Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
May 26, 2011


The primary focus of the Presidential Commission’s work in its second year has been dedicated to expanding our common agenda and to developing new opportunities for partnership between the United States and Russia. Since last June, over 150 meetings and exchanges have taken place under the auspices of the Commission’s 18 working groups, producing new joint projects and initiatives in priority areas that serve the national interest of both countries.

Innovation is an important theme that runs across the Commission and has stimulated productive activities between our countries. We have exchanged business and economic delegations in aerospace, biotechnology, and information technology to start relationships that can help to increase trade and investment opportunities in both countries. Small business exchanges, educational partnerships, and competitive grants programs are working to promote entrepreneurship and the commercialization of innovations. Collaboration on issues such as patent protection and government procurement is focused on making government work better with our entrepreneurs and companies. A new initiative to provide advanced on-the job training to young American and Russian business executives will help to bring our economies closer together.

Taken together these efforts are contributing to the growing economic prosperity of both our countries. Symbolic of such constructive cooperation, American companies, such as Microsoft, CISCO Systems, and Siguler Guff, are participating in Russia’s Skolkovo Innovation Center Project, with over a billion dollars already committed. The opening of a Russian Innovation Center (representing Rusnano, Russian Venture Company, and Skolkovo) in the Silicon Valley will act as another bridge connecting American and Russian high tech companies, investors, and scientific research institutions. Aeroflot’s recent agreement to purchase new Boeing airliners will sustain tens of thousands of jobs in the United States and in Russia. New partnerships are also being created between American and Russian companies in electronics, advanced medical technology, nanotechnology, paper and food processing, and mechanical engineering.

In the field of energy efficiency, American and Russian cities and utilities, such as in San Diego and Belgorod, are working together to maximize development of new Smart Grid technology and innovative energy savings performance plans. Our energy experts have also exchanged views on regulatory and policy approaches to stimulate energy efficiency and improve reliability across power distribution networks. American and Russian science institutions are collaborating to create new applications for nanotechnology in energy, environment, and health fields. We are also developing joint research projects and other initiatives to further drive innovation in clean energy solutions. New university partnerships and educational exchange opportunities, including within the framework of the Fulbright Program, have been announced to expand collaboration on joint scientific research and increase entrepreneurial capacity. The Association of American Universities and the Association of Leading Russian Universities have launched a long-term, multi-disciplinary initiative to foster greater cooperation between American and Russian research universities.

The establishment of the U.S.-Russia Health Science Forum and cooperative agreements on biomedical sciences and HIV/AIDs will contribute to new medical advances that will benefit people around the world. American and Russian companies and non-governmental organizations are also spearheading efforts to provide health information to new mothers via text message. Having celebrated 50 years of human spaceflight just last month, U.S. and Russian space agencies are accelerating advances in innovation through our shared use of the International Space Station, data-sharing in earth and space science, and collaboration to study space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.

As we strive to work together to accelerate innovation across our economies, we are also continuing to make significant progress in strengthening our security cooperation. Both sides have begun the full-scale implementation of the New START Treaty. Dialogue has continued on other questions connected to arms control and international security. We have concluded preparation of a joint report assessing 21st century missile challenges. Together with our partners, we have also been discussing efforts to strengthen and modernize the conventional arms control regime in Europe. Significant strides have also been made on our nuclear energy and nuclear security agenda. We have held consultations to discuss potential implications as a result of the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant in Japan. We share the opinion that nuclear power remains a safe and reliable energy source. However, we are committed to strengthening international nuclear power safety. We will take active part in a high level IAEA Conference in June 2011 on strengthening international cooperation and examining the legal framework on nuclear safety.

We believe that further development of our cooperation to strengthen nuclear security should remain a priority. Since 2009, in accordance with our joint plans, almost 900 kg of Russian and U.S.- origin highly-enriched uranium has been repatriated from third countries. Research is underway regarding the feasibility of converting certain research reactors in Russia and the United States to low-enriched uranium fuel. We have also conducted a number of joint activities in the sphere of nuclear materials protection, control and accounting, exchange of best practices, and emergency response.

