Recognizing the need to make a fresh start in relations between our two countries, President Medvedev and President Obama created the U.S. – Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission in July 2009 to improve coordination and to explore new opportunities for partnership. Commission coordinators, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Moscow on October 13 and affirmed the Commission’s goal of addressing new challenges through cooperative projects that strengthen strategic stability, international security, our mutual economic well-being, and the development of ties between the Russian and American people. The Coordinators agreed on the importance of harnessing the Commission to build trust and confidence not just between our leaders, but between our governments and our peoples.
In the six months since the Commission’s creation, its working groups have established a strong foundation for advancing common goals. The Commission has already begun to generate innovative ideas and activities.
Culture, Education, Sports and Mass Media Group: Special Envoy of the Russian President on International Cultural Cooperation, Mikhail Shvydkoy, and Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Judith McHale met in Moscow December 7-9. The meeting included leading representatives of Russian and American businesses, non-government organizations, and professional sports associations. Both sides agreed to develop new educational and research initiatives in science, language acquisition, teacher education, and professional development; to organize events in both countries celebrating the cultural traditions, accomplishments, and aspirations of our two peoples; and to initiate a pilot exchange of young nonprofessional student athletes in several team sports, starting with basketball and hockey.
Arms Control and International Security: Group co-chairs Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov have met several times, including October 12 and December 7 in Moscow. They are actively discussing cooperation on missile defense, nuclear security, arms control, and nonproliferation, and have initiated a joint assessment of missile proliferation threats.
Business Development and Economic Relations: Both sides are finalizing details on a set of joint initiatives for 2010. Co-chairs Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina are planning the first full working group meeting for February 2010 in Washington. U.S. and Russian business sectors have also provided input to the working group, offering recommendations for improving U.S.-Russian business ties.
Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Security: The co-chairs of the working group, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman and Rosatom Director General Sergei Kiriyenko, met September 28-29 in Washington, DC and agreed on an action plan to advance goals related to nuclear security and civil nuclear energy cooperation. The working group has put significant effort into implementing the action plan, which includes initiatives to secure and consolidate nuclear materials, remove weapons-usable material from third countries, combat illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, and strengthen the international safeguards system and export controls. The working group has identified key R&D focus areas for collaboration to promote the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy, and is exploring opportunities to work on a bilateral basis and with counterparts from other countries to consider a new fuel services framework.
Energy: At their October 14 meeting in Paris, Russian Energy Minster Sergey Shmatko and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu signed a wide ranging memorandum of understanding outlining joint work in the areas of Energy Security, Energy Efficiency and Clean Technologies. Shortly thereafter, an agreement was signed between the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Department of Energy on science and technology research collaboration.
Counternarcotics: During the first working group meeting on September 24 in Washington, U.S. chairman Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) Director Viktor Ivanov agreed to initiate an information exchange on demand reduction, supply reduction and legal processes related to drug control. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Assistant Administrator Anthony Placido have also engaged with FSKN Director Ivanov on Afghan counternarcotics issues.
Agriculture: Consultations have taken place between U.S. and Russian experts on food security, farm management, and food safety issues. At a December 14 meeting between U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Michael Michener and Russia’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Sergey Korolev, the two agreed to pursue bilateral cooperation on food security, food safety, and social nutrition programs.
Counterterrorism Working Group: At a November 18 meeting in Berlin, Special Presidential Representative of the Russian Federation for Counterterrorism Anatoliy Safonov, and Coordinator for Counterterrorism for the U.S. Department of State, Daniel Benjamin, agreed to work together in the multilateral arena to strengthen international counterterrorism norms and increase capacity building; counter the ideological dimension of violent extremism; improve our transportation security; and discuss Afghanistan in the counterterrorism context.
Space: Roscosmos Head Anatoliy Perminov and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden met in Moscow on October 2 and affirmed their intention to continue the legacy of strong cooperation between the United States and Russia in space over the past several decades, from the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project to the 9+ years of continuous human presence on the International Space Station and to new areas of space exploration.
Environment: This working group was created in October to focus attention on cross-cutting environmental matters. The U.S. co-chair is Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, and the Russian co-chair is Igor Maidonov, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment. Both sides have begun exchanging ideas on priority areas of focus and will soon discuss specific activities.
Science and Technology: Russian Minister of Education and Science, Andrey Fursenko, and White House Science Adviser John Holdren, met in Moscow on October 29. They agreed on a strategy for cooperation on innovative research areas, including nanotechnology, carbon cycle monitoring, and information technology.
Military Cooperation: U.S.-Russia Joint Staff-General Staff Talks, linked directly to the Military Cooperation working group, were concluded on December 17th in Washington. Noteworthy progress was made at the talks which focused on identifying new areas for military cooperation.
Health: Building on the Memorandum of Understanding signed at the summit in July, this working group has launched cooperation on combating infectious and non-infectious disease, promoting healthy lifestyles and maternal and child health. In November, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Academies of Science and the Institute of Medicine signed a Statement of Intent with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences to increase collaboration through academic conferences, exchanges and research in these priority areas.
Emergency Situations: On December 11th the Deputy Minister for Civil Defense Ruslan Tsalikov and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Fugate met in Washington to expand their extensive work plan. They will conduct an exercise on Urban Search and Rescue in Moscow in May.
Civil Society: Special Assistant to the President for Russia Michael McFaul and First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Presidential Administration Vladislav Surkov met on October 12 and agreed that their first full scale working group meeting would take place in Washington on January 27.
Policy Steering Group: Group co-chairs U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov meet frequently to discuss overall progress of the Commission working groups as well as to coordinate efforts on regional security issues such as Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, and the Middle East peace process.
The Coordinators to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission are determined to use the Commission to make progress toward achieving greater mutual understanding and a more durable partnership. To this end, in the coming year, working groups intend to achieve practical outcomes to advance priority initiatives and activities in all areas of the Commission and on all issues that are vital to the shared security and interests of our two peoples.