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50
F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 2
A
FSA commemorated the 20th an-
niversary of the dissolution of the
Soviet Union with a panel discus-
sion event on Tuesday, Dec. 6, attended by
more than 150 people.
The distinguished panel comprised
four individuals whowere highly involved
in Soviet affairs as diplomats and jour-
nalists: Thomas Pickering, former under
secretary for political affairs and U.S. am-
bassador to the United Nations from
1989 to 1992; Mark Palmer, former
deputy assistant secretary of State for the
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, a for-
mer U.S. ambassador toHungary and one
of the State Department’s top Soviet ex-
perts; and Marvin Kalb, celebrated jour-
nalist, reporter for CBS and NBC and
former host of “Meet the Press.”
Former“Nightline”anchor and broad-
cast journalismpioneer TedKoppel served
as moderator and shared stories of his
own. As a bonus, former Ambassador to
the Soviet Union Arthur Hartman at-
tended the event and offered his insights
on Russia today.
The participants drew on a tremen-
dous wealth of experience managing and
covering U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Russian re-
lations over the last two decades. The
journalist/diplomat combination made
for a lively discussion, which finished up
with a 30-minute question-and-answer
session. The talk was especially timely as
panelists were able to offer insights into
where they believe Russia is heading
given recent elections and internal poli-
tics there.
The discussion began with anecdotes
about the final days of the Soviet Union,
with Ted Koppel telling about watching
the flag of the Soviet Union come down
over the Kremlin and the flag of the new
Russian Federation being raised for the
first time. He described being in the room
with General Secretary Mikhail Gor-
bachev, noting that he, as an American
journalist, was invited to stay in the Krem-
lin through this historic event to bear wit-
ness in much the same way John Reed, a
journalist best remembered for his first-
hand account of the Bolshevik Revolu-
tion, had been present at the birth of the
Soviet Union in 1917.
This theme of transition led the con-
versation, with some disagreements as to
just how possible democracy is for Rus-
sia. The panelists also discussed the
other former Soviet states and the ongo-
ing challenges they face. The limited
success of democratization efforts and
the struggles these new states face in rec-
onciling communist-era traditions and
nationalism in an increasingly intercon-
nected world were among the central
questions that arose.
While there was overall agreement
among the panelists that progress toward
democracy in Russia has been extremely
limited over the last 20 years, Amb.
Palmer left the audience with the silver
lining of hope that the younger generation
today may lead the way to real change.
AFSA was honored to be able to bring
together this panel and to join them in re-
flecting on the past and looking to the fu-
ture.
Support for the event came fromBooz
Allen Hamilton, which generously spon-
sors AFSA’s Speakers Program.
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(L to R) Veteran journalists Marvin Kalb and Ted Koppel recall the events surrounding the dissolution
of the USSR.
(L to R) On Dec. 6, Amb. Mark Palmer, Marvin Kalb, Ted Koppel and Amb. Thomas Pickering discuss
the fall of the Soviet Union.
AFSA Hosts Expert Panel on the
20th Anniversary of the Fall of the USSR
BY STEFAN GEYER AND SHAWN DORMAN, AFSA STAFF