“Russians in the West”

9:00   Registration
10:00 Opening speech

Jānis Urbanovičs – president of the “Baltic Forum”, Latvia

10:20 Keynote speeches

Evgeny LukyanovAmbassador of Russia to Latvia               

Ambassador James Collins - nonresident senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Nils Ušakovs – Mayor of Riga, Latvia

11:00 Part 1. Russians in the West

As the time went by Russians often chose Europe as their place of residence. First historically significant waves of mass migration from Russian Empire occurred during the second half of XIX century. Today the number of Russian people abroad of modern Russia reaches 30 million. Russians are being viewed differently: some see them as friends, some as enemies, rich and not very, “suspicious”, and useful – everyone sees what they want, what is lucrative.

The only thing that cannot be disputed is the fact that the Russians, and especially if there are a lot of them, have an impact on any country in which they live, even in peacetime, not to mention the conflict time, that has been the last few years since the conflict in Ukraine in 2014.

Worsening of relations between Russia and European countries, especially in the Eastern part, and consequently with Western partners of the European Union (USA, NATO), raised the question, who are Russians, to an all new level – are they a new phenomenon, strange and thus dangerous, or still a good factor in the “binding” of the European continent?

Igor Yurgens - Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Contemporary Development, Chairman of Advisory board of the Baltic Forum, Russia

Topic: “Russian emigration and the Europe: from the past, in the present, for the future”

Boriss Cilevičs – Member of the Latvian Saeima, member of the Parliamentary Assambly, member of sub-committee on the Rights of Minorities of PACE, Latvia

Topic: "Russians in the West 20 years later"

Anita Soboleva – Associate Professor, Faculty of Law of National Research University Higher School of Economics, Russia

Topic"Russians in the West 20 years later"

Pål Kolstø – Professor of Russian and Central European and Balkan Area Studies at the University of Oslo, Norway

Topic: "Russians in Norway and their views on Putin, Russia and the world"

12:00 Discussion

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 Part 2. Dialogue Russia – USA. What kind of post-conflict relationship architecture takes shape between Russia and America?

A momentum-gaining and spreading conflict is obvious and multi-lateral. There is no agreement regarding the causes, no desire to understand "a partner - enemy".

The conflict is being actively taken advantage of in an internal policy. This leads to a hypothetical dialogue itself being destined to maintain the contrariety between the public in the USA and Russia, as well as in the allied states.

All of it and other "innovations" too during the age of a quickly spreading word - pushes the participants of the conflict towards breaking the border of hybridism and straight into the war by all means… What next? How to prevent it? How and on what basis should the oases be built – the platforms for overcoming the distrust?

15:30 Part 3. Closed part of the conference

18:00 End of the conference

* * *


Sergey Tsyplaev - Dean of the Faculty of Law of the North-Western Institute of Management of the Russian Federation Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Russia

Juris Paiders - president of the Union of Journalists, Latvia

Participants of the conference 

General Roger Brady – 33rd commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, USA

Aivis Ronis – former Minister of Transport and Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Latvia

Ambassador Alexander Vershbow – distinguished fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council, USA

Ambassador John Herbst – Director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council, USA

Daniel F. Runde – vice president, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), USA

Ainārs Šlesers – board member at logistic company "Euro Rail Trans", Latvia

Mikhail Gusman - First Deputy Director General of TASS, Russia

General Vyacheslav Trubnikov - Member of the board of directors of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia

Nadezhda Arbatova - Head of Department of European Political Studies of Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), Russia

Kenneth Zurcher – Head of political and economical section of the Embassy of the USA to Latvia

Sally A. Painter - Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Blue Star Strategies, LLC; Member of the Board of the Atlantic Council, USA *

Alexander Dynkin - Director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia

Charles W. Larson – partner of the LS2Group, former Ambassador of USA to Latvia, USA

Elena Telegina - Dean, International Energy Business Department, Russian University of Oil and Gas; Director of the Institute of Geopolitics and Energy Security of Russia, Russia

Sergey Kulik - Director for International Development at the Institute of Contemporary Development, Russia

Justas Vincas Paleckis – former Member of European Parliament, Lithuania

Vitaly Dymarsky – Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Amateur and lead editor of Echo of Moscow in Saint-Petersburg, Russia

Sergey Tsyplaev - Dean of the Faculty of Law of the North-Western Institute of Management of the Russian Federation Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Russia

Ivan Polyakov, General director of the Interstate Corporation for Development, Russia

Vyacheslavs Dombrovskis – CEO at public policy think tank CERTUS, Latvia


Pasākuma atbalstītāji

Latvia has not become Switzerland as predicted, but Riga has its own chance of becoming the new Geneva!

by Jānis Urbanovičs

Meeting in Helsinki between Putin and Trump, so awaited and quickly becoming an object of taunting criticism towards the USA, in my opinion, it turned out to be useful in many ways. Even though rational, pragmatic results thereof were next to none, or we are simply unaware of such.