We note that the entry into force of the U.S.-Russia Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy opens new prospects and creates a firm legal basis for practical cooperation in nuclear energy. In particular, we have agreed to joint efforts in such directions as development of innovative technologies, trade in nuclear materials and technologies, advanced reactor development, conducting joint experiments, tests and research, scientific and technical exchanges, and solutions to environmental protection including nuclear waste disposal.

American and Russian foreign policy experts have consulted on recent crises in Libya and the Middle East and have continued close coordination on the Iran and North Korea nuclear programs. Cooperation has also deepened to support international forces in Afghanistan, resulting in the transit through Russian airspace of more than 170,000 U.S. personnel (in over 1000 flights). Furthermore, we have also facilitated provision of crucial equipment to support the Afghan National Security Forces. In response to a request from the American side, four Russian helicopters were transferred from Chad to Sudan to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping forces during the period in which a referendum was being held in Southern Sudan.

Cooperation between American and Russian counternarcotics agencies has also intensified; as a result, in the last year over one ton of heroin was seized in Afghanistan and drug smuggling rings between the U.S. and Russia have been dismantled. We are also sharing expertise on drug demand reduction initiatives to include public health, schools, and criminal justice systems. Cooperative measures are being taken to counter terrorist threats to our transportation systems as well as to bring suspected terrorists and their supporters to justice. The United States this year took steps to disrupt the financial support network for global terrorist leader Doku Umarov and the Caucasus Emirate organization, demonstrating our resolve to root out global terrorist organizations. Relations between our military forces continue to improve. Following last-summer’s inaugural joint counter-hijacking exercise, “Vigilant Eagle,” we also agreed to strengthen operational coordination to combat terrorist threats, which led to the signing of a Memorandum on Counterterrorism Cooperation last May, as well as joint nuclear security and crisis mitigation-type planning. We also agreed to begin joint efforts to counter improvised explosive devices. In total, 67 events, exchanges, exercises, and consultations between our armed forces are planned for 2011. Similar channels have been opened between our defense policy experts on issues such as missile defense; defense reform; defense technology; logistics; and training, education, and human resources.

Under the Commission, our bilateral cooperation has also expanded in new directions, bolstering joint efforts to safeguard our planet and respond to new global challenges. Announcement last November of a new initiative to preserve the population of Russia’s Amur tiger builds on strong environmental cooperation including between our NGOs to protect Pacific salmon and other wildlife common to both our countries. Successful experts’ exchanges have also taken place on water conservation, hazardous waste disposal, agriculture and forestry management. New relationships between our national park services are paving the way toward development of a shared heritage area in the Bering Strait region and other cooperative arrangements between American and Russian national and regional parks. Russian and American health officials are also working together to eradicate the global spread of polio, including by carrying out joint immunization monitoring missions in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Cooperation between Russian and American emergency response agencies also continues to grow, to include wildfire prevention, disaster medicine, disaster forecasting/planning, and urban search and rescue in international disaster response.

Finally, the Commission has succeeded in strengthening ties between our citizens. Russian and American civil societies are joining efforts to protect children from exploitation; they are also exchanging ideas on promoting the effective integration of migrants and combating the ills of xenophobia and human trafficking. Additionally, they are collaborating to monitor corruption and establish new best practices in corporate governance as well as to advise on issues such as prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration. New exchanges – from ballet to hip hop music to youth hockey – are also exposing Russians and Americans to the richness and talents of our respective cultures. Theater students in Los Angeles and Moscow have developed joint productions and university student leaders have engaged in discussions and debate on foreign and domestic policy. We are actively engaged to resolve the interruption in art exchanges between our nations and hope to resume this valuable dimension of our cooperation as quickly as possible.

Looking ahead over the next twelve months, we recommend an expansion of the Commission's mandate to include a new working group on innovation to provide greater focus on strategic policy measures to foster innovation and to improve collaboration on the pillars of innovation as identified by our Presidents last June. We also agree that rule of law is vital to create a flourishing economy and advise establishing a working group co-chaired by the U.S. Attorney General and Russia’s Minister of Justice to expand our collaboration in this area.