As both countries prepare for elections this fall, U.S.-Russia relations have played an important, and increasingly divisive, role in the U.S. presidential race. Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s ostensible mutual affinity has raised questions about the Kremlin’s influence on U.S. policies and electoral process. Meanwhile, Russia is preparing for its first parliamentary elections since major protests in 2011-2012, a barometer on Putin’s leadership moving toward 2018. What factors are Moscow watching in the American decision? How have geopolitics shaped the domestic debate in both countries? And what do these elections mean for the future of U.S.-Russia relations?
To answer these questions, the Center on Global Interests held a discussion with M. Steven Fish, professor of political science at the University of California-Berkeley, and Stephen Sestanovich, senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the Council on Foreign Relations. Igor Zevelev, Wilson Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, moderated the discussion.
About the Speakers:
Steven Fish is a Professor of Political Science at the University of California-Berkeley, where he studies democracy and regime change in developing and postcommunist countries, religion and politics, and constitutional systems and national legislatures. He is the author of Are Muslims Distinctive? A Look at the Evidence(Oxford, 2011), which was selected for Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles, 2012: Top 25 Books. He is also author of Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics (Cambridge, 2005), which was the recipient of the Best Book Award of 2006, presented by the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association, and Democracy from Scratch: Opposition and Regime in the New Russian Revolution (Princeton, 1995). He is coauthor of The Handbook of National Legislatures: A Global Survey (Cambridge, 2009) and Postcommunism and the Theory of Democracy (Princeton, 2001). He served as a Senior Fulbright Fellow and Visiting Professor at the Airlangga University, Surabaya, Indonesia, in 2007 and at the European University at St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2000-2001. In 2005, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Social Sciences Teaching Award of the Colleges of Letters and Science, University of California-Berkeley.
Stephen Sestanovich is the George F. Kennan senior fellow for Russian and Eurasian studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis professor of international diplomacy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He is the author of Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama, published by Knopf in February 2014. From 1997 to 2001, Sestanovich was the U.S. State Department’s ambassador-at-large for the former Soviet Union. He has also served as vice president for Russian and Eurasian affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, director of Soviet and East European studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, senior director for policy development at the National Security Council, a member of the State Department’s policy planning staff, and legislative assistant to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He comments frequently on international issues for radio and television, and has written for Foreign Affairs, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and other publications. He is a member of the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy.
Igor Zevelev is a Wilson Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He was Director of the Russia Office at the MacArthur Foundation in 2008-2016. Igor Zevelev served as Washington Bureau Chief for the RIA Novosti News and Information Agency in 2005-2008 and was Professor of Russian Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany in 2000-2005. He holds a Doctor of Sciences degree in political science from the Institute of International Relations and World Economy (IMEMO) in Moscow, where he served as Head of Department. He has held visiting professorships at the University of Washington, the University of California at Berkeley, Macalester College, and has published five books and numerous articles. His current research interests are in the fields of national identity discourses, nationalism, foreign policy, and Russian-American relations.