US Consul General in St. Petersburg Mr. Bruce Turner
[Rector of St. Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences, professor Alexander Zapesotsky is making an introductory speech: ]
Today our guest is Bruce Turner – US Consul General in St. Petersburg, a diplomat, distinguished scholar, writer and connoisseur of art.
Bruce Turner was born in Denver, Colorado, where, he said, "People are not very interested in international politics and they learn about politics from TV-screen only." He got a Bachelor’s degree of Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and continued his education at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, where he made a research in the field of philology and literature.
Our high-ranking official guest has the master’s and doctor’s degree in German literature. His doctorate thesis was devoted to modern Austrian literature. But the research interests of our guest are not confined in that. When Bruce Turner studied the problems of international business in Arizona, he came to conclusion that «the market economy is a model of the world, its base being freedom of citizens, and this is free market relations namely that do determine the employment accessible to education».
Bruce Turner is senior career diplomat of the US Foreign Service. In this capacity he worked successfully at the US Mission to the OSCE in Vienne and with NATO in Brussels. His earlier assignments included work in Paris, Moscow, and Ankara. Our guest has successfully headed the Department of Security and Political Affairs in the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau of the US States Department, where he was responsible for relations between Russia and NATO. Affairs of North Korea, Germany and Turkey were also in the field of his concern.
October 2011, he arrived to St. Petersburg as Consul General from Afghanistan, where he was the Director of the Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the US Embassy in Kabul, managing major programs in justice, correctional system, and counternarcotics. "The United States is interested in building economically stable relations with Russia, but first and foremost it is important to build relationships between people, as the relations between the two countries have already been established," Consul General said.
Bruce Turner is fluent in German and French and is also studying Russian. He had begun to study the Russian language before he visited Russia for the first time. Being so fascinated with the Russian language, soon-to-be consul visited Brighton Beach in order to listen to the Russian speech and talk to the people, who live there. Our guest uses every opportunity to speak Russian, but according to his words “Russian remains difficult language for me. Melodic, but difficult”.
He is a family man and is married to Véronique Bertheau, they have two adult children. Mr. and Mrs. Turner both are interested in paintings. An exhibition of St. Petersburg painters was organized in the Consulate General of the United States in St. Petersburg under their guidance in 2011.
Bruce Turner is a connoisseur of symphonic and chamber music, he loves opera. He also enjoys American musical comedies and jazz. Mr. Turner prefers modern dance with elements of ballet to classical ballet. He is fond of cinema and reads reviews even on the movies that he has not seen. You can often see the Turners in St. Petersburg drama theatres or when they have a walk around St. Petersburg. Mr. Consul looks permanently into the studies of European history, culture and languages.
Mister Consul reads a lot of books, writes poems, but he shares them only with his closest friends, because he considers this matter to be very personal. Bruce Turner maintains his web-site page. His favorite holidays are the Thanksgiving Day and the day of his wedding. And by the way, the wedding anniversary is more important for him than his own birthday. In summer, Bruce Turner enjoys riding a bicycle together with his wife, in the town and out in the country. He prefers healthy food - vegetables and fruits. Mister Consul believes that our children will have a better off life than their parents.
According to our tradition, to make you feel free during this meeting, I leave the room and give floor to Mr. Bruce Turner.
[Bruce Turner starts his lecture greeting the audience in Russian:]
Zdravstvujte! Ochen’ rad byt’ zdes’. And I want to say that first of all you have a wonderful, wonderful university, I’ve had a tour, I’ve seen it all, you have really excellent facilities, as good as anything that I’ve ever seen in the United States, perhaps better than most I’ve seen in the United States. I’m struck by friendly atmosphere, here is all students speaking to the teachers and saying hello and that sort of thing. I’d like to say I’m happy to be here, more than that, I’m honored to be here because I really do like to speak to young people. I have two children of my own, as the rector said, I have a daughter who is 23 and a son who is 26. We can talk a little bit later about, you know, what kinds of things they’re doing now, what kind of educational they had, whether their education prepared them for they work afterwards, and that sort of thing.
As the rector also said, I was a professor of German literature for three and a half years before I decided to change professions, so one of the reasons I was a professor, is because I like to be with a young people and I like to talk to you, I’m interested in new ideas, and I hope that when I’m finished, you’ll have a lot of questions because I have a long period of time for one person to talk. And speaking of talking, I would like you to think of this as more as a talk rather than a speech or lecture, I don’t know if you make that distinction in Russian: "Aeto rech vmesto vystuplenija”. So I’m proud to give you an overall idea of subjects that you can ask questions about, so I will cover a broad range of subjects.
I want to apologize too for coming so dressed up today. I don’t usually necessarily feel that I have to be dressed like this in order to speak to a group of students, but earlier I participated in the funeral ceremony for Yuri Schmidt, one of the great human rights lawyers here, in Russia. Our number two from Moscow, plus our political counsel from Moscow actually travelled up to St. Petersburg this morning in order to go to the ceremony. So that’s why we are dressed a little bit more sober that otherwise might be.
Can you understand me all right? It's clear? It's slow enough? I'm not a fast talker unless I get excited, so I’ll try to stay calm. In any case please, forgive me if I put on my glasses, because I'm getting to that age when I can't see everything that I've written on a piece of paper. But I’m going to try to speak. To read partly from what I’ve written and I’ll try to sort of interrupt myself from time to time, if I have a thought that goes along with what I’m saying.
But anyway, today I’ve decided to talk to you about language, communication and diplomacy. Mainly it is a way to sort of combine what I do professionally with what have been some of my interests over all these years. And by the way, another thing that I want to apologize for, you've probably learned more about me from the rector in last ten minutes than you ever want to know and I would urge you to forget most of that as soon as possible because it’s really not that interesting. But, as I said before, I wanted to cover a broad range of subjects, because it’s supposed to be a long presentation, normally I speak for maybe 10, or 15, or 20 minutes, and then I get questions from the audience, but this time I suppose to talk to you about 40 minutes, so I’ll try to stretch it out a little bit.
