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Russia-American Relations at the Rotary Club of Moscow
Ian Mitchell

Erik Ruben speaking and Thomas Kaufman taking notes

n Wednesday 20th January the Rotary Club of Moscow International heard a talk by Erik Rubin, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Russia on the subject of “US-Russia Relations”. Mr Ruben told the meeting that he had worked in a variety of countries, including Thailand, Honduras and the Ukraine prior to being posted to Moscow, though he had visited this country on several occasions, the first being in 1974. He arrived in 2008 with high hopes for an improvement in relations between Russia and America, which had reached a low point during the incumbency of what he coyly referred to as “the previous President of the US”. Russia was feeling a sense of “anger and disillusionment”, especially after having its offers of help with international terrorism after 9/11 snubbed by a US government determined to go it alone on the world stage. Then the Russia-Georgia war broke out, and relations were further strained. But since the election of President Obama, the atmosphere has improved markedly, perhaps helped by an understanding of mutual vulnerability as a result of the global financial crisis. Most importantly, the two countries have agreed to disagree about certain issues, Georgia being one of the most high-profile, while still getting on with business in other areas. He gave credit to President Medvedev for this. As examples of co-operation, Mr Rubin mentioned space research, the environment (global warming) and health research. The only cloud on the horizon, he noted, was the much-reduced level of mutual interest among people of student age in the two countries. He could not explain this. Today there are less than 4000 Russians studying in the United States, he said, which is a historic low. Likewise, many fewer Americans than that are studying here in Russia. The event took place in the plush library of the Katerina Hotel, which provided wine and a tasty buffet. The meeting was chaired, as usual, by Thomas Kaufman, the ebullient American who describes himself as “the first foreign member of Rotary in Russia (USSR) 1990”. Readers of Passport interested in joining Rotary should contact him on

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