In front of an attentive audience in the Low Library Rotunda, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin described the global benefits of keeping close ties between the United States and the Russian Federation .
Putin reminded the audience that there was a time in the not too distant past when the U.S. and Russia enjoyed the kind of amicable relationship that could again flourish today.
"When we have been together, we have always achieved success and triumphed over evil, tyranny and prejudice," Putin said, after describing the concordant relationship and correspondence between U.S. President Jefferson and Emperor Alexander in 1807. Putin explained that benefits can again accrue for both countries, including greater trade opportunities, enriched cultural exchange and enhanced global security.
To realize theses benefits Putin emphasized the need for reevaluating the manner in which both countries learn about each other.
"Unfortunately, the American school of 'sovietology' and the Soviet school of 'American studies,' or rather, 'the study of American imperialism,' as they liked to say in Russia at the time, were for many years the hostages of big politics, when our countries alternated between becoming allies, and bringing the world to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe," Putin stated. Scholarly work was excessively politicized during the Cold War, Putin explained, which worked to reinforce stereotypes—a trend, which he believes continues today.
"Today, our countries adhere to many common values like never before," he said. "However, we can see that we are still a long way from a complete and mutual end to differences and stereotypical views about each other." Putin encouraged the students in the audience focusing on Russian studies to directly involve themselves in this task.
In an increasingly interconnected world, Putin stressed that a new approach to education can not only enhance the benefits of a free society for both countries, but can be used as a safeguard for the common values of living that both the U.S. and Russia work to enjoy. Neither country is a stranger to the horrors of terrorism, Putin explained, suggesting that the use of force to combat these threats can only go so far.
"The conflict of regions and nations should be countered by the institutions of knowledge and humanism," Putin explained.
By using a combined intellectual front, Putin believes both countries can focus on the roots for terror such as poverty and social instability.
After his speech, Putin toured Butler Library and its Bakhmeteff Archive, which boasts the second largest depository of Russian émigré materials outside of Russia.
Putin, along with Russian Minister of Sport Vyacheslav Fetisov, also oversaw a baseball skills competition on the South Field between a Russian youth baseball team and a Harlem RBI youth squad. Major League Baseball president Bob Dupuy was in attendance and met with Putin to promote the sport.
Columbia's own head baseball coach, Paul Fernandes was on hand with players Brian Doveala and Jessen Grant to present the Russian President with a Lions jersey.