"Change" is the key word defining the new Obama presidency; however, recent appointments to key administration positions may bring points of view which continue the downward spiral in U.S.-Russia relations.
Hence, we felt compelled to get information to Congress members, foreign policy staff and the Obama administration regarding issues of priority vis a vis Russia before the next policy is cast in stone - which it's predicted will be in July.
We organized a group of carefully-selected American PhD Russia experts which held 24 meetings across Capitol Hill last week (Apr 27 - May 1).
Meetings included Republican and Democrat Congress members on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and/or their national security advisors and foreign policy aides.
Just prior to leaving for Washington, we learned of a report, "The Right Direction for the U.S.-Russia Policy" from a recently formed high-level working group. It's co-chairs - former Senators, Chuck Hagel and Gary Hart, both of whom have two decades of Russia experience behind them. Their Board of Advisors reads like a Who's Who in American foreign policy. Studying the Commission's Report, we concurred totally with the Report's recommendations. Most appreciated was the authors' recommendation that NATO encroachment on Russia's borders be reexamined and called off for now; and that similar consideration be given to the missile defense issue with the inclusion of Russia into the decision making process. The Commission Report further stated that the West must take into account how Russia views these issues on their borders. Their recommendations are common sense if we want Russia's cooperation on a host of larger issues critical to America's future.
House and Senate offices were quite open, and in several cases, eager to hear new perspectives on a range of issues. We gave our views on a revised Russia policy and provided each with the Commission Report. Most had vaguely heard of the Report but none had read it - a disheartening fact but understandable, since data overload in D.C. ranges at inhuman levels.
The hard issues surrounding the U.S.-Russia conundrum are extraordinarily complex, and unfortunately our media, being simplistic, sensational and politicized, is a hindrance to understanding the context of these issues. It is near impossible for policy makers to ferret out sufficient details to formulate sound policy. Our fact-based, non-sensationalized, non-politicized PhDs from outside-the-Beltway were a help in this direction.
Your participation is needed!
You can assist us from your own computer. Please study the Commission Report - then call your Congressional offices and ask for their foreign policy staffer - inquire if their member received a copy of the Report. If not, get their email address and send them the URL, with the request that they study the Report and send the Obama team a word if they concur with the Report's recommendations - which we believe they will. If you have time, please drop us an email so we can know who's being contacted.
Lastly, it's time to be sufficiently humble to recognize that America has made some major missteps in former U.S.- Russia policies - situations we have ignored, discounted or forgotten, but Russian citizens and leaders still clearly remember.
We can weigh in on what's needed in the future by encouraging our President to begin shifting America's current stance (and media hype) toward Russia. He needs to hear that we support a rational interaction that results in "win-win" outcomes for both nations.
Thanks for your help with this critical and timely issue,