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America, Russia have ‘Cold War hangover mentality’

Americans have a shallow understanding of what contemporary Russia is like, according to former U.S. ambassador to Russia John Beyrle.
Beyrle talked about the importance of the two countries’ relationship on a global scale and the need to improve and maintain that relationship to about 100 Ohio State professors and students at the Mershon Center Thursday evening.
This has been something Beyrle has worked on throughout his career, he said after the event.
Beyrle was an ambassador in Bulgaria from 2005 to 2008 and an ambassador in Russia from 2008 to 2012.
He said for 150 years, the relationship between Russia and America was “peaceful.” There were no wars between the two countries until the Cold War, which Beyrle called the “bad part of the story.”
“The problem that we have in the U.S. and Russia relationship is the persistence of memory. It’s the fact that what most people remember was formed largely in the Cold War when we were bitter ideological rivals. And that mentality still covers a lot of what we do and what we understand about each other. But we should realize that that was the exception and not the rule,” Beyrle said.
He described Americans and Russians as having the “Cold War hangover mentality” and said America needs to better their relationship with Russia.
“Russia simply can’t be marginalized and we cannot ignore Russia. We need to treat Russia with respect,” Beyrle said. “This is a relationship where if Russia is not part of the solution, it could really be part of the problem.”
Yana Hashamova, director for the OSU center of Slavic and Eastern European studies, said the Columbus Council on World Affairs, the Mershon Center and the Slavic and Eastern European Center sponsored this event.
Megan Kupka, a first-year in international relations and Russian, was an exchange student in Russia in the 2010-2011 academic year. She attended the event because she saw this was a great opportunity to hear a speaker of such high importance on her own campus.
“It’s rather rare to have the opportunity to listen to an ambassador who serves so many different important countries. He has so much experience and I was just amazed to find out that he was serving the U.S. in Russia while I was in Russia also,” she said.
Kupka said it was interesting to hear about the relationship America has with Russia in a more worldly aspect considering she is a language major.
“We need to work harder to understand that Russia, for us, is an indispensable partner in the 21st century and not an adversary,” Beyrle said.

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