US-Russian Relations: Learning from the History, Looking into the Future

29.11.2017

11-13 ноября на  острове Кауаи основатель и советник ПИР-Центра Владимир Орлов выступил на конференции "200-летие присоединения Гавайского острова Кауаи к России" с докладом по теме "US-Russian Relations: Learning from the History, Looking into the Future".

Ниже приводится сокращенная запись доклада.


“Russia – Hawaii” Forum

Section on US-Russian Relations

Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii. November 12, 2017.


Dr. Vladimir A. Orlov the Head of the Center for Global Trends & International Organizations, Diplomatic Academia of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation: Aloha, Добрый день, Good afternoon. It’s not my first time in Kauai and every time I come to this beautiful “Darden Island”, I am reminded of the words of Dr. Schaffer when he came here in 1816, who wrote in his diary ( I will first read them in the Russian language as there a lot of people who speak Russian here, and then give the English translation):

“Cия провинция изобильна малыми речками, богатыми рыбами, поля, горы и вообще местоположение пленительное, почва же земли благонадежнейшая к насаждению винограда, сахарного тростника, которых несколько и рассадил, заводя сады и огороды для многих нежных плодов… [Имеется] соль и великое множество рыб. Они находятся там в изобилии и нет никаких ядовитых гад, ни хищных зверей, опасных для человека”.

Dr. Schaffer wrote that when he saw this place, Kauai, full of small streams rich with fish, the fields and mountains, and magnificent setting for the place with rich soil good for agriculture. Plenty of salt, a lot of fish, and no poisonous or dangerous animals.

This is really a very blessed place here, regardless of the way how we look at the history.

 It was 15 years ago when I started looking into the history of Kauai, and the history of Russian presence in Kauai.  Today, I will bridge the 200-year old history with the contemporary situation.

First of all, here are my main findings from years of studying Russia-Kauai shared hostory.

First, the treaty between the Russian-American company and King Kaumualii of Kauai was not just a weird, accidental curiosity as some may look. Quite the opposite, it was part of a major plan of the Russian-American company to further and actively develop and expand their presence both in Kauai and all the Sandwich islands.

Second: the Russian-American Company commissioner Egor Nikolayevich, or Georg, Schaeffer, although  sometimes he acted ignoring political realities of the power games between varius players (Americans, Brits, and Russians) in the Northern Pacific at that time, at the same time, he acted within the instructions that he was given by the governor of the Russian-American Company, Alexander Baranov. Let us not forget that Baranov’s son, Antipatr, was also traveling together with Dr. Schaeffer to Kauai. Part of Shaeffer’s problem was exactly that Baranov himself was weakened at the time of the Russian Kauai years. In his classical work, his excellent work Richard Pierce makes a correct conclusion of the role of Dr. Schaeffer: “The ship’s surgeon turned empire builder managed to get surprisingly far on slender resources and led this way towards Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai. His attention to local products and planting, testified the real zeal and energy which could have shown good results if properly channeled”. Had his gains of Kauai was taken over to some wise person – von Kotsebu, for example, Pirce speculates further,  “Russia might have somewhat, at least, put hold on the islands to the benefits of her possessions in Eastern Siberia and Alaska”.

My third finding is that the decision of the Emperor Alexander Pavlovich and translated through foreign minister Count Nesselrode to decline King Kaumualii’s request to make Kauai a part of the Russian Empire was not a result of little knowledge or ignorance about Hawaii, about Hawaiian state of affairs, but quite the opposite. It was a conclusion based on the analysis of the situation here, relationship  between the islands and their respective rulers, Kaumualii and Kamehameha.  In part, it was also result of the change of the vision by Emperor Alexander the First, of the f North Pacific: from a potential “Russian lake” in the early years of his rule to a purely legalistic approach after the Vienna Congress of 1815. The fourth conclusion is that although Russian presence here on the island of Kauai, it was only 1816-1817, was really very brief, there is remarkably strong cultural presence of Russia in Kauai, most specifically, of course Fort Elizabeth, but also forts Barklay and Alexander. The presence of the raising of the Russian Flag both in Waimaeand in Hanalei, in the north of Kauai, is of high significance. It is fact that when King Kaumualii was applying to the Emperor Alexander the First to become subject of the Russian Empire on the Russian ship Otkrytiye, he was wearing the uniform of the Russian naval officer. River Hanapepe here for a short time renamed as river Don and some of the local chiefs got the Russian last names, like Platov and some others. These sporadic important influences of Russia on Kauai should not be beither ignored nor forgotten.

