Ani Kokobobo and Colleen Lucey Write on the State of Russian Studies and US-Russian Relations for Kennnan's Russia File

Friday, July 31, 2020

Alumnae Ani Kokobobo (Ph.D. '11, Slavic Languages) and Colleen Lucey (B.A. '06, Barnard Russian Studies) co-authored "If You Thought US-Russian Relations Were Bad Now, Wait Another 10 Years," a blog post for the Kennan Institute's Russia File (July 23, 2020).

Today’s fraught political tensions with Russia are an unfortunate yet predictable outcome of the shrinking number of area specialists, which in turn has led to atrophy in the public discourse on Russia. As we grapple with the news of a suspected Russian plot to kill American troops, we need commentators able to draw out the historical context of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan, the legacy of colonialism in imperial, Soviet, and post-Soviet contexts, and the ongoing disinformation campaigns waged from within Russia to steer public opinion at home and abroad.

We need smart, nuanced reporting on Russia that does not collapse our current moment into a familiar Cold War paradigm of “us versus them” that reduces rather than expands our understanding of the region. We need the best trained experts in Russian political life working for the State Department to help it navigate these uncharted waters, yet the DOS’s cultural and linguistic competency, built during the Cold War and sustained, if meagerly, thereafter, beyond the dissolution of the USSR, is under serious threat.

Kokobobo is Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Slavic and Eurasian Languages and Literatures, University of Kansas; Lucey is Assistant Professor, Department of Russian and Slavic Studies, University of Arizona.