I hope that the T-P summit becomes a turning point from which a new time keeping will begin, expanding a new perspective for America, Russia, Europe and all the world – with all the discordances, inconsistencies, and distrust remaining topical for now. I believe that this summit will become a “tipping point”, taking the world event to another, rather steep and less so eccentric curve. At least I am managing to find roots of hope for it.

I shall point out a particular notion, which I find a good bit valuable in the context of “the takeaway” of the encounter. I am talking about a proposal of the president Putin to shape a panel of Russian and American experts which would “search for areas of common interest and insight of how to lead the mutual cooperation to a steady positive path”. Namely, strong mutual (and maybe even plurilateral?) team which would be able to prepare a breakthrough and facilitate ultimate closure of the “Cold War Chapter”.

I shall not do their work here with analysis and proposals; I am rather sure that this must be done collectively. To succeed they need to do serious amounts of intellectual (and physical) labour, manage to disregard all the propaganda today flowing out of everything but Coca-Cola wending machines. However, this is what experts are good at, aren’t they? While being sources and creators of the narrative themselves, they sometimes manage to exist outside its influence.

In short, I am certain, that the experts will be successful. The task of all the rest of us – to help them. With circumstances nowadays being such that one should think and act fast. Experience of previous years shows that negative dynamics grows rapidly and has great momentum. Considering also the deep complexity of the situation, apprehensive background, contamination (even infectivity) of traditional communication channels, powerful propaganda pressure and all-round political immaturity, one shall act smart and accurately.

The history has seen not a few examples when the “right” negotiations come to nothing, not so much due to parties not willing to reach compromise, but because they were incorrectly organized. Not in the right way and not in the right place. Popular quotation of Francois de Callieres about how “good chef oftentimes contributes to peace conclusion”. Meaning that it makes sense to take care for good chefs. Today’s most important aim is – not to scare off the opportunity!

Putin’s proposition to create bilateral expert panel was expressed during press-conference and was accompanied by favourable response from the part of Trump. Under the impression of the seen and heard, in a couple of days already, I wrote a letter to Moscow and Washington, where I offered to use Latvia as a stage for such work. As an answer to the question – why? – I am ready to offer my reasoning.

First of all, I would like to recall one historical fact. More than 30 years ago in September 1986, in Jurmala, Latvia, an unconventional and in many ways unique event took place: a meeting of Soviet and American public representatives. From American part the initiator back then was Chautauqua Institute. In spite of the USA believing Latvia was an occupied territory, several serious people came from across the pond, and from Russia, of course.

I will not remember the details of all discussions (they were broadcasted through all Western TV networks!), but I remember the nature of that meeting. It was only examination, acquaintance. For the ones interested in modern history and the history of restructuring I shall remind, that literally several weeks after this conference a historic meeting took place between Gorbachev and Reagan in Reykjavik.

It is comprehensible that during those times there was no experience in hosting such meetings, there were no traditions, and there were not even hotels of European level. But there was the most substantial element – live interaction with participation of experts and representatives of creative intelligence, lecturers, journalists, that very thinking, intellectual Soviet “elite” (and yes, we had not another back then, apart from nomenclature). People in the audience were given a microphone, they could express themselves, and ask questions…

It was, of course, not the only event of such scope during those times. But in my memory the conference in Jurmala was the one to become a swallow pointing to the oncoming spring. It was the time when channels of communication were being opened, environment for intense dialogue was developing. Including and thanks to the meeting in Jurmala, disassembly of stereotypes began, which there were so much more back then than now.

I know there will be the ones who will not fail to mention that Gorbachev was simply fooled in 1980s, he was tricked. Thus, the analogies with restructuring times are worrying and dangerous. It is possible, and even if true, former Soviet leader himself allowed this to happen. He was “glad to be fooled” in the first place. Neither do you have to involve that times here, its brilliant atmosphere, mood and fateful significance, which created so many opportunities and hopes! Sure, it is sad, that not all of them were implemented in practice: “iron curtain” was destroyed physically, instead of it, however, a new one was put up – in the hearts and minds of millions of Europeans and others.

