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Past Program

Nov 27 - Nov 29, 2012

Cultural Dialogue in International Security
The Case of Russia and the Euro-Atlantic Community

Session 494

Abstract

The two decades since the end of the Cold War have seen twists and turns in the relationship between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic Community. While at times there has been a creative focus on common interests, at other times there have been stand-offs reminiscent of the Soviet era. In 2009, noting the many global risks which neither side could manage without the other - including nuclear proliferation in Iran, reduction of nuclear stockpiles, state failure in South Asia, and energy security in Eastern Europe - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously called for a 're-set'. More recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged the need for 'mutual trust and respect'.

Unhappily this has not been fully achieved - and in recent months sharply differing views on the best way to approach conflict resolution in Syria have added to the tension. It is clear that serious differences of opinion, and of perceived if not actual interest, persist between the two sides. Equally clearly, these differences will not be resolved in one two-day meeting.

The purpose of the session to be held in Salzburg is more modest, but still useful and potentially of great value. It forms part of the Chatham House multiyear project on Cultural Dialogue in International Security within which new approaches to cross-sectoral cooperation on transnational security issues are being tested in various regions of the globe. The idea of the Salzburg session is to conduct a mutual check on background assumptions and influences, with a view to ensuring that decision-makers and opinion leaders on each side have a clearer idea of what is driving policy on the other, and what is understood by certain words and concepts - thereby reducing the risk that future proposals or statements on either side will be based on misunderstandings or misconceptions about each other's priorities or beliefs.

With this in mind, the participants invited to Salzburg will not all be specialists in Russian-Western relations or in the culture of any one country. They will also include people on both sides who have varying interests and areas of work, but who contribute in one way or other to the formation of public policy and public opinion.

Participants will meet on neutral ground at the Salzburg Global Seminar to review the issues that undermine progress, striving for a clearer idea of where the obstacles lie and how they might be overcome. They will not seek to negotiate differences but to gain a clearer understanding of how various topics and issues are seen by their interlocutors, what are the domestic pressures and presumptions they have to respond to, and how particular language may be interpreted by those coming from a different culture. The hope is that this will enable them to work towards a shared framework for dialogue and cooperation that allows greater agility and flexibility than existing, more specialised fora, such as the EU-Russia dialogue, NATO-Russia Council, G8, UN Security Council, and bilateral meetings.

This session is in collaboration with the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House and with the generous support of the Yeltsin Presidential Center, on the fifteenth anniversary of the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act.