But I divided it up into seven different areas. A little bit about me, which you’ve already heard, but now you’re going to hear in English, a little bit about the structure of the United States Foreign Service, which is somewhat different from that of the other countries. A little bit about the difference between working in an embassy and working in a consulate, and what is the difference between an embassy and a consulate. Forth, why language is important, how it relates to my job as a diplomat, and how we use language in our job as diplomats. I just thought that would be kind of interesting for you. Fifth, the role of public opinion in modern international relations, because diplomacy is changing very rapidly as a result of that. Sixth, some practical examples of how we use language, the kinds of things we do as diplomats, and the different kinds of formats, the different kinds of structures we work with. And lastly just a few words about relations between Russia and the United States, because I know that’s an issue that’s of interest probably to everyone. And it’s a relationship which is interesting, to say the least, not always easy, it tends to be rather complicated, but it doesn’t mean that the relations between you and me have to be complicated.
So, the Rector said about me personally, this is my second time in Russia. I was in Russia in Moscow the first time from 2001 to 2004. And before I came to St. Petersburg, I spent a year in Afghanistan working on rule of law issues, counter-narcotics. We were training policemen, we were training prison guards, in some cases we were helping to construct prisons. It’s very interesting and of course we worked very-very closely with the military there. Generally speaking, in diplomacy, when I worked in Washington, for example, we had a lot of what is called interagency meetings. And I’m sure the Russians do exactly the same thing, where you bring all the different players together in one room. Sometimes you do that by DVC, and you have a representative of a State Department, you have a representative of the Defense Department, you have a representative of a Central Intelligence Agency, you have a representative of the Defense Intelligence Agency, etc. And you all sit in the room. And generally speaking, in Washington, it's the State Department and White House that drive the conversation, that make most of the decisions, and the military offers advice to the political decision makers. However, working in Afghanistan it was almost the opposite, because Afghanistan was a war zone, so of course, you need the military to carry out war. So when we met in those meetings there, it was really the military whose words had more weight than the State Department in a lot of ways. So it made for a very interesting kind of work relationship, and it was really interesting to sort of compare the two working methods which of course depend on circumstances.
I was assigned twice to Paris, once in my very first tour, which is one of the great surprises, because I actually married my wife, who's French, before I joined the Foreign Service. The last thing we expected, was to be assigned to Paris, which for me was exciting, for her was rather disappointing, because she didn't leave France in order to return to France two or three years later. Second time, a little bit later in my career, I worked in the United States delegation to NATO, in Brussels, I went there, and the United States delegation to OSCE, in Viena, with OSCE being an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Then the last time - I was in Washington, and I was a director of the office that deals with NATO and deals with OSCE and of course deals also with NATO-Russia relations.
I was in Washington three separate times, we do not have a requirement that you have to go back to Washington, but if it's generally good for your career to go back to Washington from time to time because it’s in the capital, where all the real decisions are made about politicy, so you need that experience and that familiarity within the agency environment. The first time I went back to Washingron was after I came back from Turkey. I worked for two years on Turkish affairs, and then I worked for a year on German affairs. The second time I went back, it was after Vienna, and I worked on North Korea affairs, mainly because I wanted to do something different, but also because it was multilateral affairs, I happened to be someone who really enjoys working in multilateral affairs, I like discussing issues with representatives from other countries, and I like negotiating things. And then I was in Russia, in Paris, in Afghanistan, and then I spent three years in the office that dealt with the NATO and the OSCE.
And in terms of language, I had German and French before I joined the Foreign Service and we get tested when we join, and in order to be promoted at a certain rate, you have to be able to speak just one language at a minimum kind of level. But if you don’t have a language for the country to which you have been assigned, we have a Foreign Service Institute which then teaches you that language, so that you can function at what we call a professional level. It does not mean that you can carry on detail conversation about, you know, gross reason, cooking and all that things. But if you can talk a little bit about political affairs, economic affairs, you can read the newspaper, you can understand the news, you can go to the Foreign Ministry and know how to ask the right question about a particular subject.
So in terms of my language, I would say, you know, I had enough experience in German, you know, I’m right up there at the level of a native speaker. The same is true in French. My Russian, I’m working hard on it and, I think, I’ve improved it a lot since I’ve been here, in Saint-Petersburg; which is also one of the advantages of being in a consulate, we will talk about that a little bit later. But it’s certainly not up to the level of my French or my German. And I also learnt Turkish before I went to Turkey the first time. But that was a long-long time ago. Turkish is… I don’t if it’s harder, easier than Russian, they both are of the same category for us. Some languages such as French and German we get six months of training for. For languages like Russian we get ten months of training, for such languages as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Korean we get two years. And that is only to get up to this basic professional level.
Now a few words about the Foreign Service. What we call “The Foreign Service”. I think other countries tend to call it more like Diplomatic Service, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs is called the State Department, as you all may know. And we call ourselves as the United Foreign Service, and I call myself a Foreign Service Officer, which is just a sort of like a being, the equivalent of a Military Officer.
I like to think of myself as a fairly typical American diplomat. I don’t think I’m that unusual in my educational background, or any of these things. We have a lot of different kinds of people in a lot of different kinds of educational backgrounds in our Foreign Service. As you might expect, you get a certain number of people who’ve done the traditional thing of studying an international relations at one of our major universities. We have a lot of lawyers, a lot of people who started to have a law degree. And America has more lawyers than any other country in the they thought they world,. And when they get out and they start practicing law, and they don’t enjoy it as they might they thought they would, so they switch to the State Department. We have a lot of historians, a lot of people who have studied literature like me, so they’re coming then with foreign languages, a certain number of formal journalists, a lot of people who have studied through the USAID – the United States Agency for International Development, which allows you then to go to a country for, I guess, two or three years, it’s usually a developing country, and usually you’re not living in a capital, but somewhere deep in the country, where you live in a very primitive circumstances. So it is a unique kind of experience.
