Russia expert, IU alum James Collins to speak on campus today

James F. Collins earned a master’s degree at Indiana University back in the 1960s, when Cold War concerns were leading the U.S. government to help establish university area studies programs, such as the influential Russian and East European Institute at IU Bloomington.

He went on to a long and distinguished career as an expert on the former Soviet Union and its successor states. He was U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation from 1997-2001. Before that, he was ambassador at large for the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He has also represented the U.S. in Jordan and Turkey.

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James F. Collins

Now a senior associate with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie International Endowment for Peace, Collins will be back at IU today to give a talk on “The Future of Russia-U.S. Relations.” It’s a timely topic, given the recent rise in U.S.-Russia conflict over Ukraine and other issues and Western nations’ worries about the behavior of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Collins expounded on the subject this fall in a New York Times op-ed co-authored with fellow former ambassadors Jack F. Matlock Jr. and Thomas R. Pickering. They argued forcefully that the U.S. and its allies need to engage diplomatically with Russia to prevent further deterioration in relations.

As three former United States ambassadors who served in Moscow, we believe that the time is right for American leadership in a serious diplomatic effort to achieve these ends. Each of us has seen the high price paid when relations and dialogue between Washington and Moscow break down, as in the effort to prevent Baltic independence at the end of the Soviet era, the Kosovo crisis and the insurgency in Chechnya.

Each time relations broke down, there was a high cost to the cause of peace and security for both the United States and Russia, as well as their allies. Our experience convinces us that creative, disciplined, serious active diplomacy — through both official and unofficial channels — provides the one path out of destructive crises and a reliance on violence and confrontation. So-called Track 2 dialogue between non-state actors — experts and groups of individuals on both sides — can also play a useful role.

Collins’ lecture will take place at 4 p.m. in the Dogwood Room of the Indiana Memorial Union. It is free and open to the public. Sponsors are the School of Global and International Studies and the Russian and East European Institute.

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