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The Dartmouth Conference (Connections 2015)

The five-page article, “The Dartmouth Conference” by Harold Saunders and Philip Stewart was published Fall 2015 in Kettering Foundation‘s annual newsletter, Connections 2015 – Our History: Journeys in KF Research. Saunders and Stewart describe how the Dartmouth Conference came to be a long-time ongoing dialogue between the US and Russia since 1959. Read an excerpt from the article below and find Connections 2015 available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

KF_Connections 2015From the article…

[The] Dartmouth [Conference] is designed not only to reflect American public thinking to our Russian/Soviet partners, but also to share with the American public insights about the experiences, ideas, and thinking behind Russian policy and behavior gleaned from the dialogue. The Americans tend to see a two-way relationship—on the one hand, nearly all US participants accept as part of their responsibility to raise concerns prevalent among the US public. These ranged in Soviet times from Soviet treatment of prominent authors, such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, to pressing for the emigration of Soviet Jews, as well as other human rights issues; and today, from concerns about Russia’s role

The Dartmouth Conference produces three essential kinds of “products.” First, it produces creative proposals to convey to our governments and larger societies that address specific issues in our relationship. Many of these proposals have found constructive resonance in the policy arenas on each side. The March 2015 dialogue at Dartmouth XIX, for example, persuaded the participants that the absence of high-level working groups in those areas where the United States and Russia share interests, such as Syria, ISIS, and the arms control arena, is having a negative effect on the United States’ ability to address subjects clearly in our national interest, as well as the interests of our relationship with Russia.

Second, and as important, the Dartmouth Conference, by engaging many of the same individuals over time, enables each side to understand the experiences, the processes, and the reasoning that ultimately shape policy on each side. Especially today, this kind of in-depth understanding is sorely needed. At Dartmouth XIX, for instance, influential elements in the Russian leadership made clear that they continue to see Russia as a part of the broader Euro-Atlantic community. Russia continues to seek security arrangements within the Euro-Atlantic world that will permit Russia and its region to determine their own political, economic, and cultural future and looks at the future in that context. However, Russia also has its own regional relation- ships, interests, culture, history, traditions, and values for which it demands respect. It will defend these and will reject efforts by others to impose their models and values on Russia and its region.

Third, the diversity of backgrounds, experience, and outlooks represented in the Dartmouth delegations encourages the spread of insights into the “other” throughout our societies. Within a few days of the March 2015 conference, one American participant had been interviewed by CNN—one of a number of articles and blogs that appeared in other media.

The agenda at Dartmouth is cumulative, with issues raised but not fully explored at one session forming the basis for the next round. These include arms control, terrorism, regional issues, and opportunities for increased exchanges in fields like preventable diseases, journalism, religion, and others. Beyond these, at Dartmouth XX a central focus was deepening our exploration of how our Russian colleagues understand what they describe as “values” particular to Russia, how these values relate to their behavior toward neighbors, and how they impact their understanding of what it means in practical terms to be “part of the Euro- Atlantic economic, political, and security space” to which they claim to be committed. By pursuing this agenda with persistence, honesty, and integrity, the Dartmouth Conference will continue to play a vital role in enabling Russia and the United States, the only two powers with global reach and global commitments to collaborate more constructively to address critical global issues, from peace and security, to terrorism and development.

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2015 issue, edited by Kettering program officer Melinda Gilmore and director of communications David Holwerk, focuses on our yearlong review of Kettering’s research over time.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/sites/default/files/periodical-article/Saunders-Stewart_2015.pdf

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