By GAIL FINEBERG AND THE RUSSIAN LEADERSHIP PROGRAM OFFICE
Russian Federation Council and State Duma delegations arrive in Washington on June 20 to talk to members of Congress and Cabinet officials about energy, federalism, environment, health care and the rule of law as part of their participation in the Open World 2000 Russian Leadership Program.
A Russian Federation Council delegation headed by Vyacheslav Aleksandrovich Mironov, deputy chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Science, Culture, Education, Health Care and Ecology, are visiting the Library. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Michigan Gov. John Engler is hosting this delegation in Washington and Michigan.
Duma delegations coming to Washington include eight energy specialists, six who are discussing rule of law matters, eight who are interested in federalism and seven who are focusing on environmental issues.
Supported by a $10 million appropriation from Congress, Open World 2000 is bringing some 2,000 Russian political leaders, including the Duma and Federation Council delegates, to the United States this spring and summer to meet and talk with their counterparts at the federal, state and local levels. In this, the second year of the Library's Russian Leadership Program, Open World 2000, about 20 percent of the elected representatives to the Duma and the Federation Council, the lower and upper houses of Russia's parliament, will visit the United States to exchange views on policy issues with their congressional counterparts as well as top officials in the executive branch.
Said Dr. Billington, chairman of the Russian Leadership Program: "With a newly elected president and a newly elected parliament, post-Yeltsin Russia is undergoing a generational change in its political landscape. The 2000 RLP opens new avenues of dialogue between U.S. government officials and the new emerging political leadership in Russia at a critical time both for U.S.-Russian relations and the world."
"The Library of Congress is extremely pleased to have again been authorized by the U.S. Congress to manage the RLP," added Dr. Billington, who was recently elected a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. On Feb. 15 Russian Federation Ambassador to the U.S. Yuri Ushakov presented the Librarian with the Pushkin Medal for his service in promoting Russian language and culture throughout the world.
In April, Dr. Billington and Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee, traveled to Moscow, where they met with Duma leaders to plan Open World 2000 and participated in a reunion conference of more than 200 alumni of the 1999 Russian Leadership Program.
The American Foreign Policy Council is organizing programs for the Duma and Federation Council delegations in Washington and congressional districts. Last year, more than 2,150 leaders from most of Russia's 89 regions traveled throughout the United States and met Americans from every walk of life -- farmers, business leaders, schoolteachers and a wide range of public-office holders, from local firemen to public housing and community health directors, from school superintendents and small-town mayors to state legislators, senators and representatives.
Although this experience will be repeated this summer, Open World 2000 has expanded the legislature-to-legislature exchange. Some 130 members of the Russian parliament will be traveling to the United States over the next 18 weeks.
In May, Duma delegations arrived in Washington to discuss defense, agriculture, land reform, banking and taxation. Gen. Andrei I. Nikolayev, chairman of the Duma's Defense Committee, who headed an 11-member delegation on defense, met with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen. The defense delegation also met with their counterparts in the Senate and House, and Reps. Robert "Bud" Cramer (D-Ala.) and Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) hosted delegation members in their state districts.
Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, met with former Vice Premier Alexander N. Shokhin, chairman of the Duma Committee on Credit Organizations and Financial Markets and former vice premier of the Russian Federation. Mr. Shokhin headed a Duma banking delegation. Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) was the congressional host.
Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.) hosted a Duma tax delegation led by Kurban-Ali A. Amirov, member of the Duma Committee on Budget and Taxation.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) hosted meetings on land reform matters for Duma deputies led by Viktor A. Semenov.
A seven-member delegation of Russian Duma agricultural specialists also completed a seven- day visit to the United States in May. Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) hosted the group for three days in Tupelo, Miss., before they traveled to Washington for meetings with Senate and House members and executive branch officials. Duma member Vladimir N. Plotnikov led the delegation.
"The level of interest by the Duma members in exchanging views on agricultural issues and their interest in the U.S. experience was astounding," said Rep. Wicker. "The RLP is providing a wonderful opportunity for members of Congress not only to host and teach our counterparts in the Duma, but also to share their experiences as they lead a historic transition toward democracy and a free-market economy."
Congress established the Russian Leadership Program at the Library of Congress in 1999 and has allocated $20 million for the program over the past two years. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Joint Committee on the Library, was the chief sponsor of the authorizing legislation for both the 1999 and 2000 programs. The representative bodies of both the United States and Russia have worked together to implement the unprecedented legislative exchange. The program is designed to expose Russian political leaders to American free enterprise and democratic institutions and, in turn, to allow U.S. leaders to learn firsthand their counterparts' experience in leading Russia's transition from communism to a society based on market economies and the rule of law.
"The RLP attracts American and Russian leaders at the highest level because it is a unique peer-to-peer exchange of ideas, opinions and beliefs," said Geraldine Otremba, chief executive officer of the Russian Leadership Program. "U.S. and Russian political leaders can engage in an honest and open debate on key policy issues, which can only lead to improved U.S.-Russian relations."
Former Rep. James W. Symington, who was executive director of the inaugural 1999 program, is chairman of a new advisory board for the program. "Serving as executive director of the innovative 1999 pilot was one of the most rewarding assignments in public service I have had," he said. "I look forward to working with Dr. Billington to build an advisory board for the Russian Leadership Program that will advance a number of policy areas and broaden knowledge of this superb exchange effort."
The Library awarded grants to partner organizations to implement the Open World 2000 program and has contracted again with the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, headed by Dan Davidson, to manage the logistical aspects of the program.
Ms. Fineberg is editor of The Gazette, the Library's staff newspaper.