Russia and Ukraine’s Tangled Relationship

March 2, 2020

Dr. James West and Krista Peterson

The Russia-Ukraine relationship begins in the 9th century with the establishment of Kievan-Rus, a trading center established on the banks of the Dnipro River as a loose confederation of Slavic, Nordic and Finnish tribes under the leadership of the Viking King Rurik.  It lasted until the 13th century. Kievan-Rus adopted Christian Orthodoxy in 988 AD and over time became dominated by Slavs, in particular Russians.  Over the intervening centuries, multiple myths and stories bolstering territorial claims and counter-claims arose, the capital was moved to Moscow after the 13th century Mongol invasions and a single Christian Orthodox church divided along linguistic lines.  Although the Russians long claimed Ukraine its own and still consider Ukrainians their “little brothers,” in reality much of the territory was later ruled by a succession of European powers.Ukraine first established a short-lived independent state in 1917 but was then incorporated into the Soviet Union.  The Republic became independent in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union but its sovereignty continues to be challenged time and again by Moscow.  What are the myths that haunt this entangled relationship, why is Ukraine still so important to Moscow and what role does the US play in protecting Ukrainian independence?

Please note:  this program will be divided into two parts with buffet lunch served between.  It will begin with a 40 minute talk by Professor and Russian historian James West on the history and myths which envelope the Russian view of Ukraine. Post-lunch will consist of a panel and discussion with Dr. West and Krista Peterson on the weight of history on Ukraine today, its geopolitical significance and Ukraine’s importance not just to Russia but also the US and Europe.

Dr. James L. West, a specialist in pre-revolutionary Russian society, holds a PhD in history from Princeton University. He taught at the European University in St Petersburg, Russia from 2015-17, the sole remaining private university in the Russian Federation which was closed in 2017 by the Russian government in its drive to eliminate western liberal thought in the country.

He was a professor of history and humanities at Middlebury College (1995-2011) and professor of history at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut (1971-1995). During his academic career, he was the recipient of several prestigious US government grants to conduct and publish research in and on the Soviet Union which resulted in: Between Tsar and People (1991) and, Merchant Moscow, (1998) Princeton University Press and republished in Russia in 2008 which he edited.

In addition to Russian history, West has taught courses on the interplay of culture, society, intellectual thought and politics in Russia and Central Europe. He spoke at SFWAF’s first symposium “A Window on Russia” in 2006 on “Old Merchants and New Modernism: Moscow, Modern and Post-Modern 1905-2005 and at our 2019 symposium on “The Fascist Temptation” and our 2018 symposium on “Up Off Our Knees:  The Search for a Usable Past for Russia’s Resurgence.”

Krista Peterson received a degree in radio/television/film from Northwestern University in 1993 but it was a presentation by the US Department of State during her college years that led her to join the Foreign Service. She arrived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras—her first foreign country other than Canada and Mexico—in September 1998 to live and work. Hurricane Mitch devasted Honduras two weeks later, which made for a very interesting two years in the consular section.

After Russian language training she arrived in Ukraine about one month before the terrorist attack in the US on September 11, 2001. Not long after that she consolidated many US agencies spread out across Kyiv and administrative functions housed in shipping containers on the Embassy grounds into two floors of a leased building. She has been an administrative specialist ever since and has worked for several different for profit businesses and nonprofit and educational organizations in Española and Santa Fe.

The SFWAF Program will be in the:  The SFCC Board Room (#223) which is in the West Wing (Administration building) of the Santa Fe Community College.


Russia and Ukraine’s Tangled Relationship2020-03-27T12:06:38-07:00

The Critical Importance of Science to US Government Operations and Policy Making: Examples and Current Dangers

February 6, 2020

Karl Braithwaite, Ed Hildebrand, Arvid Lundy and Cheryl Rofer

While it’s true that scientific research has permeated much of what the federal government has done over the years, is it still important? If so, why?  In a recent New York Times article entitled “Science Under Attack: How Trump is Sidelining Scientists and Their Work,” reporters Brad Plumer and Coral Davenport outline the current state of science, scientists and scientific research being conducted at the federal level.  Plumer and Davenport present – at best – a mixed picture.  A few agencies or programs are being allowed to continue as in previous administrations but others are being gutted, severely restricted or redirected in what they can or can’t do and fund or not fund.  What does this mean for America’s scientific cutting edge and for effective policy development and conduct of government programs?