We get, we enter the Foreign Service, you become a diplomat through an examination process. We have an exam that can be taken by anyone across the United States, it does not matter what your education was, you simply have to pass the exam. If you pass the exam, which is divided up, and I will argue to that in a minute, if you pass the exam, then they look at through background, your curriculum vitaå, what kind of education do you have, what kind of work experience do you have, what kinds of things have you done in your life that show an interests for diplomacy, and a sort of thing. And the last step is to have an oral exam where you go, generally travel to Washington for a day and they have some “mark negotiations”, play negotiations, an interview, a number of things like that to see how you can perform in that context.
As you can see the basic idea probably 20, 30, 40 years ago, most diplomats may have been independently wealthy, most diplomats may have studied at Harvard or Yale. But what we want today for the United States Foreign Services are officers who really represent the American people and reflect the American people. So we want just as many women as we want men, we want people who belong to all different kinds of ethnic backgrounds, racial backgrounds, all different kinds of religions, all different kinds of sexual orientation,- that’s not a factor. We want our Foreign Service to be as diverse as our country is, because we think that’s the best way for our diplomats to be representative of the country that they are promoting.
The Foreign Service, (to the audience: okay so far? Okay) we are divided up, and I think this is also different from other countries, we have six specialties. What I would call generalist officers, we specialize in six different areas, we have political officers, I’m a political officer, we have economic officers, we have public diplomacy officers, consulate officers, who deal with visas and things like that, management officers, who make sure everything works, and then lastly, all of those first five works directly for the State Department. And then we also have commercial officers who work for the United States what we call the United States Commerce Department. And they are there to promote trade and investment. And increasingly our economic officers are taking on some of the responsibilities of commercial officers, because our commercial services are getting smaller, so we have to compensate for that by the increasing the State Department's role.
Generally speaking, in the course of your career, and this is also may be a little bit different from some other countries, you are expected to be familiar with at least two areas of our work, which can be defined as either two geographic areas, I mean it could be Europe and Asia, or South America or Middle East. Or, what we call, functional areas: you can specialize in arms control, trade relations, aviation and number of areas like that. In my case, my two specialty areas were European affairs and multilateral affairs, which had partly an arms control dimension, partly more just a plain political dimension.
We have to, we have a bidding process, I won’t get into that until later, if you have question about it, how we go to the one post to another, it’s a very complicated sort of negotiation process. But we have what we call normal posts where you serve three years, then we have different kinds of hardship posts, based on climate, political factors, security, that sort of thing. If it, say, a reasonable hardship post you go for two years, if it, say, a super hardship post, as it was Afghanistan, it’s limited to one year, and that’s also what we call a non-accompanied post, because you are not allowed to take your family with you, so it’s really more like a military deployment. And I think in the Russian case, at least based on my interaction with my Russian counterparts, when I was in Moscow, I think you tend to be more specialized than we do. Your people who work on the United Nation’s affairs, for instance, they’ve generally gone New-York – Moscow, New-York – Moscow and they know everything about the United Nations, whereas we tend to be, I guess, a little more dilettantish, we believe in moving people around a little bit more, part of that is for reasons of equality and equity. And the last thing that you should know about the Foreign Service is probably half of our employees are Foreign Service nationals, so they are from the country where we are working. And this is something we are very heavily invested and we believe that people who live in a country know that country best, can understand it best, can help us understand it and then know how to work some of the bureaucratic levers, to get things done that we need to get done. If you’re bringing in stuff to the airport, it’s better to have a Russian to deal with that official in the airport, than to have an American to deal with that official, he will get a lot more done.
Now turning to Embassies and Consulates. Do you know differences between an Embassy and a Consulate? Okay, okay… The Embassies are limited to capital cities. That’s the basic distinction. And Consulates are the other representations that you have in other cities. So, we have an Embassy in Moscow, we have Consulates in St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, in Vladivostok. And the major difference between them is that an Embassy does really all of the policy work. I mean, all of those things you read about in the papers where Moscow and Washington are engaged - in dealing with Syria, or engaged with the United Nations, or with NATO, or what our policy is towards Russia, or what Russia’s policy is towards some chatty. That is all the work of Embassy in the capital. So, when I was in Moscow, I was the head of, as we call, External Section, and our job was really to talk the Russian Foreign Ministry, about its views on foreign policy issues – what was happening in Syria, or in the Middle East, with the North Korea, with Iran and etc. So, we are typically [pause]. Typically, I was given an instruction in the morning, you know, Washington wants me to talk to somebody about something. So, you make an appointment, you go over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you represent the views of your country, so this is what we think should be done, and we listen very carefully to what they say, they think should be done.
Then we go home, or not home but back to the embassy, and we write up a report which we then send to Washington and we usually copy several other embassies who are interested in a particularly subject. So it’s this a long drown out process, we are in dialog with other diplomats really all the time, that’s really what the job consist of. And of course, embassies also have counsel sections, they have economic sections, they have commerce sections and other things that they do and we do here in St. Petersburg.
Here in St. Petersburg really my job has to do with almost anything but policy in a certain sense. I am here to promote trade between two countries. We work with American companies. We try to get them interested in Russia, if they are in problems with taxes in this or that, or the other, we might help those companies by talking to the right Russian officials. We have a counsel section, part of my job is to promote tourism and exchanges between Russia and America. The number of visas has grown up about 50% in the last 5 years in St. Petersburg alone. And then, of course, we do a lot in a cultural area. We bring musicians from America, we bring lecturers from America, we show American films at my residence, American films, once a month and then we talk about those films. A basic idea is to bring the Russian and American peoples closer together through personal contacts. So it’s not so the high level policy discussions, that take place between governments, but it’s really focused on increasing ties between our two peoples.