Well, now from two centuries ago let me move, as organizers of this forum have suggested, to our times. Let us look at loday’s relations between Russia and the United States.  

The current situation, unfortunately, provides a very difficult landscape for the discussion. Yes, they are at a historic low level. Np, this is not a result of some specific event, like crisis over Ukraine in 2014, but a much deeper, systemic crisis in the relationship that led to a series of painful events. Mutual respect , - this what has been forgotten in Washington.

Although we are now in this very difficult phase of our relationship, feeling of disappointment should not prevent us practitioners in the bilateral US-Russia relations, put a question: is it really so desperate or something can be done, something should be done to improve the bilateral climate? In my view, we still have that small window of opportunity. Again, just referring to those of you here in this audience for whom Russian is either their mother tongue or a language you actively use, there is not a big window of opportunity. This is fortochka (форточка) of opportunity, right? That very small window which can but shut unfortunately with the strong unfriendly wind.

I believe all of us should do if they are committed to the bilateral relationship, to the improvement, to do everything possible to avoid the shutting down of the форточка. So, I will list five areas in which  Russian-US strategic relationship can be developed regardless, or basically confronting the current negative trend.

First and foremost, it is a battle against international terrorism. This is where our two countries have clearly overlapping interests, and the most recent statement by the two presidents [on the margins of the APEC summit in Vietnam] also speaks in its support.

The second opportunity is working together by Russia and the US on preventing further nuclear proliferation. On working together on reducing the threat of abrogation from arms control treaties on working on such issues, as DPRK on the improvement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. This particular topic should sound to the people of Kauai, and to all State of Hawaii, not completely alien issue as for obvious geopolitical reasons that should be felt here more intensely than in other parts of the United States as Hawaii is obviously more vulnerable than other states of the United States to the potential further deterioration of the situation around Korean Peninsula. And Russia certainly here is in full support of the principles of nonproliferation and will be there joining all those who would like to see reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and other issues related to nonproliferation of weapons and mass destruction.

The third area where our collaboration and our joint work is not impossible, but - the opposite - is needed, is cooperation on cybersecurity. I know this word sometimes even don’t pronounced in Washington DC in this cooperative context these days, because “cyberspace” means for some “Russia connection”. Completely misleading! Dangerously wrong! This is exactly that area where two our nations, United States and the Russian Federation, should take the lead to establish code of conduct (rules of behavior) in the cyber space, to avoid the arms race in that new quickly militarizing space. And we have had experiences before in the history of the Soviet-American relations like the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which give us some hope that today we will be wise enough not to lose that opportunity and not to slide down into arms race in cyberspace.

The fourth area is increase the economic cooperation. Of course, I have colleagues here at this table, who are much better positioned to address this specific issue, so I should only limit myself to say that sanctions is completely wrong and destructive way of “bridge-building”. You cannot build economic bridges, and other bridges, with sanctions. You will explode last remaining bridges of communication and mutual understanding. Little trade means absence of safety net in bilateral strategic relationship.  

Finally, the fifth point, last but not the least: the need for an increase of level of humanitarian dialogue between Russia and the United States, in different fields: between the journalists (to stop poisoning each other with disinformation and misinformation); between the students, to have more exchanges rather than less exchanges; all people-to-people contacts.

We should keep our humanitarian exchanges and ties, and further develop them, respecting common cultural heritage, that memories of our shared past enlighten us when we look into the future and get scared looking into the future at times.

I will conclude with what I started. Here on the island of Kauai, we have Форт Елизавета, Fort Elizabeth, the Russian Fort, as everyone sees it as they pass through the highway on the south shore of Lauai. That part of history should also bring us closer together. We, both Russians and Americans, know this fort as Forth Elizabeth, and of course we should respect this historic fact.

Thank you for your attention. 

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