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John Mroz, who died earlier this month, was well known to those Russians who, over the last three decades, participated in public policy exchanges with their American colleagues. Back in 1980 Mroz founded the EastWest Institute, a novel concept of a "think and do tank" which sought to organize Track 2 and Track 1.5 discussions across the Cold War divide.
It would be correct to say that John himself was a global institution. His ebullient energy allowed him to reach the high and mighty around the world and engage them in the cause of greater international security. The issues he took up ranged from Israel-PLO dialogue to Germany's reunification to U.S.-Russian cooperation on ballistic missile defense. Sometimes these engagements produced policy outcomes, sometimes not, but they always left an impact.
As the United States and Russia have just entered a new period of bitter rivalry, serious dialogue between their concerned citizens is as important as it was in 1980, when John Mroz founded his institute. However, ironically, there is less recognition now of the urgency of this task and less willingness to take it up.
Leaving U.S.-Russian relations to occasional phone calls between the Kremlin and the White House and the periodic meetings between the two countries' foreign ministers is not a good option when the media on both sides are becoming increasingly polemical, with many journalists and experts acting as combatants in an information warfare.
A new effort to structure serious discussions between Russians and Americans is sorely needed. Track 2 and Track 1.5 exchanges are indispensable for moving the U.S.-Russian relationship off the dangerous course it has taken. John Mroz has departed precisely at the moment when the need for his services has peaked again. He will be missed.
Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.
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