Question: What are the chances of Russia and the US working together?

Doug Bandow – we need to reverse the policies of the last few years and have fully staffed embassies so we can talk to each other. We need to encourage the young people to have interaction between the two countries and go beyond the idea that the other is evil. We should revive the previous partnerships.

Guy Taylor - Should the Russian and US governments be encouraging things by facilitating visas for exchange or can this be left to private organizations and civil society? Could the CATO institute be more involved with civil society organizations. There were such dialogues between the US and India recently, but we need more between the US and Russia. US universities could play a role in this. This would also be an economic connection, since Russia remains a big market for many American companies. This requires a certain behavior on the part of the US government.

Question: Does Russia support North Korea having ICBMs which can reach the US?

Dr. Georgy Toloraya - We are absolutely against it. On the previous question on exchanges, in the past the US was seen as a beacon of culture, but this changed in the 1990s when Russia wanted to be embraced as part of the free world and was rejected. Democracy came to be seen as the rule of gangsters. Most people in Russia think that the US wants to see regime change in Russia and Russians don’t want this. He agrees with the need for better relations and the facilitation on exchanges. He himself has difficulty to obtain a visa for the US.

Question: There is reported mass starvation in North Korea. Why can’t Russia, China or the US stop this?

Doug Bandow – North Korea is very independent, and they have closed themselves off with the Covid pandemic. They are hesitant to admit to the world the problems they have. Kim Jung Un recently referred to an “arduous march”. This is an area where the three powers could work together to find a solution wherein North Korea would not feel that its independence is threatened.

Dr. Georgy Toloraya – North Korea is heading toward increasingly centralized government. Even China and Russia cannot get their aid into North Korea because the borders are closed, and North Korea says it doesn’t need it.

Guy Taylor – It’s the Kim regime that has rules in place to prevent the movement of humanitarian aid into North Korea, because they are afraid this channel will be used to sneak propaganda into the country.

Question: On denuclearization – what are the possible steps to even look at that to find a safer situation around the world?

Guy Taylor – The Singapore and Hanoi summits were portrayed as having failed, but they were nevertheless historic. It made clear the North Korean demand that the US should also denuclearize. What that means is to reduce the US nuclear deterrent shield in Northeast Asia, rather than the complete denuclearization of the US. However, even the Biden administration does not want to touch this, because the shield is not there only for North Korea.

Doug Bandow – Sanctions relief could be a way forward to reduce the danger on the road to denuclearization. The Rand corporation has reported that North Korea could soon have 200 nuclear weapons: we need to avoid that. We have to convince Kim Jung Un that he would be better off not having nuclear weapons.

Question: Ambassador Christopher Hill is advocating dialogue with North Korea. Should the 6 party talks be reopened?

Dr. Georgy Toloraya thinks we will have to live with North Korea as a nuclear power and doesn’t think that under Kim Jung Un there could be much of a compromise, because Kim Jung Un unexpectedly offered a major concession in Hanoi, which was to close their major nuclear facility. Not all of the North Korean leadership agreed with this, but he took personal responsibility and felt rebuffed after the summits and this he felt as a deep personal insult, so he is unlikely to repeat this. He was hoping to achieve normal relations with the US, as has happened with Vietnam. They wanted to feel they had strategic parity with the US. Regarding nuclear weapons, the only way is to try to limit things. No one worries about India and Pakistan because they have friendly relations with the US, so the way forward is to improve relations with North Korea.

Guy Taylor – There is an awareness on the US side that Kim Jung Un felt spurned in Hanoi and they want to open up channels of communication, saying they want to talk with no preconditions. In response, we get no response from Kim Jung Un and belligerent responses from his sister. If the US were to ask to talk to Pakistan, they would offer them the red carpet. So, there is some level of responsibility here on the part of North Korea. At some point, the onus is on North Korea.

Doug Bandow agreed with this viewpoint. We may need to go for 5 party talks. The US should offer to talk to North Korea in any format and tell them that if they don’t want it, we will talk to all the other parties anyway.

Question: UPF has been supporting developing economic trade between the US and Russia and a proposal was made for a Bering strait tunnel and bridge.

Dr. Georgy Toloraya thinks this is more symbolic and that it would be more important to develop the normal economic relations, wherein the US stops refusing to deal with Russian banks.

Guy Taylor agrees that that is symbolic idea, but it’s unlikely to happen in the near future. However, it would be a good talking point to help dialogue. Russia retains its animosity that Russia was downgraded in the eyes of the Americans and Putin’s stance stems from this. A joint effort to combat climate change would be a good discussion point.

Doug Bandow – We’ve got to move away from sanctions, even a couple of them, to open up dialogue. They need to find things in common and pull back from mutual animosity.

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