Experts of the US think tank at NATO quarreled over Russia

A serious conflict flared up in the leading American think tank at NATO Atlantic council. The reason was the article about Russia written by two experts of the center. It was reported on Friday, March 12, by the Politico newspaper.

In an article this week, senior experts Emma Ashford and Matthew Burrows argued in Washington that overemphasis on Russia’s human rights record and its “democratization” might not be good for American foreign policy interests.

Their colleagues were outraged by the article and 22 of the institute’s experts signed an open letter harshly criticizing it. Among those displeased are a number of former high-ranking U.S. diplomats now serving on the council: former Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow, former Ambassador to Uzbekistan and Ukraine John Herbst, and former Ambassador to Poland and former Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried.

“Their article is based on the false assumption that human rights and national interests are completely independent of each other and that human rights concerns have been and remain at the heart of American policy toward Russia,” the document reads.

One of the authors of the appeal, on condition of anonymity, told newspaper reporters that it could “undermine the credibility of some of the material published by the Atlantic Council on the Russian issue.”

“The reputational risk is that the council will be associated with reasoning that boils down to the fact that we should give Putin free rein in his country, including killing political opponents and invading the territory of neighbors whenever he deems it necessary,” he said.

Another writer suggested that the material may have been paid for by billionaire Charles Koch, who supports the Atlantic council with donations and advocates less U.S. meddling in other countries’ affairs. However, another source disagreed with this assertion, calling it “outrageous” because the institute, he said, does not accept donations that commit to “dependent” analytical work.

Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office declared the work of the Atlantic Council NGO undesirable in the summer of 2019. The agency considered that this organization threatens the “foundations of the constitutional order and security” of Russia. Meanwhile, former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Huntsman (2017-2019) was the chairman of the council from 2014 to 2017.

On March 5, Yulia Sviridenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, called on the administration of US President Joe Biden to impose a “new comprehensive sanctions regime” against Russia with restrictions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline during a video conference of the Washington-based Atlantic Council.