Okay so far? [the audience: “yes”] I guess in my case the reason I wanted to talk about the importance of language is because language has played such an important part, such an important role in my own life. I really do, I’m one of those people who believes in the power of language, I believe in using it wisely and judiciously, I believe in communication, I believe language is the way to get to the truth and to build respect and mutual understanding. I started off with German thinking that I was going to become a medical doctor, because when we went to school, if you wanted to become a scientist, you studied German, if you were a female and you wanted to become cultivated , you studied French, and if you were a little bit lazy you studied Spanish. [laugh in the audience] So I started off with German, again with the idea of probably going into science of some sort, but I just happened to like the language and I happened to like the literature, so I just kept going and going and going, and then of course a lot of time living overseas, in Germany and Austria, and that’s a history of its own. And then I sort of, I came to French, actually through meeting my wife. I actually didn’t speak French at all before I met my wife. I have taught myself how to read French, but I didn’t know how to speak it at all. And then, as I said before, I studied Swedish for a year, when I was doing working on my doctor program, which was pretty easy language, if you speak English and German, because it is some sort lying in the middle, but I discovered also that I forgot it afterwards almost as easily as I learned it.
And then, as I said before, I also learned a little bit of Turkish early in my career and now I am still working on my Russian. In terms of language, there are a lot of things you can do with language. I have done some interpreting for business negotiations. I’ve translated the book from German into English, I guess the book on Shabran. Have you ever been to Vienna? It’s the Austrian equivalent of Versailles, except it’s much smaller, and I guess you could compare it a little bit to Catherine Palace, because it’s located outside the city and you can walk on the grounds. You seem skeptical about that. [voice from the audience: Our palace is much more bright and better] – Okay, I agree with that. Shabran is little bit cozier. And as the rector said, I like to write a lot, I am one of those people who believe in correspondence. It’s very old fashioned now to write letters. Now we write a lot of e-mails, and I have discovered over the years that most of the time I write a lot more then I get from the people, because it’s sort of a dying. I do like to write poetry. Mostly for family, but I send it around a little bit, I did a whole series of poems when I was in Afghanistan. It was sort of a way for me to cope with being there and to describe some of the things that I was seeing. But all that said, you know, for me, as a diplomat, my language has a very practical focus, either I want to understand what’s happening in Russia, or I want somehow to be able to communicate something about what is happening in Russia, or what my country thinks about a given subject.
So, let me just talk a little bit about how language has worked for me in diplomacy. I think a literature background has actually been very useful for me as a diplomat, in some ways I can’t judge, I would say if I had learned International Relations, but in my case since I have a great love for multinational negotiations, what is the product of every multinational negotiations? in general speaking it’s a document. Some sort of a declaration, some sort of understanding, some sort of an agreement, to do this or to do that, and those all documents consist of words. And every one of those word has to be negotiated. So, you sit around big tables and you express your views on what you think, what words should go into that document. And obviously, its very interesting process to sit in a multinational negotiations at OSCE, or NATO, or the United Nations, because it has very sophisticated complex and sort of a game that sort of is going on. As you might expect what Russia has to say about given subject is probably more important than Malta has to say about that same subject. So, you have to know depending on which country you represent, depending on how important that particular word is to your country, you have to sort of know when do you want to raise your hand and speak, when do you want to simply let something happen, and when do you need to say that you can’t agree today, than put that language in brackets, and then you have another two or three days, or maybe a week to sit down with other people and try to work out something that both sides might be able to agree on. That’s the part of diplomacy that I really love. And then you have these moments when you’re in the middle of a negotiation and you get momentum going, and everybody wants to get this document solved.
Usually, because most documents are negotiated in English language, people like me or the British have a certain advantage. If there’s a question about what a word means, they will look to us to explain whether the word is appropriate or not appropriate. Sometimes it’s easier for us to come up with compromises that work for everybody simply because we have a richer vocabulary, a broader knowledge of how the language works. But others are sometimes suspicious that you’re going to turn that in some sort of the way to your own advantage; that is a risk.
What makes diplomacy interesting from a language standpoint is that there’s so much interpretation and translation involved. As I said before, in a lot of these multinational organizations the working language often will be English because it’s one language that everybody knows more or less. But most of the documents still have to be translated into other languages. You may have meetings where you bring in an interpreter to sequentially translate from one language into the other, especially when it’s a very sensitive negotiation. If we go in to negotiation of something very sensitive I will always take along an interpreter, because it’s important for me to speak in my own language when I’m defining the position of my country on a sensitive issue.
So you get the sort of funny meetings where often, for instance, if I understand Russian well - I’ll speak English, my points in English, and I’ll hear the other side’s points in Russian. In that way both sides know exactly what they are saying and the other side with a little lack understands well enough what they are saying, they can write it down accurately.
I just want to give you some background on languages. The United Nations has six official languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian (you don’t have to write this down), Chinese Mandarin and Arabic. But its secretariat which, you know, runs the organization, works in English and French. NATO has two languages: French and English. Although when we have meetings in the NATO - Russia contexts, or with the Partnership for Peace, then we add Russian. The Germans are pushing very hard to have German added. The European Union officially uses twenty three of its twenty seven member states languages which will become twenty eight when Croatia joins. On practice, much of the work is been done in English. And you can imagine the amount of money spent on translating every official document into twenty eight different languages. I think you know, French was the universal diplomatic language of the eighteenth, nineteenth centuries, and in the twentieth century, and I think still today English is the really official language of business and diplomacy, and science, I guess I should say.
