U.S.-Russia Relations: Can ‘Strategic Empathy’ Be A Way Forward?

The U.S. and Russia have been holding high-level talks over Ukraine and Moscow’s proposal to refashion post-cold war security arrangements that have been in place for the past quarter century. While meetings between American and Russian diplomats are welcome, we might also recognize that President Biden’s pursuit of “stability and predictability” with Russia may find more success if he embraces the idea of “strategic empathy.” In a recent article for Responsible Statecraft, American Committee for US-Russia Accord (ACURA) Board Members Katrina vanden Heuvel and James Carden write that such a course “simply requires that the President and his national security team ask themselves: How might they react if the military and economic pressure the U.S. routinely applies against designated adversaries was aimed in our direction?” In a panel co-sponsored by the Quincy Institute and ACURA, we will explore how the Biden team might scale back the escalatory approach and replace it with some simple strategic empathy. Joining us will be Gov. Jerry Brown, author and columnist Robert Wright, and Professor Nicolai Petro. Katrina vanden Heuvel will moderate.


Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr.

Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr. was elected Governor of California in 1974 and 1978. After his governorship, Brown lectured and traveled widely, practiced law, served as chairman of the state Democratic Party and ran for president. In 1998, Brown was elected Mayor of Oakland and California Attorney General in 2006. He was elected to a third gubernatorial term in 2010 and to a historic fourth term in 2014.

Robert Wright

Robert Wright is the New York Times bestselling author of The Evolution of God (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), Nonzero, The Moral Animal), Three Scientists and their Gods (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Why Buddhism Is True. He has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, Wired, The Intercept, The Wall Street Journal, and Slate. He is currently President of the Nonzero Foundation and Visiting Professor of Science and Religion at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Nicolai N. Petro

Nicolai N. Petro is professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. From 2017-1019 he held the University of Rhode Island's biennial Silvia-Chandley Professorship of Nonviolence and Peace Studies. In 1989 and 1990, he served as an International Affairs Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he served as special assistant for policy in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs in the U.S. Department of State, and as temporary political attache at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He is a Member of the Board at the Simone Weil Center and the American Committee for U.S.-Russian Accord.

Katrina vanden Heuvel (Moderator)

Katrina vanden Heuvel is editorial director and publisher of The Nation and served as editor of the magazine from 1995 to 2019. She currently writes a weekly column for The Washington Post and is a commentator on U.S. and international politics for MSNBC, CNN, and PBS. She is president of the American Committee for US-Russia Accord and is a member of the Board of the Quincy Institute.