Significantly, in an age of instant communications and the deluge of news as well as commentary available online, the printed word appearing in reputable newspapers or magazines remains the "coin of the realm."
Public opinion surveys indicate, people believe that the editing process at traditional news outlets provides a certain assurance that the printed word was checked for accuracy and truthfulness. Thus, it remains a reliable source of information.
The fact that my columns are printed in the Lake Placid News and The Virginia Gazette, newspapers with a long history and tradition may account for having been asked by The American University in Moscow sponsored Experts' Panel, to join them. The Panel is an assembly of experts from Russia and from Western countries, analyzing international issues. The Panel member's weekly contributions are broadcast on the Voice of Russia to 160 countries, in 38 languages, and reach an audience of more than 100 million people.
Vlad Sobel, a leading expert on economic integration who serves as a professor at the New York University branch in Prague, Czech Republic, and is the editor of the Experts' Panel, poses each week a question to the members that is relevant to issues affecting U. S.-Russian relations.
After Sen. John Kerry was confirmed as U. S. Secretary of State, Sobel, asked members of the Panel to reflect on whether President Obama and his new secretary of state would seize an historic opportunity to open a new chapter in U. S.-Russia relations.
In my Experts' Panel piece, I reported on my encounter with Sen. Kerry and described him as aloft, wooden and dour. But, I have pointed out that he has a well deserved reputation of being coolly pragmatic. A leader who is not driven by ideology, instead, dedicated to advancing stability in the world.
In another Experts' Panel discussion Sobel asked members to comment on whether Washington is about to opt for pragmatism in its relations with Russia. He noted that Obama's National Security Adviser, Tom Donilon, was in Moscow to prepare the ground for the President's visit later in the year. "History is often shaped by sudden breakthroughsAre we about to witness something of his nature?" he posed the questions.
I noted that Lady Margaret Thatcher, who while Chancellor of the College of William and Mary, was easily accessible and she never failed to point out that what helped to end the Cold War was giving the benefit of doubt to the Soviet leader, Gorbachev.
As every student of history knows, Lady Thatcher, as Prime Minister of Great Britain, after meeting the Soviet leader, proclaimed: "I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together."
Tom Donilon, after returning from his visit to Moscow, which included a 45 minute meeting with President Putin, may have arrived at the same conclusion. Namely, the United States and Russia might be ready "to do business together."
The question, "It is time for Obama and Kerry to fashion Russian policy that is based on "real politics," elicited many contradictory responses from members of the Panel. My take on it was based on several informal discussions I had with Dr. Henry Kissinger, who also served as Chancellor of William & Mary.
I asked Dr. Kissinger what was the main driving force that motivated President Nixon and him to cut a deal with Mao Zedong back in 1972. Eschewing politically correct or high-brow explanations, he said it was the fear that the Soviet Union and Communist China would repair the breach between them and once again form a united front against the United States and its allies.
In my Voice of Russia comment, I wrote: "President Putin may not be an ideal partner for President Obama to provide support to democratic regimes or promote human rights around the world. But neither was Mao Zedong. Nixon and Kissinger have many critics. But their China policy, based on "real politics," has withstood the test of time."
Each Voice of Russia broadcast and the text posted on the Internet, that cites my views, identifies the source.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.