An American professor working at the Russian School of Economics spoke about why it is impossible to turn back in relations between the Russian Federation and the United States.
MOSCOW – Professor Stephen Hoyt is today the head of the NES research and education group, and he also teaches a joint bachelor’s program at the Higher School of Economics and the Russian School of Economics. He has been teaching in Moscow for two years and returns to the United States a year later. “I don’t know if you notice,” Hoyt jokes in response to the question “Why?” “But the weather here is quite difficult for life.”.
After working at Eastern Washington University, Stephen Hoyt lived and taught in Germany for eight years. After that, he began his working trip to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Moldova and, finally, Russia. Here, in addition to teaching, he develops language programs for students, with the support of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.
Now the Russian language has been added to the spoken German, French and Spanish. Hoyt’s biography says that he reads Russian classics “with pleasure” and “regularly”.
The Voice of America Russian Service correspondent was able to speak with the professor at one of the economic conferences where Hoyt was surrounded by his students. They can be understood: even a conversation about politics and economics Hoyt was able to turn into an interesting literary discourse..
Anastasia Laukkanen: By the end of the year, everyone sums up the results and makes predictions. Over the past year, many events have taken place in international relations. As a US professor in Russia, you have forecasts for the development of relations between the two countries.?
Stephen Hoyt: If we talk about relations between Russia and America, then I see one big problem here. The Russians are convinced that the Americans do not like Russia. But that’s not true, because, I must say, most Americans don’t think about Russia at all. No, really, they don’t think.
A.L .: This is not the first time I have heard such a statement …
S.Kh .: I’m sorry to say this, but it’s just a fact. But, apparently, Putin wants to make people believe otherwise, because this is an opportunity to use the factor of fear. It seems to me that this also affects economic relations. Because the economy of democratic countries, judging by experience, shows better results than the economy of more totalitarian states. Likewise, economic relations between democracies, again, perform better. And if Russia is moving away from democratic principles, then, in my opinion, the United States is trying and will try to be careful with the way it does business with Russia. Moreover, the United States realizes that leaders like Putin respect strength, respect power. And so America is not afraid to project an image of power.
From an economic point of view, Russia, unfortunately, is known for using other people’s technologies, and for US products, for example, it imposes tariffs at customs. And with the technology that has got to Russia, anything can happen. Most likely, after Russia joined the WTO, this will no longer continue, and the situation will be taken under control. Or, at least, they will create an “image” that the situation is under control. It is interesting here how they will work with corruption, by the way. Because corruption is a huge problem, and many of my students write work and research about it. And this will also have to be dealt with if both sides want to improve economic relations. You see, the best economic relations, after all, are between equal partners than unequal ones. Even the relationship between a man and a woman is better if the partners are equal (laughs). It’s the same here.
A.L .: And what now prevents Russia and America from acting as equal partners??
S.Kh .: It seems to me that Russia and America can be excellent equal partners. But only if you change this new internal policy of Putin. That is, to stop registering organizations as “foreign agents”, for example, to begin with. This creates internal tension in the country. In general, it seems to me that this is a return to the Soviet mentality. If the country can now avoid trying to play the Soviet Union again, it could really improve relations between the countries..
The economy is composed of many components. For example, it seems to me that Russians have a “protracted” mentality. It is interesting to observe how, for example, the attitude towards work does not change at all. Perhaps it has remained unchanged since tsarist Russia. I read a lot of Russian writers of the 19th century, of course all the classics. And I constantly, really constantly, find references to the fact that the peasants are trying by all means to avoid work, that everyone drinks … And although Russia has changed a lot more than once since then, it still “holds on” to some “traditions” … The simplest example: did Gogol write about fools and roads? Russians often tell me that this is still one of the biggest problems in the country..
A.L .: What do you think, will “anti-American” laws be adopted now, from a ban on the import of food to the severing of diplomatic relations??
S.Kh .: Absolutely yes. Although I do not know the exact level of pressure. I will not comment on diplomatic relations, but on economic ones. I know that Putin is in power, among other things, because … how to put it … because he turns many situations into financially beneficial for many circles. At the regional level and at the national level. I do not think that Russia can “ban” American products, they have gone too deeply into the life and economy of the country. See how Medvedev loves American products. Perhaps in some sectors this is possible, but not at all at a significant level. And this will be connected with personal interests, and with political interests, of course.
A.L .: Returning to forecasts, analysts talk about three options for the development of relations between Russia and the United States: a positive option, a negative option, and stagnation. What do you think?
S.Kh .: It depends on who you are talking to: for whom it is positive, for whom it is negative. In many areas, turning back is not possible. But the increase in pressure – yes, it is quite real. Moreover, Putin is not afraid of physical strength. And he is more likely to apply it than not..
Although … sometimes it seems to me that the situation is starting to change, but I cannot understand in which direction. For example, some time ago I attended a karate tournament (Stephen Hoyt has a black belt in taekwondo – ed.). And Vladimir Putin was defeated. Dumped to the ground. I remember being shocked. I wrote several articles for American magazines, and everywhere I said that I just could not believe it. This is simply impossible to imagine a couple of years ago. And it is absolutely impossible to imagine in the Soviet Union. Wait, though. This happened when Putin was not president. He was the prime minister. Now it’s getting harder to analyze! (laughs).
In general, I think that the future of Russian-American relations is rather positive. But for some people and for some sectors, it won’t. I imagine it this way: two steps forward, one step back. And still, it’s a dance. Such, Russian tango. I say, rather, positively, because I simply cannot imagine turning back. Although, this has happened before. Some moments in history are impossible to predict. Great, decisive moments are completely impossible to predict in advance..