In the lead-up to the G20 Summit in Osaka this summer, the American public called on President Donald Trump to take an aggressive (though somewhat retaliatory) approach; to discuss, in addition to ongoing situations in Syria and North Korea, Russian interference in US elections. However, contrary to the popular belief that diplomatic discussions between the US and Russia should revolve entirely around national security issues, it is crucial to consider the importance of entrepreneurial and academic innovation.
In order for the relationship between the US and Russia to improve, Russians and Americans need to collaborate in non-inflammatory areas, the most accessible of which is academic research. One successful example of such teamwork is the International Space Station, where American and Russian members of NASA and Roscosmos (along with representation from other nations) work in a shared environment for the betterment of humanity. Another cooperative academic project is the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), which was founded in Moscow, Russia, as part of a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Skolkovo Foundation. This unprecedented level of teamwork helped to create a new, cutting edge educational institution in Russia, and enabled researchers at both institutions to benefit from “new opportunities for intellectual exchange, network building, and shared research.” In addition to providing mutual benefits for both American and Russian programs, these projects are important steps in normalizing the concept of a US-Russia alliance, by beginning to familiarize each society with one another. Similarly important are the efforts in human innovation that take place in the private sector.
The next level of inter-operation needs to take place on the entrepreneurial front. Both the US and Russia produce countless brilliant minds who, whether it be in the interest of progress, wealth, or both, pursue the development of their own businesses. These companies have given the world much of what it relies on today, and are the fruition of border-less dreams. Thus, it makes sense that Americans and Russians should be more easily enabled to work together towards these goals.
Though obviously neither academic nor entrepreneurial collaboration has an absolutely direct effect on US-Russia relations, the first step to improvement is building a foundation. As it stands, not many Russians or Americans are pushing their governments to drop their metaphorical fists, and why would they? Neither society is at all familiar with the other, sometimes even questioning their morality. This needs to change, and unlike issues of national security, missiles don’t hang in the balance. Compromise is essential to diplomacy, so it’s important to find sectors where this is actually possible. By finding common ground in shared humanity, Americans and Russians can get to know each other on a more intimate level, which will serve as a strong foundation for the future of US-Russia relations.