Public Affairs Officer Mike Hurley gave remarks. (Culture Sub-Working Group)

The Aeolians Gospel Choir Makes a Joyful Noise in Moscow

Before a packed audience, the Aeolians gospel choir performed at Moscow’s International House of Music on January 21 as part of “American Seasons.” Based in Huntsville, Alabama, the Aeolians have served as musical ambassadors across Europe and the Caribbean. While not abandoning their gospel roots, their diverse repertoire of choral music ranges from Baroque to contemporary. (Culture Sub-Working Group)

Date: 01/21/2012 Description: The Aeolians gospel choir performs in Moscow. © U.S. Embassy Moscow Photo
The Aeolians gospel choir performs in Moscow. (Photo: U.S. Embassy Moscow)

Improving Opportunities for Disabled Youth

Thanks to the support of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, the Association of English Teachers in the Komi Republic of Russia initiated an innovative program for teaching English to blind and visually-impaired students. It includes a website as well as a teacher exchange program for U.S. and Russian English teachers. Russian students in the Access Microscholarship program from several after-school camps also contributed by developing special reading materials. The program has expanded to several other republics throughout Russia and Moscow. The Russian government has given the program’s school in Moscow funding along with special pilot center status. The project promotes mutual understanding and exemplifies equal opportunities in education. (Education Sub-Working Group)

Date: 2012 Description: Russian students in an English-language lesson. - State Dept Image
Russian students in an English-language lesson. (Photo: U.S. Department of State)

U.S. Higher Ed Delegation Makes First-ever Visit to Novosibirsk

In March, the EducationUSA Center in Novosibirsk hosted the first-ever U.S. higher education delegation at the “UchibSib” Fair, the premier higher education fair in Novosibirsk. Participants included Clinton Community College, Ohio State University, Pace University, Savannah College of Art and Design, and the State University of New York-Plattsburgh. The university representatives will travel next to Vladivostok to participate in another first: the first-ever EducationUSA Fair in the Russian Far East. (Education Sub-Working Group)

Commerce and Energy

Workshop on Reducing Methane Emissions

On March 16 at the Carnegie Moscow Center, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Pacific Northwest Laboratory, and WWF-Russia hosted a workshop on reducing methane emissions in the oil and natural gas sector as part of the Global Methane Initiative. Representatives from Shell U.S. and Hy-Bon Engineering Company provided examples of practices to identify and recover methane and associated gas from oil and natural gas facilities in the United States. Both companies stressed that, in addition to environmental benefits, the technologies that their companies use can increase profits. Representatives from Russian oil and natural gas companies, including Gazprom VNIIGAZ, also presented information on how Russian companies flare and use associated gasses, including statistics on reductions of emissions. (Energy WG)

Russian Biotech Experts Finish Visit to the United States

Date: 03/03/2012 Description: Russian IVLP participants learn about biotechnology use in the United States; here they make a farm visit. © U.S. Department of Agriculture Photo
Russian IVLP participants learn about biotechnology use in the United States; here they make a farm visit. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

On March 3, Russian experts in biotechnology completed a three-week visit to the United States under an International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) on “Agricultural Biotechnology for Economic Growth and Food Security.” One Russian participant described the program as rich, interesting, and practical, applauding the large number of both scientific and economic analytical materials from USDA and other USG sources. As a representative of a non-governmental organization in Russia, he found it especially useful to learn how U.S. farm bureaus are organized and how they interact with the government. A second participant valued learning about the use of biotech crops and the U.S. regulatory system, particularly how biotech crops are registered in the United States. (Agriculture WG)

Travel Program for Emerging Technology Entrepreneurs

Partially funded by the U.S. government, the CRDF Global Technology Entrepreneurship Development Program is hosting four emerging technology entrepreneurs for an 11-day learning journey across the United States. They started their visit March 28 at the Global Technology Symposium in Silicon Valley, California, and from there traveled to Austin, Texas for a four-day program that will include a 3-Day Startup Boot camp (, personalized workshop, and one-on-one mentoring by the University of Texas at Austin IC² Institute team. Their visit will culminate in a three-day program in the Washington, D.C. area where Russian entrepreneurs will participate in the Northern Virginia Technology Council event and site visits to International Incubator at the University of Maryland, the Emerging Technologies Center in Baltimore, and several local technology start-up companies.

