| by Matthew Jennings

News Stories

MIR ambassadorial series

To better understand today’s tumultuous relationship between the United States and Russia, one needs to look back a few decades. 

As the Russian military amasses troops along the Ukrainian borders, relations between the U.S., Russia, and NATO member countries are as tense as they have been since the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Russian specialists and foreign policy analysts say that to understand the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the mentality that shapes his worldview, specifically as it relates to geopolitical spheres of Russian influence, one needs to become familiar with the events of the 1990s. 

With the second set of interviews in The Ambassadorial Series, the Monterey Initiative in Russian Studies at the Middlebury Institute takes a deep dive into that era, with extensive interviews with three former U.S. ambassadors who witnessed and helped shape that crucial decade in U.S.-Russia relations. (The Ambassadorial Series debuted last summer as eight interviews with former U.S. ambassadors hosted by Jill Dougherty.)

Dr. Hanna Notte, a senior research associate at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation and an alumna of the Monterey Summer Symposium on Russia, is the host of the sequel, titled “Deans of U.S.-Russia Diplomacy.”

“Never has there been a chance to see and hear the reminiscences of U.S. ambassadors to Russia, who served, one after the other, during one of Russia’s most historic transformations,” says Robert Legvold, political scientist and post-Soviet specialist at Columbia University. “Each of the interviews provides not only the insights of deeply seasoned diplomats into a constantly changing environment but an intimate sense of what it felt like to be there.”

Adds Deana Arsenian, vice president of Carnegie Corporation of New York’s international program, a major supporter of the project, “Through their personal accounts in this video series, the U.S. ambassadors to Russia offer an invaluable glimpse into the evolution of U.S.-Russia relations. Their perspectives on the past moments of dangers and opportunities offer lessons learned for the future of this consequential relationship.”

The Ambassadorial Series: Deans of U.S.–Russia Diplomacy Trailer

The sequel focuses specifically on the 1990s—from the disintegration of the USSR to President Putin’s ascent to Russia’s highest office a decade later—as Ambassadors Jack F. Matlock, Thomas R. Pickering, and James F. Collins offer firsthand accounts and analyses of the cataclysmic changes that transformed Russian politics and society. 

Over the course of six hours, Matlock, Pickering, and Collins share their personal experience in dealing with the challenges in the U.S.–Russia relationship during the 1990s as the top diplomatic representatives of the United States to the Soviet Union and then Russia. They analyze Russian domestic upheavals as well as regional and international developments—the first Gulf War, unrest in the Balkans, expansion of NATO—that would come to haunt the relations between the two countries.

The Ambassadorial Series serves as a tool to deepen understanding of the vicissitudes of bilateral relations and provide additional primary accounts of the important junctures in U.S.–Russia relations. The interviews are released as videos, podcasts, and transcripts. 

For More Information

The Ambassadorial Series