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Retired Ambassador James Collins Talks Russian Relationswith Residents of Riderwood

SILVER SPRING, MD—With international affairs in the Middle East taking center stage this summer, the relationship between the United States and Russia is again under the microscope.

Residents of Riderwood, the Erickson Living retirement community, were able to hear from a diplomat who has enjoyed a unique vantage point to relations between the two super powers.

The Continuing Education Committee of Riderwood hosted retired Ambassador James Collins on September 26th for a presentation entitled “U.S. Relations with Russia: Is the Past Prologue?”  Over 150 residents attended the learning series event.

Ambassador Collins served as the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow during the transition from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin (1997-2000); retired from the diplomatic corps, he is now the Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Career diplomats who represent the interests of the United States in foreign embassies often go unnoticed, but their service is vital to our nation,” stated Robert Sprinkle, who coordinated the event and introduced Ambassador Collins.  “We are proud to have such a distinguished public servant as James Collins share his insight and knowledge.”

Ambassador Collins paraphrased a predecessor, Robert Strauss, in describing the typical state of affairs between the two nations.  “They are never as bad as reported but never as good as you’d like them to be,” stated Ambassador Collins.

He noted that domestic politics, not international events, often dictate the relationship between the United States and Russia.  Ambassador Collins also identified pivotal opportunities that could influence the future of the two counties.

“The removal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the Syrian chemical weapons agreement offer openings for the relationship to be increasingly effective and productive, but they also could be nothing more than just marking time,” he stated.

Following his presentation, Ambassador Collins fielded questions from the audience on topics that included the socio-economic development of Russia, the impact of the Iranian nuclear program and the interplay with China.

With degrees from Harvard and Indiana University, Ambassador Collins joined the Foreign Service in 1969 - his first assignment being at the Consulate General in Izmir, Turkey. 

He has received distinguished service awards from the State Department, Defense Department and NASA as well as honorary degrees from The Russian Academy of Science, Nizhniy Novgorod State Linguistics University, Moscow State University, Indiana University and the University of Maryland University College.

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