The Librarian of Congress has announced that Congress has provided $9.978 million in fiscal year 2001 funding for the Russian Leadership Program (RLP) and has authorized the creation of a Center for Russian Leadership in the legislative branch to implement the unique exchange program.
The RLP is a nonpartisan initiative of the U.S. Congress designed to foster a mutual exchange of ideas and opinions among political leaders and citizens of Russia and the United States. Since 1999, 3,650 Russian leaders, including 147 members of the Russian Parliament, have been hosted in the United States for seven- to 10-day visits under the auspices of the RLP. Congress asked the Library to administer the RLP for each of its two years as a pilot program.
Public Law 106-554 established the Center for Russian Leadership within the legislative branch to continue the mission the RLP has conducted on a pilot basis for two years: enabling emerging political leaders of Russia at all levels of government to gain significant, direct exposure to the American free-market system and the operation of American democratic institutions through visits to governmental institutions and communities at comparable levels in the United States.
The chief sponsor of the Center legislation is Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Sen. Stevens also sponsored the legislation that originated the RLP pilot program in 1999.
"Dozens of my colleagues in the Senate and the House have hosted their Russian counterparts under the auspices of the RLP and have seen firsthand the unique opportunity that the RLP provides to improve relations with a new generation of Russian political leaders," said Sen. Stevens. "I am proud to have sponsored all the authorizing legislation for the program and look forward to helping the Library shape the transition to the new Center for Russian Leadership."
"The RLP's managers, hosts and participants are honored that Congress has chosen to continue to support the RLP," said Dr. Billington. "The creation of the center is the culmination of our efforts to establish lasting, mutually beneficial relations between members of Congress and other American political and civic leaders and their counterparts among Russia's emerging leadership."
According to Geraldine M. Otremba, RLP chief executive officer, "The authorization for a permanent center is not only a significant validation of the success of our two pilot years, but also an opportunity to continue to improve the quality of the programs we provide for the Russian participants."
The center will be independent of the Library of Congress, but the Library is authorized to provide space and support services to the center on a reimbursable basis. The $9.978 million appropriated by Congress in fiscal year 2001 will finance this year's RLP exchanges under the current "Open World 2000" exchange model administered by the Library. The appropriation will also fund the transition to the new center.
In addition to the public funding provided by Congress, the center will solicit contributions from the private sector to ensure the long-term continuation of the RLP. "Creation of the center allows the Russian Leadership Program to draw more effectively upon the resources of the private sector," said former Rep. James W. Symington, chairman of the RLP's Advisory Committee. "Private sector leaders will play an important role not only in contributing funds, but also in providing guidance to the center's management and participating in the program."
The first step in establishing the center is the appointment of a Board of Trustees. The center's board will include nine members, two appointed by the U.S. Senate – Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) – two by the U.S. House of Representatives and four by the Librarian of Congress, who will also serve on the board. The center is expected to be established by early summer.
Dr. Billington held discussions in Moscow in December with Speaker Gennady Seleznyev and other leaders of the Russian Duma on exchange priorities for the coming year. "There seems to be general agreement on placing emphasis on the rule of law and on providing exchange opportunities not only for legislators, but also for judges, prosecutors and others responsible for law enforcement and administration," said Dr. Billington.
"We hosted 103 judges during the 2000 RLP and learned a great deal about how to design a program that is responsive to encouraging judicial reform under way in Russia," added Ms. Otremba. "We have now secured the partnership of senior federal judges as hosts for the 2001 program. This new partnership will significantly enhance the quality of the program in the United States and strengthen long-term professional ties between Russian and U.S. members of the judiciary."
The first parliamentary delegations are planned for June-July 2001. Topics include the World Trade Organization, intellectual property and anticorruption.
The RLP was proposed by Dr. Billington, a leading historian of Russian culture, who suggested that Russia could benefit from a program similar to the post-World War II Marshall Plan, which brought groups of emerging young German leaders to the United States. "The participants in that program are a Who's Who of those who crafted Germany's democratic government after World War II," he said.
The U.S. Congress appropriated $10 million to the RLP in both fiscal year 1999 (PL 106-31) and fiscal year 2000 (PL 106-113) and established the pilot program in the Library of Congress. The American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS has managed the logistical aspects of the program on behalf of the Library.
The RLP "Open World" program was created in 1999 with the esteemed Russian academician Dmitry Likhachev as co-chairman. In its first two years, the RLP brought a wide range of new Russian leaders to the United States. The program selected participants from 88 of 89 Russian regions and from all levels of leadership: national, regional and local. The Russian leaders were hosted in 48 states and the District of Columbia by nonprofit and governmental organizations with expertise in operating exchange programs, including the American Foreign Policy Council, the Center for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Rotary International, the Russia Initiative of the United Methodist Church, the Friendship Force, Peace Links, Meridian International Center and the International Institute of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School.
"Open World 2000" brought 92 State Duma deputies – more than 20 percent of the Russian State Duma – and 14 Federation Council members to the United States. The parliamentary delegations were grouped by area of interest, including defense, national security, rule of law, federalism, environment and energy. A member of Congress or a governor hosted each parliamentary delegation, whose members traveled to Washington for high-level meetings and to their congressional or gubernatorial host's home state or district for site visits, briefings and roundtables. Twenty-one U.S. representatives, four U.S. senators and five governors served as RLP hosts. "The RLP provides an opportunity for those who participate in our democratic process to offer insight on a one-on-one basis with our Russian counterparts," said Sen. Stevens.
In 2000, the Russian Leadership Program also sponsored 10 RLP alumni conferences in cities across Russia to hear directly from participants about ways to strengthen the program and to put RLP participants throughout Russia in better touch with each other. In a survey conducted among the 1999 participants attending the conferences, almost half of the respondents reported that the scope of their professional responsibilities had increased as a result of the exchange, and 26 percent reported that their employment status had risen since their RLP participation.
The RLP owes much of its success to date to the support of the U.S ambassador to the Russian Federation, James F. Collins, and to the work of his dedicated embassy staff. "The Russian Leadership Program represents a remarkable achievement of public diplomacy," said Ambassador Collins. "The new Center on Russian Leadership promises to continue the program's success in bringing the peoples of the United States and the Russian Federation closer together."