Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee
On a whim a few months ago I decided to sign up for the World Russia Forum, which is held every year in Washington
, DC. It's a two-day event meant to showcase important politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, and potentates who affect Russian-American relations. On a beautiful Monday morning I took the metro to Union Station and walked to the Hart Senate Office building surrounded by congressional aides and interns. I might have been in the office building before (maybe a different building?) on a school-sponsored field trip involving a meeting with right-wing Theocrat and FORMER
Senator Rick Santorum.
Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary for Arms Control and Internaional Security. Former Congresswoman.
Anyway, I was surprised that after going through security I was allowed to walk around the building freely. I was not sure what to expect, but I thought I would be ushered to the correct conference room by nervous security guards.
I sat down front and center in the conference room just 10 feet from the podium. There were about 300 people in the conference, apparently that was very good turnout. Simultaneous translators had been recruited for the benefit of those who did not speak Russian and English. I should have gotten a little earpiece, but I did not realize they were given out for free until later. The Russian Ambassador to the USA, Sergei Kislyak, spoke first. OK, Ambassador Kislyak looks like Soviet Ambassador Desadskiy from Dr.
Wall inside embassy
Strangelove. Even from the front table, it sounded as though he were mumbling. He briefly talked about the missile defense system quarrel, which was discussed many times more that day. General Vladimir Dvorkin spoke later again about missile defense, but somehow he managed to seem less defensive than the other speakers on that topic. Dvorkin was the man with control of the red button which could have launched a thousand nukes in Soviet times.
Let's just skip to the embassy party that night! I managed to corner Arkady Dubnov, a reporter on Central Asia for an online newspaper. I asked him if he believed that the "spontaneous" Kyrgyz coup, which included protesters' intentional assaults on government building were not planned by Otunbayeva herself.
Damn, I blinked. Mrs. Kucinich took the photo.
Dubnov said that he knew the Russian security forces were not involved, but was not sure how much planning went into the protests and eventual overthrow of the government. Typical Kyrgyz revolutions, he insisted, combined advanced hooliganism from the easily manipulated with opportunistic politicians with genuine grievances and population used to populist uprisings. Dubnov is notoriously prickly, so I was just glad he did not laugh at my naive question or something.
The inside of the embassy building was gorgeous - not at all like the trailer of a consular office. A Russian band entertained us at the beginning, and then a very serious Orthodox priest and his choir sang before the dinner was served. I do not even like salmon and caviar normally, but the Russian embassy's stock was delicious.
General Vladimir Dvorkin
Then to make me even happier, they has my favorite vodka - Russkiy Standart. Men sipped vodka from shots glasses, while women seemed to stick with wine. No one drank the beer. It was impossible to talk to Kislyak because he was surrounded my lackeys, not that I had anything of note to say anyway. Congressmen Delahunt and Kucinich who had spoken at the Forum deigned to come to the reception. I managed to catch Kucinich before he left to thank him for his work on the health care bill. He asked me what I did for a living, and I told him I worked on animal research at the NIH. Big mistake! I looked up to see he and his wife scowling at me. He has a bill to end the practice of animal research, and his wife championed the cause in her free time. Before he left, he condescendingly told me to look for a new method of research.