Students in Dr. William Potter’s NPT Negotiation Simulation class spend the fall semester immersed in the intricacies of international arms control negotiations through a simulation of the 2020 NPT Review Conference. On Tuesday, October 8th, the class had the opportunity to engage directly with Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov, who formerly headed a number of Russian NPT delegations.
In addition to students from Dr. Potter’s class, other students in the Dual Degree in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies with Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) attended the class session. Before being appointed Ambassador to the U.S. in August 2017, Antonov served as Deputy Defense Minister, Deputy Foreign Minister, and chief Russian negotiator of the New Treaty of Strategic Offensive Arms Reductions (New START). This was Ambassador Antonov’s third visit to the Middlebury Institute campus.
Dr. Potter, founding director of the Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and Ambassador Antonov have known each other for over a quarter of a century. At the beginning of the class session he remarked that more than half of the students in the seminar room are Russian speakers, and that as “U.S. Russia relations continue to erode,” they are our “best hope for the future.”
“Every morning when I wake up and read the newspaper I am scared to see what treaty the U.S. is leaving,” Ambassador Antonov told the students and added that just that day the U.S. had announced it might well pull out of the Open Skies Treaty. He said that he believed the unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was “a disaster for the security of all countries in the world.” It is very easy to destroy treaties, he said, but very difficult to reach consensus in negotiations. “We are against the destruction of the JCPOA,” he said of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. “The only reason why the U.S. administration did not like it was because it was established by the previous administration.”
The New START treaty, signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev in 2011, will expire in February of 2021. There is an option to extend it until 2026, but the Trump administration has suggested it would let the treaty lapse. When asked what would happen if there were no longer any arms control treaties, Antonov told the students they were “too young to be so pessimistic.” Then he told them that “we could survive without a START treaty. We are a responsible state and we are a predictable state, and it is very clear where we are going.” The same, he said, could not be said of the U.S. today. It is his opinion that START should be extended and that it would be very dangerous if the U.S. and Russia stopped talking.
Russian Ambassador to U.S. Visits the Middlebury Institute
“We would like to stabilize relations between Russia and the U.S.” Antonov told the students and said that there has been some progress in several areas, such as on strategic stability, on Afghanistan, North Korea, and Syria. He shared some frustrations about U.S. policy in relation to Venezuela and remarked that they are “waiting for who will replace Mr. Volker to continue discussions about Ukraine,” referring to Kurt Volker who until recently served as U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine. “Of course, there are a lot of irritants,” he admitted, and said that he is unable to get visas for technical staff to work at the embassy and he cannot even bring a team out to assess needs for renovating his residence in Washington D.C.
Offering students advice on how to conduct international negotiations, Antonov said it was most important to respect your opponent and to be patient. “Sometimes inside I am furious, but it is always important to remain calm. If I am failing to persuade you, it means I am failing in my argument.” Representing the Russian Federation he obviously always has to protect the interests of his country, but he said it is important to always keeps in mind that everyone at the table has equal rights, and “we have to treat each other accordingly.”
At the end of the session, California State Senator Bill Monning, a former faculty member at the Institute, thanked Ambassador Antonov for his support of nuclear nonproliferation and engagement with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
For More Information
Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov spoke to faculty and students at the Middlebury Institute on a wide range of topics during an invitation-only seminar on Thursday, November 30th.
On April 23–May 4, 2018, the Preparatory Committee of states parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) met in Geneva. Leaders, researchers, and students from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and the Middlebury Institute participated in various ways.