The Foreign Service Journal - December 2016
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Retired FSO Louis Sell, in “The Rise of the New Russia,” argues that we need to

understand how Russians view the col-

lapse of the USSR and its aftermath. High

expectations followed by missed oppor-

tunities and humiliation help explain why

Putin and his brand of nationalist politics

is popular with Russians.

With a pitch for prioritizing economic

and commercial diplomacy with Russia

and the other former Soviet states, Foreign

Commercial Service Officer Michael

Lally surveys the economic scene in

“Something Happened on the Way to the Market.” And in “Four Centuries andThree Decades of RussianThinking,” former

contractor for Embassy Moscow and the

INF treaty inspection facility in Votkinsk

Justin Lifflander presents themes in Rus-

sian thinking today, and their origins,

gleaned from living in Russia during the

past 30 years.

No conversation about Russia today is

complete without mention of Ukraine. In

“There’s No Going Back

,” WilliamGleason

lays out the challenges for Ukraine: a cor-

rupt economy, uncertainty about Western

support and finally, Vladimir Putin, who

does not appear to accept the existence of

an independent Ukrainian state.

In “Communications Behind the Iron Curtain,” retired Senior FSO Tim Lawson

takes us back to 1991 for the dramatic

story of the work of the Diplomatic Tele-

communications Service during the last

days of the USSR.

Finally, in a piece for the history

books, we bring you “Groundbreaking Diplomacy: An Interview with George Shultz.” In an unpublished October 20


conversation with Ambassador (ret.) Jim

Goodby, the former Secretary of State

offers valuable diplomacy lessons.

Remembered as one of our best

Secretaries of State—one who trusted

and utilized the career Foreign Service—

George Shultz shares how he was able to

advance and support President Ronald

Reagan’s vision and manage difficult but

successful arms control negotiations with

the Soviets.

We have a fantastic book review sec-

tion this month featuring Ambassador

(ret.) Jack Matlock on the new book by

Mikhail Gorbachev,

After the Kremlin


Russian title).

This extended review


a clear-eyed look at why Gorbachev felt

betrayed not only by his successor Boris

Yeltsin but by Western leaders, as well.

FSO Eric Green, director of State’s Rus- sia Office, reviews The Invention of Russia:

From Gorbachev’s Freedom to Putin’s War

by Arkady Ostrovsky and Charles Clover’s

Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Rus-

sia’s New Nationalism

, two of the many

recent works that plumb the last 25 years

in Russia. And in

“Reading Russia”


share a guide to some recent Russia book

roundups and recommendations.

Looking ahead to next month’s double

issue, we will offer “Notes to the New

Administration” including input and sug-

gestions from dozens of Foreign Service

members on the critical role of diplomacy




Understanding Today’s Russia



Shawn Dorman is the editor of

The Foreign Service Journal.

ussia in Syria, Russia “hack-

ing” the U.S. election, Russia in

Ukraine. Vladimir Putin looms


Twenty-five years after the fall of the

USSR, with an incoming U.S. administra-

tion considering new directions in U.S.-

Russian relations, it’s time to talk to the

diplomats and experts who have worked

this relationship and can offer perspec-

tive for today’s policymakers.

Five years ago the


looked back

at how diplomats on the ground under-

stood the Soviet Union during the run-up

to its dissolution

(December 2011 FSJ )


Here we take a close at Russia today and

examine the impact of the past quarter-

century on the U.S.-Russia relationship.

The focus begins with retired FSO Ray

Smith, author of the July 1990 Embassy

Moscow cable, “Looking into the Abyss:

The Possible Collapse of the Soviet Union

and What We Should Be Doing About It,”

that foretold the developments that would

take the world and most of Washington by

surprise more than a year later.

In “Understanding Russian Foreign Policy Today,” Smith argues that the wa


forward is for Washington and Moscow to

consider and accept as valid the other’s

national interests. While Putin’s Russia

will continue to be assertive, he says, it is

not inherently preda-

tory and not all our

interests collide. A

“normal” relationship

with Russia is possible

and worth pursuing.