Sunday night, Strobe Talbott ’68 went on with his life.
Just three days after announcing he would leave his post as the director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization to head the Brookings Institution, Talbott spoke to a modest Law School Auditorium audience of about 70 on “Putin’s Path: Russian Foreign Policy After 9/11.”
The semester’s first installment of the Democracy, Security and Justice lecture began with a cautionary remark from Cynthia Farrar, who introduced Talbott.
“Just a warning to the Brookings Institute,” said Farrar, the director of urban academic initiatives in the Office of New Haven and State Affairs. “You can take him out of Yale, but you can’t take Yale out of him.”
Talbott addressed the widespread impressions that the events of Sept. 11 transformed the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Russia.
“The really key point is that post-Sept. 11 is not so much change but a point of continuity,” he said. “I think that one result of this was that [Russia] now could believe that the United States was willing to work with Russia for a common cause.”
Drawing on his experiences as former deputy secretary of state, Talbott spoke at length about the importance of the relationship between the leaders of the two nations and the benefits that may arise out of cooperation.
“Personal relations between leaders matter a great deal,” he said. “There is a lot of evidence that effective dealings of trust between two men can translate into benefits.”
Talbott said the events of Sept. 11 served as an effective catalyst for a renewed sense of cooperation with the United States in foreign affairs, and helped thaw the initially frosty relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush.
“I think it’s important to see Putin wants to define Russian foreign policy with consensus,” he said. “I think the horror and impact of that day gave Vladimir Putin a fast-forward button in Russia’s alignment with the United States.”
Finally, Talbott pointed out that the Russians have much more to be concerned about in regards to the Taliban, in contrast to the United States.
“The fact is that Russia may have a lot more to fear about Osama Bin Laden than we do,” he said. “If Bin Laden had his way, the whole northern Caucasus would all become part of an antagonistic Islamic state.”
Alastair Gillespie ’04 said he enjoyed the lecture.
“It was a very articulate and well-thought out presentation,” he said. “Like all great lectures, it raised questions and provoked thought.”
Guilford resident Fred Smith said he was enthusiastic about the lecture primarily because Talbott was the speaker.
“Strobe Talbott is very well-known and well-respected,” Smith said. “His views on Vladimir Putin are very valuable and informative.”
Joan Shrewsbury of Guilford said she understood Talbott’s decision to leave Yale.
“I can’t say that I blame him,” Shrewsbury said. “[The Brookings Institution] is a wonderful opportunity for him, and I bet that Yale is sorry to see him go.”
Talbott concluded his lecture by addressing the members of the Yale community who were upset about his departure.
“You’re not losing me to Washington,” he said. “I’m going down to see if we can’t establish ties between that institution and this one.”
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