National Press Club

Economic ties build foundation to address security concerns, Russians tell Nov. 18 Newsmaker

November 21, 2011 | By Peter Hickman |

The United States and Russia must develop a strong economic relationship in order to address nuclear and terrorism issues, according to two Russian businessmen and a retired general who spoke at a Nov. 18 Newsmaker.

Retired Gen. Victor Yesin, former chief of staff of the Strategic Nuclear Missiles Department of the Soviet Ministry of Defense, said the United States and Russia "must have strong economic ties, because without that, we cannot have strong political ties."

Yesin and the Russian business officials came to Washington as part of a larger group to meet with their U.S. counterparts and mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet-American World War II alliance.

Yesin said Russia is trying to develop a small business sector but is making slow progress because "we had no experience in this area during Soviet times."

During the Cuban missile crisis, Yesin said he was stationed in Havana with order to fire nuclear missiles toward Washington and New York, if the U.S. bombed Cuba.

Evgeny Savostiyanov, vice chairman of the Center for Russia-USA Rapprochement, said nuclear non-proliferation remains a concern, along with terrorism.

"We may use different tactics to deal with these issues," he said, "but the goal is the same."

Yesin also said both countries must work with Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinijad in dealing with Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"It might not be pleasant," he said, "but we must do it."

David Iakobachvili, president of the Russian-American Business Council, said Washington and Moscow should "work closer on the presidential level" on matters of mutual concern.

During their week in Washington, the Russian delegation met with officials in the State and Defense departments, members of the Russian Congressional Caucus and representatives of think tanks.