US - Russian Relations: Is the Past Always the Prologue?

US – Russian Relations: Is the Past Always the Prologue?

 

Ambassador C. Paul Robinson
July 28, 2017

After 1991, following the break-up of the USSR, the Russian Federation began to slip into the rear-view mirror of American foreign policy. But the Russians have crept back, — and are now front and center, nuclear-armed and assertive, pressing on Europe, the Middle East and Asia. If we want to avoid a return to a Cold War or, God forbid, a hot one, we will have to negotiate and our new President will have to strike some difficult deals. Getting to “Da” with the Russians has never been easy. What can past experience tell us?

Ambassador C. Paul Robinson is one of the best people to answer that question. From 1987 to 1990, he was the Chief Negotiator and Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Nuclear Testing talks. He worked successfully to renegotiate the then existing Threshold Test Ban Treaty and the Treaty on Nuclear Explosions for Peaceful Purposes. Central to these negotiations was the sticky question of how to achieve effective verification, in what we called a “you-bet-your-country” challenge that had long stood as a roadblock to successful deal-making.

In his talk, Ambassador Robinson will not concentrate on the technical details of negotiations past. Instead, he will focus on the human side of the deal-making process. He will show how unique and completely unexpected events nearly derailed his negotiations and how —over time— mutual suspicions were overcome. While certain common human characteristics became evident over time, quite stark differences also emerged—some with truly tragic consequences were only evident over longer time scales. The problems and issues facing US and Russian diplomats today are different from those encountered in the last years of the Soviet Union, but the nuclear weapons questions have remained of highest importance. In addition, concern for all humanity will always be crucial, and Ambassador Robinson will give us valuable insights into the ways a new “art of the deal” might be designed.

Supported by New Mexico Humanities Council, Sandia National Labs & Los Alamos National Bank