Mark Pomar (Russian Institute ’76; Ph.D., Slavic Languages ’78; member Harriman National Advisory Council) writes on the complex challenges that accompanied the era of open communications after the end of the Cold War (Foreign Service Journal, May 2023).
On Sept. 26, 1988, Valentin Falin, the chair of Novosti Press Agency, and Charles Z. Wick, director of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), opened the U.S.-USSR Information Talks, a three-day conference in Moscow aimed at expanding free access to information and increasing the number of cultural activities, exchanges, and exhibits. Building on the success of the May-June 1988 Moscow Summit—when President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev finalized the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF)—the information talks brought together high-ranking Soviet officials and 67 U.S. government officials and private-sector leaders to begin a new era of communication between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The past 40 years have shown the importance and complexity of U.S.-Russian relations in the area of public diplomacy. After an initial burst of freedom of information, starting in the late 1980s, today’s Russia (along with other authoritarian regimes) has again reverted to dictatorial rule, anti-Western rhetoric, and disinformation campaigns.
Pomar is the author of Cold War Radio: The Russian Broadcasts of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Potomac Books, 2022)