On November 30th, 2017, the new Russian Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Anatoly Antonov, delivered a seminar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California.  This invitation-only event, hosted by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), touched upon on a wide range of topics relating to the international nonproliferation and disarmament regimes.  As the former deputy minister of foreign affairs and deputy minister of defense of Russia, Ambassador Antonov has worked on these issues throughout his career: he has headed the Russian delegation to the negotiation of the New START Treaty and the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), among other WMD-related negotiations.  On this basis, his remarks covered topics including the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the importance of the entry into force of the CTBT.  His comments reflected the breadth of his experience in multilateral diplomacy, making them especially valuable for audience members who, one day, hope to fill similar roles.

In addition to MIIS faculty and staff, the seminar was also attended by members of the CTBTO Youth Group and a number of students enrolled in the new dual degree program in Nonproliferation Studies administered jointly by MIIS and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).  Launched in 2016, the dual degree program contributes to the development and training of a new cadre of leaders with deep expertise on US-Russia relations as they relate to nuclear issues.  This cohort is keenly interested in collaborative work on nonproliferation and arms control between the two countries, including how the current crisis in relations impacts its future prospects.  In this respect, the opportunity to hear Ambassador Antonov’s perspectives was especially valuable.  In spite of the challenges in the current political environment, Ambassador Antonov noted the importance of constructive and regular interaction between Washington and Moscow on a number of WMD-related issues in his remarks.  The long history of successful US-Soviet nonproliferation cooperation, even during the most difficult moments of the Cold War, points to the significance of this observation today.

After the seminar concluded, Ambassador Antonov attended a meeting of a semester-long, graduate-level course that simulates the 2018 Preparatory Committee Meeting of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  This international conference will take place in Geneva next April-May and will entail multilateral negotiations among States Parties on topics relating to nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  Under the instruction of CNS Director Professor William Potter, students play the roles of delegates from both nuclear- and non-nuclear weapon States in their deliberations.  They have spent the past three months negotiating recommendations across all three pillars of the Treaty, which they were able to adopt by consensus at their final plenary session.  Ambassador Antonov remarked on the value of this exercise in preparing the next generation of diplomats for the work they will perform in their future careers.  This observation is especially relevant given the large number of course alumni who have gone on to work at the United Nations and other international organizations.

At a moment when US-Russia relations are in crisis, Ambassador Antonov’s visit to Monterey provided a timely opportunity for Institute faculty, students, and staff to learn more about the Russian perspective on critical security issues. For his part, Ambassador Antonov likewise noted the benefits he derives from interacting with nongovernmental organizations and academia.  “I need your papers and exercises,” he said, remarking on the impact that these can have on policymakers and practitioners.  In this respect and others, the event proved to be of great interest to all involved.

Photo: Ambassador Anatoly Antonov speaks with MIIS faculty, students, and staff at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Photo: Eduardo Fujii