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The Anniversary US-Russia Fort Ross Dialogue Held Online

Date of publication: 3 November 2021

The anniversary Russia-US Dialogue Fort Ross international conference was held on November 2, 2021 online. The tenth forum organised by this unique preserve museum and the US Kennan Institute with support of Transneft, Sovcomflot, and Chevron reaffirmed its status as an important and prestigious venue for exchanging opinions not only on matters of the general history of Russia and the United States, but also across the entire spectrum of modern-day bilateral relations between our two nations.

Ambassador of Russia to the US Anatoly Antonov’s speech at the inauguration of the Tenth annual Fort Ross Dialogue forum. Photo:

Our nations, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov who spoke at the event, are undergoing a “very tough and complex crisis” that “in some ways is even more challenging, than what our two nations endured during the Cold War”. The diplomat reminded how several recent US administrations triggered a “downward spiral” of curtailed diplomatic presence of Russia in the United States that was consistently escalating. This refers to the expulsion of our diplomats, seizure of Russian diplomatic property, forced closure of Russian consulates, including the one in San Francisco, not far from Fort Ross. “We urge the US administration to change their minds and engage in a thorough dialogue with us to zero out the existing restrictions and to start building everything from the ground up, rather than sinking further down,” said Riabkov.

Despite all the difficulties, Moscow and Washington have been able to establish a sustained dialogue through the Security Councils and foreign ministries after the June summit of the two leaders in Geneva, said Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov. “We have renewed the professional conversation on strategic stability and cyber security. Averting an arms race and maintaining restraint in cyber competition is crucial in stabilising bilateral ties and preventing the tension from escalation into a real crisis,” added the head of the Russian Embassy in the United States. According to him, our nations are at a fault line in bilateral relations and should not waste a chance to put the constructive spirit of Geneva into life. “I am pretty much convinced that both countries should strive to promote a unifying agenda,” Antonov said. “The international situation calls for a series of due and overdue decisions on joint work over eliminating the threats fraught with huge human and economic losses. The stakes are too high in the fight against international terrorism, WMD proliferation, climate change, escalating regional conflicts and the spread of deadly diseases”.

One of the American speakers at the conference, former California Governor Edmund Gerry Brown, sees the cause of the current problems in US-Russia relations in the “spirit of rivalry that persists because of the old prejudices”. The way out of this situation is listening to and learning from each other instead of imposing one's vision and views upon each other, said Mr Brown.

Vice President of Transneft Rashid Sharipov, President of Chevron Neftegaz Inc. Andrew McGran, CFO of Sovcomflot Nikolay Kolesnikov as well as Deputy Chairman of NOVATEK Managing Board and Chairman of the Arctic Economic Council Yevgeny Ambrosov highlighted their companies’ operations and the advantages of collaboration in delivering mutually beneficial business projects.

Nikolay Korchunov, Ambassador-at-Large for Arctic Cooperation at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Michael Sfraga, Chairman of the US Arctic Research Commission, took part in a substantive and detailed discussion about the outlook for US-Russia collaboration to ensure the environmental sustainability of the Arctic. With Russia taking over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2021 to 2023, Moscow will actively address the issues of climate change, preventing marine pollution and focusing on responsible behaviour in the world's northernmost region within this intergovernmental organisation of the Arctic nations.

“The Arctic and the International Space Station are the two areas where the Russian Federation and the US work together every day,” Nikolay Korchunov reminded. In his turn, Kennan Institute's political scientist Matthew Rojansky, who moderated the session, addressed the question on how to transfer the successful experience of US-Russian collaboration in the Arctic to other areas of bilateral relations.

Subsequent panel discussions at the conference focused on historical issues, including the outlook for conservation of the Fort Ross Park – a unique memorial of the Russian presence in North America and exploration of this continent's western part by our colonists. The Russian Geographical Society and its sponsor companies are currently working on the project of restoring the 1824 Life-Giving Trinity Chapel at the fort, the first Orthodox site in the West of the United States.

Reference by RG

Fort Ross is a former Russian settlement and wooden fort on the coast of Northern California, founded by the Russian-American Company to hunt for and trade in furs, back in 1812. By 1824, there were already about 400 families at Fort Ross, who, among other things, farmed and cultivated wheat by hiring local Indians. The fort originally had ten cannons in its arsenal, but that number had risen to 40 by 1840. In 1841, the company sold its property to John Sutter, an American landowner. The only original building that has survived is the house of the last Russian superintendent of the fort, Alexander Rotchev. Fort Ross currently has the status of a historic park and preserve museum under the auspices of the State of California, and it is managed by the Fort Ross Conservancy, an independent organisation.

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