The recently created American Committee for East-West Accord could provide an important forum for dialogue between leaders of the U.S. and Russia.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, wait for the start of a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotelin Lausanne, Switzerland on March 28, 2015. Photo: AP

Against the backdrop of the recent G7 Summit in Germany, which saw U.S. President Barack Obama publicly chastise Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis, and the outbreak of new fighting in eastern Ukraine, the creation of the new American Committee for East-West Accord, which formally launched on June 4, is especially timely.

One of its founders, former U.S. State Department adviser James Carden, characterized the new Committee for East-West Accord as “a collaborative effort between distinguished scholars, businessmen and public servants, who seek new ways to collaborate with people from across a wide spectrum on holding a real dialogue over the current problems bedeviling the U.S.-Russian relationship.”

The name of the new Committee, of course, instantly evokes the old Cold War-era American Committee on East-West Accord, a pro-détente organization founded in 1974 and based in Washington, D.C., which aimed at improving East-West relations with a special focus on U.S.-Soviet relations.

Princeton Professor Emeritus Stephen F. Cohen, also a founding member of the new Committee for East-West Accord, stated that the old committee was part of the emerging official détente policy of the Nixon-Kissinger administration. He further emphasized that, “The old Committee, formed mainly by corporate CEOs, was well funded, had offices in Washington D.C., and had supporters in many places — in the media, in Congress, in the two political parties, in the State Department, etc. We have none of these advantages now. Our struggle is therefore much more difficult, but therefore also more important.”

Given the unfolding crisis in relations between Russia, the U.S. and Europe risk construction of new division lines and deepening of the old division lines. The current state of relations between Russia, Europe and the U.S. is increasingly more complicated than during the Cold War era because of economic and trade interdependencies. On one hand, it should create a better environment for stable and long-term cooperation, but on the other hand, it comes with a higher risk of negative consequences if a crisis occurs.

The timely creation of the new American Committee for East-West Accord reflects the understanding in certain U.S. circles that the crisis which is unfolding between Russia and the West threatens entire spheres of cooperation created over the decades – including diplomacy, arms control, economics, energy, education, culture, nuclear proliferation, terrorism – and that could put the world on the brink of a new confrontation.

Carden sees the primary goal of the Committee as an attempt “to impact the tenor of the debate over U.S.-Russia policy and the crisis in Ukraine by elevating the tone of the discussion from one which has been dominated (in the U.S., anyway) by ad hominem attacks and baseless assertions to one that centers around a civil discussion regarding the interests of the nations involved and the ethics of the chosen means of carrying those interests out.”

“This we hope will be done though open debate, civilized dialogue with those opposed to achieving any sort of detente or a modus vivendi with Russia,” he said.

Despite the fact that the new Committee on East-West Accord was announced only on June 4, it has already received some positive reaction. Cohen told Russia Direct that, “Several members of Congress have already expressed interest in learning more about our views and proposals, and we may co-sponsor an unofficial event with one or two of them at the Congress either this summer or in September.”

In the meanwhile, the Committee’s members are eagerly trying to reach out to as many members of Congress as possible and to think tanks.

Carden informed Russia Direct that the new committee “already has received many very generous offers of help and assistance from people across the U.S. and Europe who share its foreboding over a renewed Cold War between the U.S. and Russia and who also believe that there are peaceable solutions, not military ones, to the current crisis in Ukraine.”

The Committee is already planning to hold a series of public events cooperating with major universities and think tanks in the U.S., Russia and Europe starting this year.

So, a big first step forward has been made by launching the New Committee for East-West Accord. Now it is the time to draw as much attention to it as possible and to fill its activity with meaningful events. By attracting as many experts, politicians, businessmen, students and academics to its activity as possible, we have a chance to create and develop a constructive and civilized platform where Russia and the West can debate, discuss and engage in mutually beneficial dialogue.

The Committee’s five initial proposals

The new Committee on East-West Accord urges that the governments most directly involved in the Ukraine crisis take the following mutual steps:

1. The Obama Administration should formally join the “Normandy Four”

2. The U.S., NATO and Russia should reactivate the NATO-Russian Council

3. Washington and Moscow should restore the provisions of the 1991 Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program

4. Moscow and Washington should take all necessary steps to preserve the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF)

5. Washington and Moscow should protect educational and related exchange programs