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HSE Hosts International University Consortium for the First Time

From February 25 to March 2, HSE’s Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs hosted an academic module of the University Consortium, an inter-regional training programme for outstanding students that aims to promote mutual understanding, balanced analysis, and genuine dialogue among the US, EU, and Russia.

The University Consortium (UC) was formed in 2015 by leading universities in the Russia, the US, and the EU, including the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO), St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford, the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, and the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, and it is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Students and faculty of the UC-member institutions, as well as invited outside scholars and policy experts, took part in the module at HSE this past week. Held twice a year, the modules rotate between the member universities and give select students—future leaders and policy experts of the next generation—the opportunity to learn about and discuss issues in an intimate, hands-on setting. Students spend the week attending lectures and seminars, examining case studies, and participating in negotiation simulations with scholars and policy experts both from within and outside of the UC. The topics typically cover international relations, politics, policy, and society within the scope of US-EU-Russian relations.

This module consisted of 20 classes by scholars and experts from Russia, France, Germany, the UK and the US, and the negotiation simulation was devoted to the INF Treaty.

The Russian speakers at the module included Sergey Karaganov, Dean of Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, HSE; Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs and Research Professor, HSE; Andrey Kortunov, General Director of the Russian International Affairs Council; Vladimir Baranovskiy, Academician, Member of the Directorate of the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Affairs (IMEMO); Andrey Sushentsov, Director of the Institute for International Studies, MGIMO; Alexander Gabuev, Director of “Russia in Asia Pacific” Program, Moscow Carnegie Center; Ekaterina Stepanova, Head of Group on Peace and Conflict Studies, IMEMO; Andrey Baklitskiy, consultant of the PIR Center; Vasiliy Kuznetsov, head of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, institute of Oriental Studies, RAS; and Dmitry Suslov, Senior Lecturer at the School of International Affairs and Deputy Director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Affairs, HSE.

Foreign speakers included David Cadier, Professor of Centre de Recherches Internationales, SciencesPo; Hanna Notte, Political Officer at the Shaikh Group; Alexandra Vacroux, Executive Director of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University; Arvid Bell, Research Fellow of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University; and Julie Newton, a Visiting Fellow at Oxford and an Associate Professor at the American University in Paris.

‘The point of the module is to have inter-regional dialogue and an educational exchange at a very high level—a Master’s degree level,’ explains Julie Newton, who runs the UC and conceived the idea of the UC conferences and modules. The semi-annual academic modules, she says, are ‘an attempt to get the young generation to do what our governments aren’t doing—which is to have dialogue about the problems among our countries and to improve mutual understanding of each other. In these very intense training modules students get the opportunity not only to be exposed to and to try on new ideas but also to get to know each other socially and as human beings, so we create a network whereby they often continue to stay in touch with each other afterwards. So, with any luck, after these people start to become leaders, opinion-changers, and policy makers in their own countries that they will have someone to reach out to on the other side when they have that opportunity.’

Dmitry Suslov, Senior Lecturer at the School of International Affairs and Deputy Director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Affairs
Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE

Dmitry Suslov, too, emphasizes the significance and uniqueness of the UC semi-annual modules. Professor Suslov has participated in previous modules at Columbia and MGIMO as an invited professor, and this year he hosted and helped organize the event on behalf of HSE for the first time.

While studying at their home universities, students hear the points of view of their professors, so the objective of the module is to construct an interactive platform where students can be exposed to points of view that they don’t hear at their home universities

‘Even if they may not share the point of view, it is important for them to know that it exists, that it is legitimate, and that there is no single truth, no correct and incorrect perspectives, no single position, no single narrative. For example, we (Russians) view the 90s-2000s, the war in Iraq, or the war in Yugoslavia in one way, and they view it in another way. Students have the opportunity to compare these differing interpretations both among themselves and with the invited lecturers.’

The module does not just focus on exposure and exchange. It also focuses on output. ‘Following the results of the module,’ Professor Suslov explains, ‘students will have to write an analytical article in the form of an essay on issues that were discussed on the module, and present their interpretation of a particular issue in Russian-Western relations. The articles will be published on the University Consortium website as well as HSE’s website.’

Hanna Notte, Political Officer at the Shaikh Group
Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE

One of the invited lecturers at this year’s UC module was Hanna Notte, a Political Officer at the Shaikh Group, which is a think tank that works to provide mediation in the Middle East, promote conflict resolution, and provide advocacy on behalf of the communities they engage. Her lecture and case study focused on US-EU-Russia relations in Syria and sparked a lively discussion amongst the participants.

Often, similar types of events are quite large; you’re on a panel for 10 min, you have a Q and A, and then you move on. But here you have quite a lengthy session and in small groups of people with whom you can go deeper into the issues than you would otherwise be able

Given the current tensions between Russia and the US and the EU, Dr. Notte says that such an opportunity for extended, face-to-face dialogue is more important than ever before. ‘I know a lot of people—Americans who run into difficulties going to Russia and Russians who struggle to get visas to go to the US—and I think we need to be aware that the space for engagement is actually shrinking rather than expanding, and I think we should be quite worried about that. That’s why something like this is so important.’

Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE

Erin Brousseau, graduate student at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University, USA

I was invited to attend by my institute last fall and of course happily accepted—it’s such a wonderful opportunity. I’ve long been interested in international affairs and crisis resolution, and this is the first forum where I can engage with these issues in real time.

We’ve had a wide variety of perspectives on a wide variety of topics having to do with trans-Atlantic relations, such as Russia and the West in Syria, nonproliferation, Ukraine, and EU-Russia relations. I found the lecture by Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Moscow Center to be particularly interesting. He talked about Russia’s relationship with China and its turn to the East, and he presented some new perspectives on ways in which Russian can look at its interactions with China going forward and their mutual involvement in Central Asia. And this is just one of many topics we’ve covered. I’m looking forward to taking some more time and having more discussion with my peers here to parse through them all.

Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE

Daniel Shapiro, graduate student at the Davis Center, Harvard University, USA

I’ve done things with the consortium before and absolutely loved it, so when I saw the opportunity to participate in it again, I jumped at it and applied right away. I know some the people here from previous UC events, so I came here already having some friends here, so that’s been really nice. I’ve also lived in Russia for a little while before, so I have some connections with some of the universities here from that time. I love getting know people, I love getting to know Russians, so obviously that’s why you show up to Moscow—for me it’s been a blast.

This past November I attended a UC conference in London, and I also attended a past module at Harvard about a year ago. I think the main thing that I’ve liked about this module is that there are a lot of opinions shared here that you just never hear in the US—you can read all the articles you want about what prominent Russian scholars say, you can read the newspapers, you can read basically anything you want, but actually being here and just having the opportunity to have one-on-one discussions or even these sorts of group lectures—I mean, really, in any format—it’s really very enriching and incredibly useful.

Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE

Rowan Hart, graduate student at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, UK

I came to the consortium module, because it’s quite pertinent to my thesis. I’ve gotten a lot of valuable new insight into my thesis topic and met a lot of new people. I’ve been to Saint Petersburg before but not to Moscow, so it’s been really interesting. I especially have enjoyed the format; it’s been eye-opening in certain ways and I’ve enjoyed the range of speakers they managed gather. The lectures by Alexander Gabuev on Russia and China and Ekaterina Stepanova on counter-terrorism in Russia particularly stood out for me. I enjoyed hearing about topics that I have not had the opportunity to delve into deeply myself yet.

Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE

Anna Osetrova, third-year student of the Bachelor’s Programme in International Relations, HSE

I work as a research assistant at the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies (CCEIS), where I’m working on a paper, ‘The Changing Image of the U.S. Democratic and Republican Parties in Russian Political Discourse’. I feel very fortunate to be able to talk with participants from other countries who are older than me and who have been working with discourse analysis for a long time, as well as to have the opportunity to learn more about the practical aspects of the work, such as conducting interviews and methodology. With the knowledge I’ve gained here, my work will be of higher quality.

My research topic is closely related to the topics discussed this week. The consortium format involves discussion in a trilateral format, which makes it unique. There are a lot of Russian-American projects, and there are Russian-European projects, but the format of this event provides an unconventional perspective on Russian-American relations as a whole, allowing us to consider all factors. I’ve learned a lot during the past three days about Russian-European relations. Many Russian experts treat the European Union as a single entity when talking about Russian attitudes towards it. But the European speakers who spoke here advocate a more flexible approach with bilateral policies between specific countries. This seems pretty simple, but, in my opinion, adopting such an approach would enable Russia's foreign policy to achieve much greater success than it currently does, because the EU countries are very divided in their opinion of Russia.

Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE

Elena Shavlai, doctoral student, MGIMO

This is an interesting and very significant event - both from the standpoint of exchanging information for research projects, and from the standpoint of meeting people who study Russian-US-EU relations. Exchanging opinions is a key component of any conference or forum, regardless of subject matter. Nowadays, people often listen, but they do not hear each other. This module talks about how we should always listen and hear what other people have to say and analyze and search for compromises, without blaming the other side.

I was particularly interested in the fact that this year the theme of the module wasn’t limited to relations between Russia, Europe, and the US; we’ve also been discussing issues in the Middle East and Russian-Chinese relations. This intersects with my research interests insofar as the topic of my dissertation is ‘The Chinese Turn in Indian Foreign Policy’. I like how the speakers touch on problematic aspects in a fairly objective and very critical way, and they also venture to predict how the situation will develop in the future.

I liked that the framework of this module was not limited to the three regions. It has been a ‘breath of fresh air’ to listen not only about the topics that I study directly, but others as well.

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