Karl Braithwaite is a specialist in the relationship between science and government; a former Director of Government Relations for Sandia and Senior Manager for Los Alamos National Laboratories having dealt with national security issues, environment and energy topics, and science and technology policy issues over the years retiring from public service after 49 years; and Dean of the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. Currently a leader in the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, his PhD in political science is from the University of Wisconsin.

Ed Hildebrand has multidisciplinary experience in the biosciences and in national and international science and technology policy analysis. After earning a Ph.D. in biophysics from the Pennsylvania State University, he joined the Los Alamos National Laboratory where his research focused on the international human genome project. While at LANL he also served in postings to the Foreign Service as Science Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in London and to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. More recently, Ed was a science and engineering analyst with a not for profit national and homeland security contractor. He is currently a member of the Santa Fe World Affairs Forum Board.

Arvid Lundy has extensive experience in nuclear export controls, nuclear proliferation intelligence, electronic instrumentation design, and clinical medical physics. Arvid spent thirty one years at Los Alamos National Laboratory as project engineer, group leader, and program manager. His career included over 100 foreign trips for the US government on nuclear issues, especially international nuclear export control. He is Vice President of the Santa Fe World Affairs Forum.

Cheryl Rofer was a chemistat the Los Alamos National Laboratory for 35 years. She now writes scientific and political commentary for the web publications Nuclear Diner and Balloon Juice. She regularly provides background information on nuclear topics to reporters and has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Vox. Her work at Los Alamos included projects in fossil fuels, laser development, and the nuclear fuel cycle and has worked on environmental remediation at Los Alamos and in Estonia and Kazakhstan. She is past president of the Los Alamos Committee on Arms Control and International Security and a founding member of SFWAF. She has published in scientific and political science journals and edited a book. She holds an A.B. from Ripon College and an M.S. from the University of California at Berkeley. She has spoken to SFWAF on several previous occasions, most recently on the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

The SFWAF Program will be in the:  The SFCC Board Room (#223) which is in the West Wing (Administration building) of the Santa Fe Community College.
The Critical Importance of Science to US Government Operations and Policy Making: Examples and Current Dangers2020-01-19T10:02:19-07:00

Greece on the Front Line: The Refugees Keep Coming

December 3, 2019

Jane Abbott

Download Power Point Presentation Here !

Since 2015, desperate refugees mostly from the Middle East and a few from West Africa, have been flooding the Eastern Greek islands of Kos, Samos, Lesbos, Leros, and Chios. The conditions on these islands, especially on Samos, where six times the number that can be accommodated are living in squalor and dangerous conditions, are bleak.

The EU made an agreement with Turkey in March of 2016, offering to pay Turkey to keep refugees in that country. However, few refugees want or are willing to stay in Turkey. Today, refugees try leaving Turkey multiple times, sailing across a three-mile stretch in precarious dinghies, in the hope that they can reach Greece and therefore apply for asylum. A Doctors without Borders spokesperson calls Greece, particularly the Greek islands, a “dumping ground” that has created a refugee emergency. In addition, the more people who try to cross from Turkey to Greece, the more deaths there are in the process.

Jane Abbott’s talk will center on her personal experience with refugees from the Vial Camp on Chios where she spent five weeks working for the NGO CESRT (the Chios Eastern Shore Response Team) which is allied with the German NGO Open Arms. She will explain how volunteers are used there and why Chios, although crowded with refugees and constantly struggling to help them, uses CESRT as a model for how to help those in need. In the past six months, the numbers at Vial have quadrupled, so caring for refugees becomes more and more challenging.

Jane Abbott earned her bachelor’s degree at the American College in Greece (Deree College) in literature and then a master’s degree at the University of Denver in comparative literature while also earning a teacher’s certificate. After teaching at the United States International University for a year, she joined the US Peace Corps teaching in a remote village in Nepal which could only be reached by several days’ walking. The next year, Abbott taught at the University of Nepal in Kathmandu and assisted with writing the Peace Corps Nepali language manual. Abbott lived with her family in Nepal for seven years, working as a teacher and consultant for Peace Corps and USIS.

