U.S. Ambassadors to Russia Interviewed
Published: Jun 16, 2021
Briefing Book #769
By Anna Vassilieva
For more information, contact: 202-994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu <mailto:nsarchiv@gwu.edu>
Insights, personal reflections spanning 30+ years provide context for today’s Biden-Putin summit
Transcripts from Middlebury Institute at Monterey videos feature eight former U.S. ambassadors to Moscow, unique perspectives on U.S.-Russia relations
Washington, D.C., June 16, 2021 – The National Security Archive marks today’s summit meeting in Geneva between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin by publishing detailed transcripts from interviews with eight former U.S. ambassadors to Moscow, courtesy of the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey.
The interviews, titled The Ambassadorial Series, provide essential context and historical perspective on more than 30 years of U.S.-Russian relations dating back to Gorbachev and forward to the initially promising and subsequently sour relationship with Putin.
The senior American diplomats interviewed include Jack Matlock, Thomas Pickering, James Collins, Alexander Vershbow, John Byerle, Michael McFaul, John Tefft, and Jon Huntsman, covering practically the entire past three decades of U.S. relations with Moscow.
Professor Anna Vassilieva, director of the Graduate Initiative in Russian Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, organized the interview project and provided the following introduction:
“At a time when dialogue between American and Russian diplomats is reduced to a bare minimum and when empathy and civility fall short of diplomacy between major powers, we are pleased to introduce The Ambassadorial Series <www.middlebury.edu/institute/academics/centers-initiatives/monterey -initiative-russian-studies/ambassadorial-series> . It is a compilation of conversations with eight outstanding American diplomats who served at various points of time as U.S. ambassadors to the Soviet Union and, after its dissolution, to the Russian Federation. The Series provides nuanced analyses of crucial aspects of the U.S.-Russia relationship, such as the transition from the Soviet Union to contemporary Russia and the evolution of Putin’s presidency. It does so through the personal reflections of the ambassadors. As Ambassador Alexander Vershbow observes, “[t]he Ambassadorial Series is a reminder that U.S. relations with Putin’s Russia began on a hopeful note, before falling victim to the values gap.” At its heart, this project is conceived as a service to scholars and students of American diplomacy vis-à-vis Russia. The interviews, released as videos, podcasts, and a transcript, form a unique resource for those who want to better understand the evolving relationship between the two countries.”
Generous support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York made possible the ambassadors’ interviews, as well as the previous MIIS-National Security Archive cooperative project on archival research in the former Soviet Union, The Bridge <nsarchive.gwu.edu/special-exhibit/russia-programs/2020-10-07/bridge -connecting-past-present-through-archival-research-russia> .

Jack F. Matlock – U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1987-1991.
Interview transcript. <nsarchive.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/ambassadorial_series_tran scripts_-_matlock.pdf>

Thomas R. Pickering – U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, 1993-1996.
Interview transcript <nsarchive.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/ambassadorial_series_tran scripts_-_pickering.pdf> .

James F. Collins – U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, 1997-2001.
Interview transcript <nsarchive.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/ambassadorial_series_tran scripts_-_collins.pdf> .

Alexander Vershbow – U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, 2001-2005.
Interview transcript <nsarchive.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/ambassadorial_series_tran scripts_-_vershbow.pdf> .

John Beyrle – U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, 2008-2012.
Interview transcript <nsarchive.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/ambassadorial_series_tran scripts_-_beyrle.pdf> .

Michael McFaul – U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, 2012-2014.
Interview transcript <nsarchive.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/ambassadorial_series_tran scripts_-_mcfaul.pdf> .

John F. Tefft – U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, 2014-2017.
Interview transcript <nsarchive.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/ambassadorial_series_tran scripts_-_tefft.pdf> .

Jon Huntsman Jr. – U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, 2017-2019.
Interview transcript <nsarchive.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/ambassadorial_series_tran scripts_-_huntsman_jr.pdf> .