Russia

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Is it just me, or has our world taken a turn to greater incivility in the last few years? The evidence seems overwhelming. Our politicians attack one another and show no inclination to listen to anything but what they already believe. Politics has always involved aggression, but we have crossed a line when national figures compare peaceful protesters to international terrorists and prominent personalities accuse their adversaries of “not loving America.” Our public discourse leaves little space for legitimate and respected disagreement. You are loyal and upstanding or you are traitorous and debased, depending on who is listening.

This phenomenon is global. The dismissive renunciation of Greece’s calls for reform in European Union finances and its pleas for some alternative to economic policies crushing its population show how European politics are also plagued by callousness toward dissent. China and Russia have only increased their intimidation, torture and even murder of dissidents. The killing last week of Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and leading liberal politician in Russia, was one more sign that rulers around the world are cracking down on public critics. Shot dead in sight of the Kremlin, Nemtsov’s murder is a deadly warning to all, in Russia and beyond, who challenge established authority.

Growing inequalities of power and wealth are a necessary part of this story. During the past half-century, millions of people around the world have gained access to education, high incomes and personal security. At the same time, many more millions have been left behind. By most measures, the gap between the lucky “haves” and the unlucky “have-nots” has grown across societies. This is perhaps true in the United States most of all, where a narrow sliver of the population has seen unprecedented income growth, while the vast majority of citizens face real declining wages. The children of the wealthy and the educated in our society can expect lives of great abundance and opportunity; the children of the poor have much narrower prospects, with less hope than during prior decades.

In a growing but deeply unequal world, the stakes in political debate are often violent. Those who have acquired much in recent years fear, legitimately, that those left behind want to take what they have. Since the poor have “proven” they cannot help themselves, the argument goes, they must want to steal someone else’s earnings. Taxes, health care and even aid for education get coded as thievery by the lazy and unqualified, or those who are doing their bidding.

On the other end of our polarized debates, those who speak, legitimately, for citizens left behind claim that privileged citizens in our society have somehow cheated and stolen from others. There is a populist hatred of well-educated hard working professionals that seeps through the nasty condemnations voiced by the Tea Party’s supporters and the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Both blame elites for their personal frustrations when, in fact, most of the highly educated and high earning members of our society are also hard-working and simply playing by the rules. Successful professionals in our knowledge industries do not work with their hands, but they are the sources of innovation and productivity that allow even our poorest citizens to live better material lives than their predecessors. Although elites (like most of us reading this column) are beneficiaries of current inequalities, we did not make them, and we often do what we can to help broader parts of our social community. Self-interest and concern for the public good are not necessarily contradictions, and they do not correlate with one’s income-level.

Inequality is encouraging incivility today because of the fear I mentioned earlier. Those at the top fear that their position is not secure, especially as they see how far they can fall. Those near the bottom fear that they do not have an opportunity to climb even part of the way to the top. That is the story of our vituperative politics around health care. It is also the story surrounding European Union finances and political authority in China and Russia. When the world is increasingly divided between “haves” and “have-nots,” each side has more to fight for, at almost all costs.  In these polarized circumstances, democracy becomes a secondary concern, even in the United States – witness the cynical efforts by certain politicians today to discourage poor, young and minority voters from casting their ballots.  

The solution to our current global inequality and incivility is not clear. I do not have a simple roadmap to offer. We must, however, begin by diagnosing and discussing the problem. We must study the numerous causes and their many consequences as social scientists, humanists and cosmopolitan citizens. We must push ourselves to contemplate creative policies – in our universities, in our home communities, in our nation and our world – that push against these problems. This should be a calling for our best universities and our best young thinkers.

If we are not studying these issues, we can expect more violence and democratic decline in coming years. Money and moral self-righteousness will mean little if our society does not find the resolve to encourage more civility and more equality. You can visit Boris Nemtsov’s grave in Russia to see the alternative.