For the next two years, Abbott lived in Honiara, the Solomon Islands and consulted in Kiribati. She ran training programs in education and business and evaluated posts in the South Pacific for the Peace Corps.

Returning to the US, Abbott taught literature and integrated humanities at various community colleges in Colorado. Simultaneously, she earned her Ph.D. in community college leadership. Subsequently, she worked as a dean in a community college in Colorado with 18,000 students especially with international students.

Abbott has a particular interest in international micro credit projects for women. She was a consultant through Colorado State University for WID (Women In Development) in Nepal and studied a women’s support NGO while on a Mosal Grant. Her project for a Fulbright-Hays Group Study Abroad grant then addressed this topic in Paraguay. Two subsequent Fulbrights in Thailand and Germany supplemented this specialty.

While working at community colleges throughout her career, Abbott developed study abroad cultural programs for adults. She has taken multiple study groups to Nepal, Turkey, and especially to Greece where she has returned many times.

Abbott has worked as a volunteer on many projects. Recently this has included women from Gaza in occupied Palestine. Because of her special interest and experience in working with women in challenging situations, she chose to go to the island of Chios in the spring of 2019. Her presentation today addresses her personal experience while there and how she used her skills and experience to help men, women, and children at the camp. She is an SFWAF Board Member.


Greece on the Front Line: The Refugees Keep Coming2020-03-17T17:26:37-07:00

South Asia: The Next Nuclear Tinderbox?

November 7, 2019

Ankit Panda

India and Pakistan have fought four wars since their independence, including one after each broke out as a nuclear weapons power in 1998. A little more than 20 years ago, the two countries became the first nuclear-armed neighbors to fight a protracted conflict. In February 2019, after a terrorist attack in Indian-administered Kashmir, India became the first nuclear-armed country to use conventional airpower against its nuclear-armed neighbor. In August, the Indian government, after winning a historic electoral mandate in May, moved to abrogate the autonomy of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir remains at the center of broader disputes between India and Pakistan. Three of their four wars since 1947 were fought over that territory, which today remains highly militarized-a tinder box susceptible to be lit at any time.

In this context, what are the risks of a serious conflict in South Asia today between these two nuclear-armed neighbors? 21 years since their nuclear breakout, how have India and Pakistan operationalized their nuclear forces? Finally, amid Asia’s broader shifting geopolitics, how might the United States play a role in managing nuclear risks in the region?


Ankit Panda is an award-winning American writer, analyst, and researcher specializing in international security, defense, geopolitics, and economics. His work has appeared in a range of publications, including the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, the Diplomat, the Atlantic, the Daily Beast, Politico Magazine, and War on the Rocks. He is currently a senior editor at the Diplomat, where he writes daily on security, geopolitics, and economics in the Asia-Pacific region and hosts a popular podcast. He is also an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, where his work focuses on nuclear and conventional force developments in Asia, deterrence, and nuclear strategy.

Panda has additionally published scholarly research in journals including the Washington Quarterly, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and India Review. He is additionally a contributor to the International Institute on Strategic Studies’ Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment and Strategic Survey. Panda is also a consultant for a number of governments, international institutions, and corporations. He is a frequent participant in Track-2 and Track-1.5 dialogues in Asia, Europe, and North America. Panda is a graduate of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He lives in New York City and tweets at @nktpnd.  His forthcoming book, Kim Jong Un and the Bomb: Survival and Deterrence in North Korea, published by Hurst Publisher will be available in 2020.

The SFWAF Program will be in the:  The SFCC Board Room (#223) which is in the West Wing (Administration building) of the Santa Fe Community College.
South Asia: The Next Nuclear Tinderbox?2019-10-04T19:51:33-07:00

Illicit Trade: A Complex Web Of Criminals, State Sponsors And Opportunists

October 8, 2019

Suzanne Hayden

lllegal trade (trafficking) taints every country. It weaves countries together unwitting alliances through the efforts of unscrupulous individuals, criminal groups and state sponsors: preying upon weaknesses of infrastructures and legislation, promoting greed and corruption and ultimately affecting financial systems, reputations and economic stability, it is difficult to adequately calculate its harm to the economy, global security, the environment and the human toll. A closer look at the world of human, wildlife, tobacco and weapons trafficking illustrates the changing nature of organized crime and the impact such trafficking has on our stability and security.