As it was once said by the Russian minister Lavrov, diplomats have a rule – “not to scare off an agreement”. When there was a solution taking shape or a chance presented itself to reach an agreement, a diplomat would hold their tongue until appropriate documents are about to be signed. It explains the love of Mr. Lavrov’s colleagues around the globe towards tightness and allegoricality.

Experts are a whole different thing. They are not diplomats, they are independent and unbiased by public administration positions. In my view today, it would be more coherent to organize their meetings in strategic setting of great publicity (‘glasnost’ – the term, by the way, was coined also back then, in the second part of the 1980s).

By all means, I am not talking here about a television show, success and result of which is measured in the number of beatings given by the participants to each other. The task here is different – to pronounce some essential phrases and to find common grounds. And it must reflect both the emotional and the rational in consciousness of the society. One-off “blasts” of reporters, hungry for vivid expressions and bold statements, will not do the work.

I believe Latvia is ideal for such communication. Like a dicot (peas or beans), it exists for years separately, and all attempts to plant the one and only language everywhere (which were undertaken not once in our history) are not able to change it.

Two wings of the Latvian political nation – the entitled and the differently speaking – voting differently, reacting to the life events differently, feeling and perceiving the news, consuming information and even worrying differently, not in the same way as the phobia is trying to impose. Both our “seed lobes” exist in different information spaces, consequently their receptors as a whole – beautiful, extraordinarily sensitive, natural indicator, which will be screaming and signalling loudly when discussions of the experts become too alarming or one-sided. It is like riding a bike: if it is tilting to one side, the body, centre of gravity must be moved to the other side, otherwise you fall and fail to reach destination.

Latvia is a typical “small country” which lives in its own fears and is scared by personal angst. Fear of the “new Yalta” or the “second Munich” – is the same instinct fuelling Latvian foreign policy and pushing it further and further to the West. That is why in Latvia the events surrounding the state will always be viewed in the light of worries and fears of a small country, and there is multitude of such states around the globe.

In other words, the experts, participants of discussions here in Latvia, are going to be “under the supervision” and “under the magnifier”, and it will add responsibility and sanity into the discussion. The experts will quickly develop understanding that their speeches and texts will be instantly undergoing an external censorship and will be receiving biased express-reviews.

I see that the ongoing disorder is absolutely abnormal, rising in the USA after the return of Trump from Helsinki, where he was demanded to disclose almost a recording of a personal interpreter. Such hysteria and phobias can be avoided by us if the discussions are going to take place not only in neutral, but also in comparatively open and transparent arena.

Regarding other advantages – Riga certainly is convenient from the geographical point of view. It is very well linked to Europe and the world with airlines and that makes it definitely suitable for organization of the respective work.

The process will also benefit from one peculiarity of Riga which is oftentimes called the “fair of spies”. Not being a specialist in external intelligence, I might assume nevertheless, that upon working here, Russian and American experts will make everybody’s life easier, by directly providing undistorted information to any interested party.

And one more thing. As taught by the history, there can be “correct” and “wrong” places for negotiations. For example, Russian-Japanese debate after the war of 1904-05 took place in America. As remembered by Russian ambassador earl Witte, both delegations were welcomed by American hosts sympathetically and with willingness to support the negotiations, help them come to agreement. And the result was not bad. On the contrary there was Munich, where Chamberlain, Hitler, Mussolini, and Daladier met, and the agreement reached there did not last even for a year. “Meeting place” must be “lucky”, and Latvia in my opinion is exactly that.

Finally, I would like to point out. European Union has a practice of support of projects in degrading regions. The idea is simple: upon attraction of investment and public awareness, such object shall become the driver which would “pull” all the region, might become an impulse for growth. Paradigmatic example – Bilbao of the North of Spain, after Guggenheim Museum opening in the city, from the workers’ village on a harbour turned into a modern centre of European culture.

Latvia in the presented context – is a degrading region of Europe, for which appearance of negotiation platform and obtainment of the “new Geneva” status, if you so wish, could become a push towards development – together with all the Baltics. Reframing papal encyclicals, it can be said: “Peace to the city, city to the world!”

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