The Second SURF Moscow Conference was held on October 19-23, 2011. Hosted by the New Dialogue Foundation and MGIMO-University, the Conference presented rare opportunity for students from Russia and the USA to discuss urgent issues of bilateral relations. 20 American and 20 Russian delegates made it through an intense selection process and took part in the Conference. Program of the SURF Moscow Conference 2011 can be accessed here.
Stanford US-Russia Forum (SURF) was founded in fall 2008 by four students from Russia and the US with a goal to reverse the trends of mutual negative perception among peoples of the two countries. The program gave the students an opportunity to discuss the most contentious issues of US-Russia relations both among each other and with politicians, journalists, and prominent experts.
SURF Moscow Conference 2011 Opening Ceremony at the MGIMO
The SURF Moscow Conference 2011 started off with the opening speech from Rector of MGIMO-University Dr. Anatoly Torkunov. He stated that interactions between students today will translate into strong professional relationships down the road, and that SURF is an investment in Russian-American relations of the future. He concluded: “The future depends on connections like this. Unity of the family is unity of the world”.
The five-day conference took place at the venues of the leading Russian universities – MGIMO-University, National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE), and the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
Andrey Kortunov (Russian Council on International Affairs) delivers greeting remarks to the delegates
The first day of the Conference was devoted to discussions on international issues and marked by the speeches of the Head of the Administration of the President of Russia Sergey Naryshkin and Assistant to the President of Russia Mr. Arkady Dvorkovich. During the round table “International Security Ten Years After 9/11” delegates could exchange their view and learn from leading Russian IR scholars Andrey Kortunov (Russian Council on International Affairs), Alexei Arbatov (IMEMO), Viktor Kremenyuk (Institute of the USA and Canada) and others.
The second day of the Conference was held at the HSE. Discussions there were focused on the economic development of Russia. SURF Delegates were particularly interested in discussing the state of corruption in Russia with Elena Panfilova, Director of Transparency International in Russia. The prospects of innovative development of Russian economy was discussed with Alexei Sitnikov (Skolkovo Foundation).
On Friday, October 21, the Delegates split into two groups, one of which headed to the Russian State Duma. There the Delegates had a chance to go on a brief excursion around the Duma building and meet Svetlana Khorkina, three times Olympic Champion in gymnastics, today a deputy chairwoman of Duma’s Youth Affairs Committee. Later the group was allowed to see the process of policy making in Russia by attending the plenary meeting. The second group went to Moscow Carnegie Center, where they attended a presentation and discussed Dmitry Trenin’s new book Post-Imperium: A Eurasian Story, followed by a discussion on the evolution of Russian foreign policy in recent years.
The last day of Moscow Conference was marked by the State Duma simulation. The Delegates were divided into four parties to come up with their own original laws for four committees. In order to get their laws adopted the deputies were to show their political talents, aptitude for bargaining and performing in a team.
Ioanna Zyga, Director of Outreach of the SURF: "Definitely, all of us enjoyed meeting other participants from all over the world with whom we share common interests. The SURF conference provided an excellent collaborative environment for us to exchange views, share ideas and discuss salient issues within the framework of US-Russia relations".
SURF delegates discuss economic development of Russia in HSE
However, the most challenging part of the SURF Program is about to start - the Collaborative Research Projects. It is devoted to cover a wide range of political, economic and social topics in an attempt to show that Russia and the US can be genuine political and economic partners. The research groups of four students in each are already formed; researcher will work under supervision of research advisors. The result of their hard collaborative work will be presented during the SURF Conference in Stanford in April 2012.