Suzanne Hayden

Suzanne Hayden spent over 30 years as a US and International prosecutor. She was a senior prosecutor for the Department of Justice and a trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia where she started the first UN financial intelligence unit to follow the money of Slobodan Milosevic and supervised one of the earliest global stolen assets investigations against a sitting State’s leader. She was the DOJ legal advisor in Russia and Turkey and drafted anti-money laundering, terrorist finance and asset forfeiture legislation at the request of over 25 countries. Ms. Hayden served as the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) first national security coordinator and represented the DOJ in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global standard setter for antimony laundering and terrorist financing and.

During her career, Ms. Hayden served as a senior advisor for the US Intelligence Community, the US Department of Justice, the US Department of the Treasury Office of Technical Assistance, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Anti-Corruption Academy in Austria. She is on the Board of Trustees of the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute and sits on two advisory boards for illicit trade and anti-corruption. Ms. Hayden is currently the legal strategist for International Wildlife Trust, an NGO formed to build prosecutable cases against organized crime groups whose wild life criminal activities have thus far remained insulated and untouchable. Ms. Hayden continues to follow her passion for Native American issues and is working on a strategy to address the US tragedy of murdered and missing Native American women and girls through investigation, advocacy and legislation.

The SFWAF Program will be in the:  The SFCC Board Room (#223) which is in the West Wing (Administration building) of the Santa Fe Community College.
Illicit Trade: A Complex Web Of Criminals, State Sponsors And Opportunists2019-09-18T22:29:37-07:00

Understanding Orban’s Hungary


  September 24, 2019

 Dr. Deborah Cornelius

Hungary and the Fidesz regime of Viktor Orban have been much in the news in recent months, with criticism of the increasing centralization of power, control of the free press, and blows to academic freedom. Despite protests against widespread propaganda, increasing government control, limitations on freedom of academic research, during her most recent visit Dr. Cornelius found that much of the population still appear satisfied with the Fidesz government. They often praised the Orban regime and its accomplishments, although with a nonchalant acknowledgement of widespread corruption.

The fall of communism led to wild hopes in Central and Eastern Europe that the inhabitants would be able to join capitalist Western Europe and garner the benefits and standard of living associated with the West. Why has the early wild enthusiasm of 1990 disintegrated into disappointment and resentment? What accounts for the popularity of the Orban regime? Why is the opposition is so weak and fragmented? How have past governments failed the population, beginning with the rapid privatization after 1990? How has the refugee crisis of 2015 raised Orban’s popularity and increased criticism of the European Union? Does Orban represent the forefront of a rising tide of populist leaders in Eastern Europe, or his regime specific to the Hungarian situation?

Deborah S. Cornelius

Deborah S Cornelius is a historian and former professor at Rutgers, the State University. Her field of study is Central and Eastern Europe with a focus on Hungary and the lands of the former Hungarian Kingdom. She received her doctorate from Rutgers University, 1994, after a year of research in Hungary on a Fulbright Research Fellowship. Her MA is from Yale University, 1958 and BA from Connecticut College, 1956. She has taught at Franklin and Marshall College, the International School of Vienna, Austria, the American School,Tangier, Morocco, and Santa Fe Prep School. A leading US authority on Hungary, Cornelius most recently spent five weeks in Budapest studying the present state of the Hungarian regime.

Her publications concerning Hungary and the former kingdom include:  Hungary in World War II: Caught in the Cauldron. Fordham University Press, 2011. Kutyaszorítóban: Magyarország és a II.világ háború. Rubicon-kőnvek. 2015. In Search of the Nation: the New Generation of Hungarian Youth in Czechoslovakia 1925-1934. 1925-1934. Columbia U. Press.1999.

The SFWAF Program will be in the:  The SFCC Board Room (#223) which is in the West Wing (Administration building) of the Santa Fe Community College.
Understanding Orban’s Hungary2019-09-18T22:40:18-07:00
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