But all that said even, you know, in a multinational setting, English is, to my advantage, when I’m working in a country like Russia, or if I’m working in a country like France, it’s very important to be able to show people that you also speak the language of that country. You can understand it more easily, most diplomats do speak English, most politicians do not. Most businessman do have some understanding of English, but a lot of them do not, so that is very important as well, I think you can’t understand the country unless you understand its language, and it’s also an important way to show that you respect that language and culture and that you want to integrate into.
Now then, what I wanna do now is go from language to the broader issue of communication. In particular, I wanna talk about the world of public diplomacy and the role of, [pause] I guess, the media play in modern life. As you all know, public diplomacy is growing in importance. You live in a world, and you know it better than I do, where there’s, where you have television, you have print, you have radio, you have blogs, you have YouTube, you have Facebook, you have VKontakte, you have all of these different things that are happening all the time, which is very-very different from the way the world was before. Moreover, you can follow most things in almost real time. If there’s a demonstration taking place somewhere in the Middle East, you can probably see that on television that evening. As you all know, that some of these demonstrations are being organized through the telephone messages and things like that, so the authorities are having hard time monitoring what is going on and keeping up with what is going on. It’s a little bit of a game. But the point of that is that governments can no longer control the news the way as they did in the past.
You know, in the past, in the United States when I was growing up, we had two, three main television channels. Every night at six o’clock you sat down and watched a Six o’Clock News, and that’s what told you about what was happening in the world. And maybe you read about it a week or so later in the local newspaper. I grew up in Denver, Colorado, the local newspaper might have one small paragraph or something what was happening in the world.
So, what this all means though is that more so then ever in the past in national relations, foreign policy is much more dependent on public opinion than ever was in the past. Because it’s important what citizens think, say to each other, what they think about their own governments. Governments have to take into account public opinion on what is happening, public pressures. Sometimes it liberates governments in different ways, sometimes it can be very constricting. But the fact of the matter is, as Marshal Mc Cluen, I think, said, it’s the medium is the message, what we understand about the world is really what we perceive about the world, and sometimes news travel so quickly, even news which is not accurate, that people make conclusions about something that has happened, that you learn two days later never happened at all. But by that time people have already taken decisions, and there have been consequences as a result of incorrect information. But that is a reality of its own, and then you also have the thing about self, self-fulfilling prophesies: if you believe something to be so, then may be it will be so.
This is, of course, means that diplomacy has had to change accordingly. Generally speaking, if you think about what diplomats do in the old days, it’s we get together in little rooms, we smoke a cigar, you know, we have a quite conversation. It’s all very civilized, you drink a glass of wine maybe, and you talk about how you might solve something, and maybe in a course of an hour, two or three, you come to conclusions.
This is, of course, still a part of a diplomatic life. And as I was saying before, when I was in Vienna or I was in NATO, generally speaking, you have a meeting, what happens at the meeting, especially when it’s an early meeting, is when countries lay out their positions. And then so you say it’s okay, that’s your position, and when you meet afterwards, and you say, okay, that’s what you said, what’s your bottom line, how much flexibility do you really have? is it something your government really hopes strongly to, or this is just sort of speaking and that’s not that important to you? That’s how you gradually figure it out. What are the difficult issues, what are the bottom lines? How can we bridge these different problems? And as you know, if you ever listen to a press conference given by a diplomat, what do you hear? You hear very little, right? We tend not to speak in public about what we are doing, we tend not to tell people too much about how our negotiations are going. And we even have sort of code words for some of these discussions. A “frank discussion”: when a diplomat has a frank discussion that really means he disagrees quite strongly. “Productive discussions” mean that things are going okay, but there still a lot of differences may be to resolve. “Significant differences in views” – this probably means that you have a total impasse, and you have trouble in finding the way out of it. But again, part of the key to diplomacy, one of the challenges, I should say, of diplomacy, is that you always don’t want to reveal the truth too soon, because if too much information gets out about the discussion, people start talking about it and put pressure on you to take decisions that you otherwise might not take.
But that’s the old world of diplomacy; the new world of diplomacy is that we’re all in competition to get our messages across to the public. And we have to compete as diplomats in the same way that others compete for attention, whether they are the movie stars, or whatever. Because of if nobody’s listening to what we say, and nobody believes us, then governments will not take those views into account in formulating their own policies. As a result, public diplomacy is growing all the time in importance in the State Department, we’re putting a real emphasis on this, that we did not put on that many years ago. Part of that is simply explaining our policies better to people, again, because of the role the public plays influencing the decisions that governments take. It’s important to us to be able to reach that public and try to influence that public that our way of seeing the problem is the correct one. And as I said before, it doesn’t always matter whether what the public thinks may or may not conform with the actual facts, but what public thinks has an enormous influence on how the government may act. And what that means, is that we’ve started stepping up our efforts in public diplomacy realm, we have a lot of public diplomacy officers, than we had before, we do more public speaking that we did before, we do public interviews, we do a lot of more things like this when somebody like me who comes to you and tries to tell you about us.
I write a blog every week that I post on our site, I write it in English, it’s translated into Russian, and I do it religiously once a week. It’s important to include pictures, so that people could see, not only read about what you’re doing, and feel what you’re doing. I put there some of my poetry, so if you’re interested in that, you can go there and find it. Our Ambassador in Moscow has a very-very sizable Twitter following of about forty thousand, Twitter has become very popular, I know that MFA in Moscow also has a Twitter account, they have really improved their site dramatically in the last few years. In a sense different than before, diplomats not only represent their governments, but to some degree they have to embody their governments personally, we’re sort of personal representatives of our governments. And our job is to be out there, meeting with people in addition to meeting with other diplomats sort of behind the scenes.
