On June 2, 2015 we 20 American travelers split into groups of four and traveled by metros or taxis with student guides to different parts of Moscow. Our videographer Mel Van Dusen, Merlin Miller, organizer of a new political party from Tennessee, Charles Heberle, retired military who worked at the Pentagon and NATO and I went to see an old acquaintance with whom I'd kept up for over 30 years.
Back in 1984 a group of us got an appointment to Moscow's U.S.-Canada Institute, a prestigious 'think tank' that was considered the most liberal in the Soviet Union. To our surprise a quite young, blonde-haired young man introduced himself as Andrei Kortunov. He was decades younger than others in this respected institute. Obviously bright and comfortable in his position, he seemed warmly predisposed to all things American unlike others we had met. Andrei was clearly interested in discussing issues off and on with citizen diplomats from the U.S. During the Gorbachev and Yeltsin years I watched his career take him to positions of responsibility wherein he remained the same logical, open, helpful personality he exhibited from the beginning.
Today Andrei is the Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and the President of the New Eurasia Foundation (FNE). He is still down to earth, modest and as hesitant-to-be-sharp as was the fair-haired young man we met at around age 20. One thing noted this time, he seems weary from dealing with the heavy issues of his position––yet is as always the consummate gentleman. Mel pushed him with questions that finally brought out his feelings on a number of issues related to the US-Russia relationship.