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Panelists: U.S.-Russia cooperation leaves room for improvement

June 27, 2013


On June 18, the Trade Development Alliance of Great Seattle hosted the Jackson School for a forum on “Russia’s Relationship with China, East Asia, Central Asia and Implications for the West.” The event was a follow-up to an all-day conference held in Washington, D.C. in March and was organized by the Jackson School of International Studies and the Herbert J. Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies in the Jackson School in partnership with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation.

Relations between the United States and Russia have been tense as the two countries find themselves on opposite sides of the civil war in Syria. Russia is the main military supplier of arms to the Assad regime and the United States has pledged to arm rebels in the conflict.

Lara Iglitzen, executive director of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, said there are occasional moments where the two countries move closer. She pointed to bilateral communication regarding terrorism, specifically after the Boston Marathon bombings, but had misgivings about adoption laws that are reminiscent of the Soviet era and the potential for continuing tensions.

Mike Nunes, director of aviation policy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, spoke about the strong trade relationship that Boeing has with Russia. The Boeing Design Center in Moscow is the largest CAD/CAM design center in Eastern Europe.

Nunes said the company’s collaboration with Russia is based on mutual benefit. Boeing currently has 58 percent market share in Russia and expects to have 61 percent by 2032 based on unfilled orders. Russia is also a major supplier of titanium for Boeing.

Jackson School Professor Donald Hellmann noted that relations between Russia and China have been almost nonexistent until recent years. Russia was able to broaden relations with China when it hosted the APEC summit in 2012, but the country still needs U.S. investment and cooperation. It has had limited success in both areas, Hellmann said.

He emphasized the role that Russia will have in the Arctic as global warming transforms global trade routes.

Scott Radnitz, director of the JSIS Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies, offered perspective from countries in Central Asia.

He said that cultural ties between Russia and Central Asia remain strong and that youths learn Russian at a young age and enjoy popular culture from Russia, a testament to Russia’s soft power.

Russia can be a provider of public goods that Central Asian countries need, Radnitz said, and is working to buy respect and pride in the region through relatively inexpensive initiatives such as hydropower projects and gas discounts.

Russian involvement in Afghanistan is also deepening, Radnitz said, because of security implications after NATO troops withdraw. However, Radnitz believes, this threat is exaggerated and any real security threats to Russia are domestic. For example, many Central Asian leaders are aging and these countries are not well-equipped to deal with regime succession. Radnitz said there is likely to be more mobilization from below, but precisely what kind of change is uncertain. He said it’s important for the United States to be involved in cooperation with Russia as the U.S. has an interest in maintaining stability in the region.

– By Kristina C. Bowman,