I noticed in today’s Kommersant, I think that was on the front page, or whether it was on the second page, President Putin has decided to make much bigger investment in public diplomacy for Russia’s Foreign Service. And again, the whole idea is that you have to win people over, you want to influence them, you want to make – this is all for the good – you want them to get to know your country better.
Just to give you a few statistics, we have probably close to two hundred public affairs sections in all our embassies, which really means one for every embassy in the world. The United States has, I think, has embassy in almost every country in the world, except those countries with whom we do not have relations. I think France is still number two in terms of embassies, I'm not sure where Russia falls, but Russia has also a very large presence. We spend about a billion dollars on public diplomacy programs in 2012. We have about three to four thousand public diplomacy positions, half of which again are Americans, half of which are probably foreign nationals.
We send about fifty thousand people participate in our exchange programs. With another two hundred fifty thousands who go through the J-1 Program, which is the work and study program. Some of you may’ve heard about it, you can, as long as you’re students, you can go to the United States and stay for three months. If you ever get a chance to do that, do it. Three or four, five, I'm not sure how many years ago, I took a trip with my family and my parents and my brothers and my sisters and their children. We rented some of these big trucks where you can sleep in, and that sort of thing. We drove up to Yellow Stone national park in Wyoming. And we also went through Grand Teton national park. And we went to a famous sort of lounge there to have lunch, where they serve fresh trout and that sort of things. And all of waiters were foreign students like you, I think some of them even were from Russia at that time, so that it's wonderful way to get to know United States, a wonderful way to get to know American people.
Americans love foreigners. So, it doesn’t matter if your English isn’t that great. They are more than happy to talk to you, we are used to that.
We have six regional media hubs in the State Department: London, Brussels, Dubai, Johannesburg, Miami and Tokyo. These sort of follow news development for different areas in the world and help organize speakers and that sort of thing. We have about seven hundred thousand foreign students in the United States. They have to pay, most of them.
We have eight hundred and fifty Americans spaces in one hundred and seventy countries, including in Russia. So, these are areas, mainly in libraries, where we can go and find American books, films, that sort of thing. And the State Department has about twenty million fans, followers, subscribers on a thousand different social media sites. So that gives you some ideas what we’re doing.
In terms of St. Petersburg and North-West Russia where I work, we have about six thousand American speakers per year. Each of them participates in several programs, while in St. Petersburg or in the region. We provide support for about forty cultural programs. We have six American corners in the area. We have one in Arkhangelsk, Kaliningrad, Petrozavodsk, two in St. Petersburg, and one in Vologda. And I get about twenty thousand visitors per year. We have Facebook a thousand, fifteen hundreds “likes”, I don’t know if it’s a high number or a low number. Well, what would you say? Is that good or bad? Not that great, right? Average. Our English language website gets about nine thousands hits a month, and our Russian language website about nineteen thousand. The Ambassador’s Twitter has forty thousand followers. I don’t know how many people read my blog, I don’t have any numbers for that. We have about two hundred and fifty Russians that we send to the United States on International Leadership programs. One of the things we do is identifying politicians, young people who seem to be promising in different ways, journalists sometimes, we send them for the tour over the United States for about six weeks to get to know little bit about how we work and about our culture. We have about six hundred Fulbright students, which is a special program for, I guess, more doctoral program. And then we have about thirty one hundred Russian high school students who spend a year studying in the United States. Also a great experience, if you can get a feel to be a native speaker by the time you leave, especially at that age.
Am I doing all right on time? I can sort of conclude. I think that my basic point is, you know, through talking with me, the idea is for you to become a little bit more familiar with me, my country, my policies, that sort of thing, by becoming more familiar with me, communication is obviously the key, I know it’s not always easy. I just want to conclude that Russia and America, as I was saying in very beginning, it’s a very complicated relationship of two countries, it’s two very large, powerful countries, permanent members of the UN Security Council that have sometimes different views on how to deal with certain things that are happening in the world. But for the most part, these differences, however, are only between our two governments. And for what I’ve seen living here in St. Petersburg, and one of the great joys of being in St. Petersburg for me is… when I was in Moscow all idea was work in the Embassy and go to Foreign Ministry and talk policy, but since I’ve been here, I’ve had a chance to know average Russians, travel around, meet people and I think it’s fair to say that there’re no much differences between you, as Russians, and my kids, as Americans. And what we need to do is to build relationships between us as peoples, so that even when the governments disagree on things, it doesn’t affect the overall relationship, or, ideally, that the relations between our two peoples are so strong and so important, that our governments have to take that into account, when they disagree, or before they disagree.
The example that I always like to use, and I like to use because my wife is French, so I feel that I’m permitted to use it, is, I think you all know, that France also like Russia, also like the United States, has very-very proud tradition. So it sees itself as an exceptional country, has a history of being extremely proud of its independence, has a history of being sometimes very prickly, very sensitive about how it reacts to the views of the United States, but the point is, is that the Americans and that France is also oldest allies, and Americans and French people have been dealing with each other for over two hundred years. Americans love to travel to France, they love to go to the Louvre, look around Paris. French people love to go to the United States, I love French films, as much as I like American films. And the other part of that is that the American and European, French business, European business as a whole are very-very interwined. Most of our investments is in Europe. Most of our trade is with Europe. So it’s impossible really to separate Europe from America, which means that even if our governments can’t get on with each other at all, it doesn’t have a really-really big effect on the relationship between our people. And this is my sort of dream for US-Russian relations. I want the relations between our people to get to the point, where that stands by itself. And then our governments, you know, you can let them fight once in a while, disagree or not disagree, to get along or not get along, but we want to get our people-to-people relationship to a point that it will persevere no matter what happens. So with that I will conclude, and I will turn the floor over to you to ask questions. And again, feel free to ask whatever interest you.