The four travel grant program participants are winners of a CRDF Global business plan competition held during an October 2011 workshop in Moscow. This workshop was organized in partnership with the Fund for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises (FASIE) and the Skolkovo Foundation Energy Efficiency Cluster. Please click here for more information. (Innovation WG)

Kaliningrad Preps for Energy Partnership

On March 21, experts from Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI) conducted the first seminar on the Smart Grid Maturity Model at Yantarenergo, the Kaliningrad branch of the Russian Interregional Grid Distribution Company. The Model provides a framework for understanding the current extent of smart grid deployment and capability within an electric utility, a context for establishing strategic objectives and implementation plans in support of grid modernization, and a means to evaluate progress over time toward those objectives. Kaliningrad was selected by the Russian side as part of the Energy Working Group’s City-to-City Smart Grid Partnership program. Based on the Model results, a U.S. city will be selected as a partner city to Kaliningrad. (Energy WG)

Innovation and Technology Visitor Program

Three representatives from Russian state-owned companies and the Ministry of Economic Development visited the United States, March 1-9, for an introduction to the U.S. corporate culture of innovation, particularly within the energy sector. They visited San Francisco and Minneapolis, meeting with a variety of companies and universities. The group was struck by the independence of state and local governments; learned that the U.S. federal government has no role in regulating local utilities’ rates and relations between utilities and their customers; and came to appreciate the significant (sometimes leading) role non-profits play in fostering and sustaining innovations in the United States. (Innovation WG)

Health, Sciences, and Environment

Polar Bear Scientific Working Group Meets in Anchorage

The Scientific Working Group of the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission held its annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, March 14-16. Established under an agreement regarding the Alaska-Chukotka Polar Bear population, the Scientific Working Group provides advice on the conservation and management of polar bear populations shared between the United States and Russia. Members of the Scientific Working Group include government and Native researchers and managers.

Date: 03/14/2012 Description: A biologist monitors a sedated polar bear in the Chukchi Sea between Alaska and the Russian Far East. © U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Photo
A biologist monitors a sedated polar bear in the Chukchi Sea between Alaska and the Russian Far East. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The meeting allowed for presentations of new research, including a capture-based program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge studies. Members developed a plan for future cooperative studies, recommended that the Polar Bear Commission maintain the current annual limit of 58 polar bears for subsistence harvest by Native peoples of the United States and Russia, and concluded that a proposed multi-year quota system to manage harvest in the United States was biologically sound. (Environment WG)

Russian Nanotechnology Scientists Visit United States

Date: 03/10/2012 Description: Russian Scientists meet with Acting Director of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Coordination Office Sally Tinkle. - State Dept Image
Russian scientists meet with Sally Tinkle, Acting Director of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Coordination Office. (Photo: U.S. State Department)

From March 6 to March 21, six Russian scientists traveled to San Francisco and Washington, D.C. through the Open World Program, an exchange program designed to foster relationships between U.S. and Russian leaders in a variety of fields. While in San Francisco, the group attended the Society of Toxicology’s 51st Annual Meeting and ToxExpo and conducted site visits to the Lawrence Berkeley, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. (Science and Technology WG)

Private-Public Task Force on Health Convenes in Washington

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held a Public-Private Task Force meeting on U.S.-Russian Health Cooperation, March 22-23. U.S. Health and Human Services Director for Global Affairs and coordinator of the Health Working Group Dr. Nils Daulaire met via videoconference with Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development Director of Central Research Institute for Public Health, Dr. Vladimir Starodubov, to endorse the event.

The two-day meeting brought together Health Working Group members and interested U.S. and Russian stakeholders to share challenges and best practices of current healthcare financing models in both countries. Professor Igor Sheyman, a guest speaker from Russian Higher School of Economics and a leading expert on healthcare financing, discussed health-care reform in Russia. He also underlined challenges Russia faces with implementing reforms, such as how to create competitive health insurance models but preserve social solidarity and contain health-care costs, overcome fragmentation in delivery of health care services, and implement efficient chronic disease management programs. (Health WG)

NASA and Roscosmos Heads Pledge Continuing Cooperation

Date: 02/29/2012 Description: NASA Administrator Bolden and Roscosmos Head Popovkin sign a protocol of their Space Cooperation Working Group meeting. © NASA Photo
NASA Administrator Bolden and Roscosmos Head Popovkin sign a protocol of their Space Cooperation Working Group meeting. (Photo: NASA)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Charles Bolden and Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Head Vladimir Popovkin, met on February 29, while in Quebec City, Canada, for a meeting of the International Space Station (ISS) heads of agencies. The Roscosmos and NASA space agency leaders noted successful ongoing and potential future cooperation in space exploration in the ISS Program, life sciences, and space sciences. In a signed Meeting Protocol, they also pledged to continue their efforts to build upon decades of successful civil space cooperation by expanding their joint and multilateral efforts in space exploration. (Space Cooperation WG)

Russian Experts Discuss Nanotechnology Development

On March 28, experts from the Russian Higher School of Economics spoke in Washington, D.C. at the “International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology,” an event organized by the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ( Issues addressed at the Symposium included the economic impacts of nanotechnology, input and output factors, the role of research funding portfolios, intellectual property frameworks, venture capital, public-private partnerships, state and local initiatives, international cooperation, and metrics such as private sector and industry investments, patents and publications, and the development of a technologically-educated workforce as metrics for nanotechnology. Russian participation in this event was one of the goals identified during the December 2011 meeting of the Science and Technology Working Group in Washington.

