The experience was beneficial in that it broadened my perspective of what was going on around the world. It was eye-opening; I became even more determined at that time to write books that would be persuasive as to what was happening in Russia – and to bring science to center stage.Glenn SchweitzerNuclear engineer; Scientist; Former Director of the Program on Central Europe and Eurasia at the National Academy of Sciences
The work of the ISTC was sustained until 2015, when the parties to the agreement decided that it had completed its goal and should be closed. I thought it had evolved beautifully, and until five or six years ago, we had a very strong exchange program. In fact, we had the only significant exchange program with the Russians for a number of years. But I underestimated the turmoil in Russia and was indeed taken by surprise by the war in Ukraine, which erupted just as my book was released last year. I had no idea it was coming. I was really not as much a student of Russian history as I’d thought. This idea of the Russians moving forward caught almost everyone by surprise. Now I view Russia as a country that is still home to many of my friends – but who are not outspoken friends, for obvious reasons. I’m trying my best to stay in contact with friends of similar persuasions, but it’s very difficult. The United States, for valid reasons, is very hostile to Russia, and I have to be very careful that I don’t in any way jeopardize the U.S. government’s position, but at the same time try to encourage peace within Russia.
My most impactful experience at Bellagio, though, happened when I went back in 2002 for a science and ethics workshop with participants from the U.S. and Iran. It was the first time in almost two decades that the U.S. had any serious conversations with Iran about where the world was going and how the two countries could move forward together. During the past 20 years, I’ve been working on problems related to Iran. From this work the U.S. developed the only serious exchange program with Iran, involving more than 3,000 scientists. The National Academy of Sciences had a major impact in making it possible for 12,000 Iranian students to come to the United States every year for college. Dozens of joint books were written, and 7% of Iranian papers published in international journals were co-authored with Americans. And so I would say that while the first visit to Bellagio was a personal game changer, I think the 2002 workshop in Bellagio was a real game changer for East-West relations.
In more recent years, everything we did with Iran particularly, but also sometimes with Russia, required six months to make an agreement that we could do something. That was six months to compromise. Understandably, both sides wanted to ensure there were benefits for their respective states. It was important for both parties to consider how the world could benefit as a whole. In general, the United States is on the leading edge of most technologies, yet our survival is dependent on not only the U.S. leading, but other countries having the same incentives to move ahead. Moreover, the U.S. is responsible for the digital revolution, but, as we can see from the current climate, things have changed dramatically.
We need to stop thinking about how to line up against “the Other” and, instead, think about how we can possibly work with them. Over time, we can tackle the challenge of a rapidly changing world together.
Welcome to a special edition of the Bellagio Bulletin, where you’ll have a chance to hear from leading voices within the alumni network on one of the greatest global challenges of our time – the ethical application and governance of artificial intelligence. We hope you’ll find their points of view as illuminating as we have […]More