[Chair of the meeting:] Now you have a unique opportunity to ask questions.
[Bruce Turner:] I’m interested in what you’re studying. If you introduce yourselves, tell what main subject you’re studying.
Question: Why did you decide to change your job, did you remain a professor, and have you used your teaching experience later on?
Answer: It’s always hard, and there’re a lot of motivations when you take life changing decisions. I think what happened, that I spent one year in Germany and three years in Austria as a student. So I sort of liked living overseas. And when I was in Austria, at one point I applied for a job at the United Nations in their Press Department. So I started to be interested in sort of international types of things. And then, for different kinds of reasons, you know, there was time I would settle in Austria, I had an Austrian girlfriend, there were some possibilities there, but that didn’t work out, so in the end I went back in the United States, finished my degree, and the only thing you ca do with your PhD in German is teach at the university. I started teaching at the university, but I still had that desire to go overseas. And after three years, and there were other factors as well, because in the United States salaries for professors sort of vary by the subject matter, I mean if you are a business professor, you will earn more money than you do as a foreign language professor, because there’s more demand for business. My salary was such that I wasn’t sure, and I was married by then, I wasn’t sure that I will be able to buy a house and raise a family. I wanted to look for something else that pays better. And I also wanted to look for something else that would allow me to go overseas again. And that’s how I ended up going to, I think the Rector mentioned that in the beginning, I went to Arizona for about a month or so and studied International Business. But I had already applied for a State Department before I went to Arizona, and they had offered me a job, but I wanted to try it out.
[remark from the audience: ] So you didn’t take any special education to enter the State Department?
[Bruce Turner:] Yeah! [laughs, laugh in the audience]. Sort of! But it’s an exam process. The exam consists of, it’s a general knowledge exam, sort of focused on six different areas I talked about. But for many years I was a very advert reader of international news. I would sit down at least once a week, at that time my favorite newspaper was Die Zeit, I don’t know if there’re any German students here? That was an independent weekly newspaper published in Hamburg, I think. And I would read it, you know, from front to back pretty much, so that’s how I took the test, I passed the test.
[remark from the audience: ] How did that test look like?
[Bruce Turner:] Oh, I can’t remember that well, that was long ago. There were two sections to the test. One section is general knowledge, which has questions about economics, politics, American history, you know, geography, some of those sorts of things. And then you have another section, which is basically use of the English language. It’s similar to what you get on your SAT exams when you’re applying for colleges. Part of the point is that anybody, you don’t have to be formally trained as a diplomat to become a diplomat in our system.
Question: What area of the modern day life is a top priority in the eyes of Americans, like career, education, social studies, financial studies, or maybe something different altogether?
Answer: A very good question. I wish I knew the answer. America is going through a very tough period right now, because of the economic crisis. When I went to school [pause] My father grew up in a very-very small town in the mountains of Colorado. My mother grew up on a farm in Colorado. My mother went to what was called a junior college, which is a two-year college in the United States. It doesn’t give you a bachelor degree, it’s like a [voice from the hall : associate degree] yes, it gives an associate degree, it’s a community college. And then the World War Two came along, so my father went to the war instead of community college. And then after the war he came back and he tried to go to the university, but I think he was married at that time, life was hard, so he finally went for a more sort of practical training in a profession. He got fortunate a few yeas later because of the commercial airlines in the United States was hiring pilots, and my father was a pilot in the Second World War. And he had this great career as a commercial pilot. But the most important thing for my parents was they wanted their children to go to the university. It didn’t really matter what we studied, anything, but the really wanted their children to have an opportunity of education.
I wanted that for my children, of course, but what has changed, is that when I went to school, it was simply assumed that if you had an education, you would get a good job. That’s no longer quite the case. Now the student’s are sort of tying to game the system. They are trying to study what will get them a good job, rather than study for study’s sake. And what that means, that more students are likely to be lawyers, or doctors, or maybe engineers, because they think that will get them a job, and they’re not going to study history, or literature, or language, or something like that, because they say, what good is in it? It won’t get me a job. The irony, of course, is that if you look at most companies, a lot of the people who rise to the very-very top of the organization, at the top echelon, - if you don’t have good communication skills, if you don’t have a good general education, you will not succeed on that environment. So it’s a sort of balance. On the one hand, it’s a disadvantage when you first start, sometimes, to have an education in certain subjects, but it can be an advantage later on. Because, if you are a specialist, it’s easier to get a job, but it may also limit your possibilities later on.
And my children, I sort of encouraged my children, I thought it was important for them to get a master’s degree if they possibly can, I sort of discouraged them to have a doctor degree, like me, unless they want to go in the academia and be a professor. My son went to school, one year in Virginia and then three years in Paris, and he did most of the master’s degree in Columbia, in New-York, and he is right now living in New-York trying to break into the music industry, not as a musician, but kind of a manager, an agent, that sort of thing. It’s very-very tough right now for young people to get jobs.
My daughter was much more fortunate, she went to school, she has a bachelor’s degree right now from McGill in Canada, because she preferred to be in French-English environment, and she got a job with a small sort of political organization, they do analysis, media political analysis type of thing, they work with developing countries primarily. She’s doing all right at least for the time being.
But most of them live in a world that’s hard to imagine, because when I joint the State Department, State Department is still a career. If you get in, if you get accepted and you work normally, you can count on 20,25, 30 years career. What’s happening with young people today, there’s no such thing as a long-term career! They have to plan to change jobs probably four, five, six, seven times maybe in the course of their lives. And in our country it’s even more complicated because of questions about health care, and that sort of things, because normally speaking, in our country, the employer has a health care program, so if you change jobs, not only that you lose your job, but you lose your health insurance, and you have to get a new one somewhere else. You know, there’s a lot of things to be worked out, but it’s a very [pause]..., new world is a little bit less certain, I think, than my world was. You have to be more flexible, you have to be adaptable, you have to take more initiative, networking is very important.
