Russia and the West moving into state of more “professional antagonism”

The Russian Prosecutor General has declared Bard College an “undesirable organization”. This means that any Russian citizen who maintains a relationship with the American liberal arts school faces up to six years in prison, while all foreign professors and students are banned from Russia. Bard runs a mini-campus in Saint Petersburg, so the number of affected students and staff is pretty large.

Sam Greene writes about this on his Substack:

The news about Bard shattered a number of illusions. Bard should have been safe, because it’s a university, not an NGO or a media outlet, the usual targets of the Kremlin’s crusade against Western influence. Bard should have been safe, because its Russian project is headed by one of the few men who can pick up the phone and call Vladimir Putin. Bard should have been safe, because it preemptively purged itself of dissident professors, thus proving its loyalty. I could go on.

The truth, of course, is that these were stories that Bard and its allies in Russia — and those allies include everyone who would like to see robust collaboration between Russian and Western universities, collaboration that will now almost certainly be severely curtailed — told themselves. But that’s all they ever were: stories told in order to help the impermanent seem more permanent, the untenable more tenable.

Bard and the rest of us will now need to adjust not to a new reality, but to an old reality that we had been unwilling or unable to recognize. In many ways, it is a reality that makes more sense than the one we had perceived before: a reality in which the rules are clearer and brook fewer exceptions, and in which no more effort need be expended on the maintenance of illusions.

And on a similar note, we see this nomination to the Biden administration:

This touches on something that I thought about after Putin and Biden’s summit in Geneva: We seem to be entering into a phase of more professional antagonism. There is no actual softening of relations, but both Russia and the West seem more clarified about the state of affairs.

This could be a good thing in some respects. A symmetrical understanding of the situation is necessary for proper crisis management, and we need to rebuild some of the professional lines of communication that once existed in order to sort out misunderstandings. That requires a professional attitude about being adversaries.




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