Other Related Events

Innovation Travel Grant Program

CRDF Global hosted an Innovation Travel Grant Program March 10-24 for six Russian technology managers, who traveled to Boston, San Francisco, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Austin. During the course of the program, recipients participated in the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) Annual Meeting and visited leading innovation hubs and technology commercialization offices. In addition to AUTM educational sessions on technology valuation, marketing, and negotiations, grantees received professional training in Boston and Los Angeles with an array of experts. The six grantees were winners of Innovation Essay Competitions in Perm, St. Petersburg, and Tambov.

Calendar of BPC Upcoming Events

April 2-5: The U.S.-Russia Forestry Working Group will convene in Washington, D.C. and Colorado, with a focus on illegal logging, fire management, and climate change and forest health. 

Background on the BPC: President Obama and President Medvedev created the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission (BPC) in July 2009 to improve coordination between our countries, identify areas of cooperation, and pursue joint projects and actions that strengthen strategic stability, international security, economic well-being, and the development of ties between the Russian and American peoples. The BPC now consists of 20 working groups and numerous sub-working groups. Please visit the BPC website: or contact:

The BPC’s 20 Working Groups are: Agriculture Arms Control and International Security Business Development and Economic Relations Civil Society Counternarcotics Counterterrorism Defense Relations • Education, Culture, Sports, and Media Emergency Situations Energy Environment • Health Innovation Intelligence • Military Cooperation Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Security Policy Steering Rule of Law Science and Technology Space Cooperation

April 4-18: Five U.S. community college administrators will participate in the Fulbright Community College Administrators Program in Russia. They will meet with Russian counterparts to discuss the U.S. community college model and its role in providing access to higher education, workforce training, and professional development.

April 4-24: Charles Slender, artistic director of the FACT/SF dance company, will give a series of master-classes and presentations on dance techniques in Vladivostok; a dance company performance will follow.

April 9-13: Senior officials from the Interregional Grid Company (MRSK) will travel to meet with representatives of San Diego Gas & Electric to finalize a common work plan for the City-to-City Smart Grid project.

April 9-20: Dr. Pete Lyons, Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, will visit nuclear laboratories, a power plant, and other sites during a trip to Russia. The trip’s purpose is to better understand the scope of capabilities and potential for joint R&D work in the civil nuclear sphere.

April 12: Migration Sub-Working Group co-chair Steve Bucher of the Department of Homeland Security will travel to Moscow for a conference on migration and meeting with counterpart Yekaterina Yegorova of the Russian Federal Migration Service. They will discuss the way forward for the Sub-Working Group on Migrant Integration.

April 12-18: U.S. a cappella group Northern Kentucky Brotherhood performs in St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Kirov, and Nizhny Novgorod.

April 17-18: Rosatom will host a joint workshop on “Nuclear Fuel Services Development in the Context of the Global Nuclear Energy Enterprise” in Moscow.

April 17-22: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra travels to Russia to perform in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

April 19: GBCHealth is organizing an International Business Leaders Forum in Moscow on smoke-free workplaces. The Forum is aimed to bring together business leaders around the world to share experiences and economic benefits of implementing tobacco-free policies. Experts from Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development will attend as well as CDC and Embassy Moscow staff.

April 19-20: U.S. and Russian technical experts will meet in Obninsk to discuss future collaboration possibilities in the civil nuclear energy arena.

April 22-28: U.S. jazz musician R. Carlos Nakai performs in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Yaroslavl, and Moscow.

April 22-28: U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Michelle O’Neill will lead a delegation of 13 American companies to auto industry centers in Moscow, Samara, and St. Petersburg to promote trade by U.S. auto parts and components suppliers in Russia. A second trade mission focused on energy efficiency is planned for June 4-7.

April 26-28: Firefighters from the N.Y. Fire Department will challenge first responders from EMERCOM in a series of friendly hockey matches in Moscow.

Mid-May: Experts from Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute will conduct a follow-up seminar with Yantarenergo and MRSK to complete the assessment of the region’s grid facilities and design a grid modernization program. Following this assessment, a U.S. city will be selected to work with Kaliningrad as partner city.

May 14-19: U.S. musician Herbie Hancock performs in Moscow, and then joins Dee Dee Bridgewater for a concert in St. Petersburg.

May 23: The Nicolai Fechin exhibition, currently in St. Petersburg, will open in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery.

May 23-25: Directors Kerlikowske and Ivanov will meet in St. Petersburg for the sixth meeting of the Counternarcotics Working Group, following a meeting of the World Federation Against Drugs in Stockholm, Sweden.

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