[Chairperson:] Any more questions, please?
[Bruce Turner:] Tell me if I’m talking too much, but I think this is kind of questions you’re really interested in, what do you do next, and how do you get started…
[Chairperson:] I’m sorry, Sir, we have 10 minutes left.
[Bruce Turner:] Okay.
Question: It was said before, you are fond of painting and music. Could you tell us who are your favorite artists, composers, musicians, maybe someone are Russian?
Answer: Yes, they are. Where do I start? In terms of painting, my favorite painter is Schiele, Austrian painter, who painted the same time as Gustav Klimt, but Klimt is more known because he is easier to look at, he is not so hard to look at. I don’t know, I don’t think I can give you a lot of names of Russian painters, but I can tell you we have, not only that we do have Russian art in our Representation apartment, my wife and I when we were in Moscow we purchased a number of pieces of Russian paintings. And I think, Russian paintings are very talented. In terms of literature, and obviously, as the rector said, I’ve read a lot of German literature, I’ve read tradition types of Russian literature – Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Lermontov, Turgenev, Solzhenitsyn, Bulgakov. Right now I’m just trying to make my way through Dovlatov. Little tough for me, he kind of bounces around a lot, so it’s hard to follow the context. I know Russian literature better that I know Russian painting, probably.
And in terms of music, I’d say my tastes are petty eclectic. In classical music my preferences are probably Chopin and Mozart, and sort of a softer things, I like chamber music a lot, and big orchestral pieces. We can talk about these sort of things for along time.
[voice from the audience:] And what about the American literature?
American literature? I haven’t read the American literature as much as I read French, or German, or Russian literature. I like Hemingway, I like Falkner. My son, children give me a lot of good books, people they like. It’s good for me to be exposed to that. I’m also proud about my musical horizons that my son likes in pop and things like that.
Question: You are doing such a hard intensive work. Tell us a secret, how do you manage to keep such a good shape? [laugh in the audience]
Answer: Do you think I am in good shape? [laugh in the audience] Discipline, I think discipline. Good living and discipline. I get up at… I’m a pretty disciplined person. When I was growing up, my brother and I, I have a twin brother, by the way, and we both played musical instruments, and for number of years out school started 8 o’clock in the morning, so we were get up at 6 o’clock, or 6.30, and we were practicing an hour before going to school. I played the trumpet, he had played the trombone, we sat in the same room and faced each other like this [laugh in the audience], and practiced our separate musics. But I believe in exercise, I try to read every day, I try to make exercise every day, I try to be interested in the world around me, I ‘m very fortunate to be in a good marriage, I love to spend time with my wife, with my children, and, you know, get to bed in a decent hour, don’t live the wild life [laugh in the audience], but I think it’s mainly attitude to life that makes the difference.
Question: you were talking about cultural programs, so what joined cultural programs between St. Petersburg and its twin sisters cities can you name?
Answer: That’s a different issue. I don’t know if there’re any actually at the moment. The Twin Sisters Program is really more of a political thing. I think it’s more organized, sometimes, for instance, with Zakonodatelnoe Sobranie [voice from the audience: the White Nights Festival ] okay, the White Nights Festival, but it’s not specific to sister cities. I said, we tend to bring cities from the United States for programs.
[Chairperson:] We have only time for two questions.
Question: My question is difficult. Could you tell a few words about your personal opinion on the Magnitsky Law. And what influence it may have on the relations between Russia and the United Sates?
Answer: I think what has happened has already happened. The Magnitsky Law has been passed, it’s been signed by the President, you can argue about whether it was necessary or not to pass such a law, but clearly there was a reason for which such law was passed. It had to do with real life situation that affected a real individual living in Russia. Russia has reacted in the way that we know it has, mostly through the ban on allowing children to be adopted by Americans. I think that’s unfortunate. Mainly for the children who would be adopted, because a lot of those children are handicapped children. We were in contact with some parents, even today they are trying to adopt an HIV – AIDS afflicted child, we know another family that’s trying, they will be interested in adopting a couple of children with Down syndrome. Again, I think it’s unfortunate in a sense that I’ve said before. Our governments are going to disagree on any number of things. Most of those disputes happed only between the governments. One government does, the other one may react, or retaliate in some sort of the way through actions of its own. I think what’s unfortunate about this particular case, is that it affects real people. If you look at what’s happened, is, you know, most Americans don’t what’s happening between the American and the Russian governments. But they do care about children. And this hurts the relations between peoples that I was talking about, and I don’t think it’s good for either one of us.
Question: you know professionally well several languages. Could you tell, please, what were the difficulties in studying the Russian language?
Answer: I like to say that Russian is German squared. [laughing, laugh in the audience]. You know, German has four cases, three genders, you know, you decline all that verbs and that sort of thing, but you don’t have to decline the nouns to that sort of degree. But Russian has six cases, also has three genders, and the hardest thing off all in Russian is to deal with numbers. [laugh in the audience]. You don’t have to do that in German.
Now, the last question. So?
Question: How can you estimate the cooperation in science between the United States and Russian Federation?
Answer: I think it is quite extensive. I couldn’t go into all the details, but as you know, we cooperate in space, there is a lot of cooperation, I think, in biology. We have some good friends who live in Brussels, whose daughter is working in a bio lab in Florida, and I know that at least three of four of the other people working with her are Russians. So there is a lot going on. Traditionally, aero dynamics, any of those kinds of technologies, there’s a lot of cooperation.
[Chairperson:] Thank you! So we want to thank our guest. [applause]
[Bruce Turner:] Thank you!
And I know that you guys are from different parts of Russia, which I think that