Another Re-Set In Russian-American Relations

06/22/2011 05:06 pm ET | Updated Aug 22, 2011

Last week I attended an extraordinary panel discussion at the National Press Club titled, "From the Cold War to the 'Reset': The Changing Face of Public Diplomacy in Russian-American Relations." Joining me were Joseph Duffey, former Director of the United States Information Agency; Thomas Graham, former senior director at the National Security Council for Russia; Angela Stent, Director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University; Rüdiger Lentz, Bureau Chief Deutsche Welle Radio and Television; and, Elez Biberaj head of the Eurasian branch of the Voice of America.

I use the term extraordinary because the event was organized around the launch of the U.S. studio of the Russian news service, 'The Voice of Russia.' Moreover, this distinguished group of experts gathered to discuss not how to block the Russian broadcast in the U.S. but rather to offer advice on how it might be more effective.

It's been just about twenty years since the fall of the Iron Curtain and during that period the United States and Russia have continued to increase cooperation. Russia currently provides supply routes through Russia to the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Other advances in cooperation include nuclear non-proliferation, space exploration, drug interdiction and counter-terrorism efforts.

Our opposing perspectives and interests have matured over time into mutual respect for differences based on geopolitical interests rather than ideologies, similar to that of the U.S. and France, where two partners come to the table with different perspectives and with an understanding of historical and cultural differences. Our panel discussion did not gloss over the fact that our two countries have different cultural and political approaches. However, our focus was on how best to present the Russian perspective to an American audience and hopefully to reach a large audience through online streaming options. The goal of the discussion was not to persuade as much as to provide context for understanding the audience.

Good advice could be sought from panelist Rüdiger Lenz, former Bureau Chief of the German Radio service in the U.S. Deutsche Welle, who suggested "it is also important to find where you differ, and where you differ you should look for a dialogue, and this dialogue can be critical, but dialogue is dialogue, dialogue is better than not talking to each other."

The Voice of Russia Radio Washington studio will provide content six hours a day, seven days a week, during morning and evening primetime. Just a stone's throw away from the White House, a team of American and Russian journalists will bring timely live reports on global events to American listeners from a cutting-edge Washington studio.

Morning shows will comprise news blocks, commentary and interviews with Russian experts. The evening programs are generally dedicated to recapping the day's major events, with American newsmakers and commentators coming into the Voice of Russia studio. Programs from Moscow will fill the airtime between the U.S.-made shows on the same frequencies. American audiences will now have an opportunity to receive news from a Russian perspective. As many of the panelists pointed out, the addition of this perspective contributes to our mutual understanding.

Joe Duffey, the former USIA Director, made a final important point: listen to the feedback from your listeners to see what it is about Russia that interests them. And to that point I encourage you to listen to our programming at http://english.ruvr.ru/. I hope you listen to us and then let us hear from you.