Upcoming Events

There’s Something About Russia

Date : Jun 20, 2017
Time : 6:00PM To 8:00PM
Place : Horizon Ballroom, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, DC 20004

Join us for a wine and cheese reception before the event.


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On June 20, 2017, the World Affairs Council- Washington, D.C. (WAC-DC) hosted Hannah Thoburn, Dr. Jeffrey Mankoff, Dr. William Pomeranz, and Anna Gawel for a Foreign Policy Panel Series: “There’s Something About Russia.” Hannah Thoburn is a Research Fellow at the Hudson Institute with expertise on Eastern European relations. Dr. Jeffrey Mankoff is the Deputy Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center of Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), and has advised on US-Russia relations at the Department of State. Dr. William Pomeranz is the Deputy Director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center. The moderator, Anna Gawel is the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat and the news columnist for the Diplomatic Pouch.

WAC-DC President and CEO Tony Culley-Foster began the panel with a brief background of Russian Federation policy since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. He highlighted the 2008 Russian invasion of the nation of Georgia due to border disputes and how these tactics were seen again in Ukraine in 2014, as they utilized cyber warfare along with asymmetrical warfare to destabilize the democratic process. Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have carried over and have even intensified since the Cold War with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, Culley-Foster explained. The U.S. has suspended most of its bilateral engagements with the Russian Federation. NATO remains a crucial point of contention as it continues to expand operating beyond the confines of the Atlantic Ocean. So much so, that Russia has taken steps to prevent nations like Ukraine and Georgia from joining NATO.

The moderator for the panel, Anna Gawel, also described the historical context of Russian relations and mentioned the alleged scandals that appear frequently in media headlines. She also overviewed the disintegration of the Soviet Union and widespread resentment among Russians against the West.

Hannah Thoburn experienced living in Ukraine and learning the Russian and Ukrainian languages. She gave a brief outline of where the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict stands and why there is a revolution against Kleptocracy within Ukraine. She maintained that the nation has a will of its own and Vladimir Putin does not have the authority to make decisions on its behalf.

Dr. Jeffrey Mankoff served as the historian of the panel, explaining how complicated the Soviet collapse is. The Russia Federation ended up on the outside of most institutions including the European Union and the U.S. following the Cold War. Because of this exclusion, Russia still views NATO as a mechanism of containment of Russian power, said Dr. Mankoff. He emphasized the importance of incorporating Russia, as it is at the center of many current global security issues. He also noted the unprecedented agreement within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as Pakistan and India are both on board, and Russia is not opposed to association with China.

Dr. William Pomeranz analyzed the tactics that Putin has used to send messages to the Russian public. Putin is trying to stay ahead of the current corruption issue, explained Dr. Pomeranz, and has been suppressing current political movements around anti-corruption. Dr. Pomeranz defined Putin’s only goal as remaining in power. When asked to examine Russia’s sphere of influence, he described it as a power that is portrayed stronger than in reality. He supported this claim as he pointed out that the Eurasia Economic Union has not lived up to expectations and Kazakhstan has not supported Ukrainian sanctions, leading to a more philosophical discussion of the Ukraine Identity.

The panel concluded in jest, as Ms. Thoburn predicted that Putin is not going anywhere anytime soon because he “has already lived out the average Russian life expectancy.” And Dr. Pomeranz responded with the conclusion that, “In many ways [Putin] is a status quo power and a reactionary in the mold of Nicholas I.”

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