My resent column in the Lake Placid News and The Virginia Gazette, reporting on the visit of a group of Russian academician in Williamsburg that took place in the framework of the Open World program brought forth a noteworthy reaction from Moscow.
"I know the people from Open World. They are doing a good job but it cannot overcome all the terrible mistakes that have been made during the last 20 years," wrote Edward Lozansky President of the American University in Moscow and Professor of World Politics at Moscow University, in an email message.
He was referring to his talk at the George Kennan Institute, a week before. In his speech he pointed out that four U. S. administrations have been in power since the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union. But not a single one, he said, has developed a truly sound Russia policy.
Lozansky seems to have all the credentials to evaluate rationally the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. A nuclear physicist, who lived in exile in the United States, he has received an invitation from the Soviet Academy of Sciences in the fall of 1988, to visit Moscow. Significantly, just a few months before, Izvestia, the official newspaper of the Soviet government, denounced him as a Western agent.
In fact, while in exile, during the 1980 Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid, he turned to the Olympic People-for-People Program for help to compel the Soviet government to permit his wife and child to reunite with him in the United States.
His invitation to Moscow in 1988, as it turned out, was not for sinister reasons. Alexander Yakovlev, Gorbachev's right-hand man, wanted to talk to Lozansky's and ask for his opinion on how to persuade Americans to believe that "Perestroika was not a Potemkin show but a very serious process aiming to transform the USSR into a free and democratic society."
Lozansky, himself, had some doubts. To make sure that he is not lured into a trap set by the KGB, he made arrangements that his wife's father, a top Soviet general, will meet them at the airport, in his dress uniform, with all his medals, to prevent a possible kidnapping.
"Well, our fears proved to be groundless," Lozansky said, "Russia was indeed, changing."
George H. W. Bush started his term when Gorbachev's Perestroika was entering its crucial and final phase. The war waged by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was nearing its end the first private enterprises started the way to free market economy.
According to Lozansky, when President Yeltsin replaced Gorbachev, there was a unique opportunity to develop a plan for Russia's integration with the West. But, it didn't happen. Instead, during the Clinton administration, hundreds of American advisers rushed to Moscow to "help" the Yeltsin team to perform a miracle of transforming Russia's inherited planned economy to market economy. Their advices were so devastating that they lead Russia to economic collapse and financial default.
Lozansky argues that after 9/11 George W. Bush got everything he had asked for, from President Putin. Russia went out of his way to aid the U. S. and NATO's invasion of Afghanistan. "Putin was repaid by Bush with the unilateral abrogation of the ABM treaty, by promoting the so-called color revolutions in post-Soviet space, and by pushing for further NATO expansion."
He concedes that Obama's "reset" policy is an improvement from the era of his predecessors.
Responding to the question, what specific recommendations he has that would put U. S.-Russian relationship on an even keel, he said:
"Follow Thomas Jefferson's advice and try not to meddle and micromanage Russian's internal affairs. Identify a priority list of common problems which can be resolved by joint efforts. Try solving them one by one, starting with the joint missile defense. The rest will follow much easier."
Reflecting on the fact that Obama was re-elected and Putin has a new mandate, Lozansky would like to see that both presidents show leadership and readiness for compromise. "There is a unique opportunity for "resetting" the clock," he said.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.