Suri is a professor in the Department of History and the LBJ School of Public Affairs. He writes about foreign policy. Follow Suri on Twitter @JeremiSuri.

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Russia should develop a long-lasting partnership with NATO to help the involved countries face the challenges of the 21st century, according to Sharyl Cross, professor and director of the Kozmetsky Center at St. Edward’s University.

Cross spoke on campus Thursday about the fluctuating relationship between NATO, Russia and the U.S., from the Cold War until today. NATO is a intergovernmental military alliance which includes 28 North American and European countries. Cross said she believes it is important for Russia to be seen as part of Europe and be economically involved with NATO. 

“NATO has the exceptional capacity to bring nations together,” Cross said. “I would say that the enlargement and increased cultural diversity [of NATO] has only aided the alliance. Russia is a major player and a major force that should not be discounted.”

Although their cooperation is important, Russia and NATO countries will not be able to create an alliance overnight, Cross said.

“I would argue that it’s a mistake to isolate Russia,” Cross said. “I don’t think that is the solution … Think long-term, be patient, define your objectives, be realistic, know that there will be setbacks but know also that there’s a lot at stake.”

Nick Hemlock, international relations and global studies senior, said he did a capstone project focused on the 2008 Russian and Georgian war and has attended several of Cross’ previous lectures on Russian and Eurasian studies.

“I liked her multifaceted approach and that she uses lots of different sources, because, usually, these things are very one-sided in the way they’re presented,” Hemlock said.

Kari Andreev, a Russian, East European and Eurasian studies graduate student, said she attended the lecture to learn about how the relationship between Russia and NATO was impacted by last year’s Ukrainian revolution.

“I’m in an international business class, and today’s topic was Russian and Ukraine, so I came to learn more about the situation and prepare myself,” Andreev said.

Cross said she hopes war will not arise, and Russia will work with NATO to come to an agreement about Ukraine’s identity and future.

“We need to try to de-escalate the situation, placing great emphasis on ending the humanitarian catastrophe and loss of life in Ukraine, and move things back to a more productive and peaceful course,” Cross said.

Russian film director Yury Urnov says American and Russian cinema differ but are not disparate from each other.
Photo Credit: Sarah Alerasoul | Reporter

At a talk Monday, Russian film director Yury Urnov said post-Cold War Russian theater differs from American theater in several key ways — and said Americans are much more likely to experiment with their source material.

At the talk, which the Center for Russian hosted, East European and Eurasian Studies, Urnov said there are five categories in which theaters in Russia and the U.S. differ. According to Urnov, the main differences are the relationship between money and power, the society’s attitude toward art and how power operates in the respective cultures.

“Since the Cold War, the theater can answer a lot of our differences,” Urnov said. “Some of it is the geographical and historical attitude.” 

Urnov said in the U.S., unlike in Russia, there are collaborations on plays, and actors understand their characters. He said more emphasis is placed on the director, and scripts have to be interpreted from their original text.  

Over the next three weeks, Urnov will be presenting a spin-off of “Three Sisters,” a play originally created by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, at the Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin.

“Jenny Larson, an artistic director at Woolly Mammoth, had a student who wrote a different version of the play,” Graham Schmidt said, one of the play’s directors. “It takes the zombie film genre and meshes it with the plot of ‘Three Sisters’ and then steps back and criticizes the play from a feminist standpoint.”

Katya Cotey, assistant instructor in the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, said he is looking forward to the production of “Three Sisters.”

“I am excited to see the addition of zombies to the play and seeing the new interpretation that is attracting a younger audience,” Cotey said. 

Urnov graduated from the Russian Academy of Theater Art in 2000. He has directed plays in the United States, Russia, England and Germany. Urnov has taught in the Master of Fine Arts program at Towson University for five years and works with an experimental theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, in Washington, D.C.

According to Urnov, Russian theater is still evolving, in a way Urnov said he hopes audiences will find compelling.

“Get involved,” they urged. That’s how you get around on this big campus, make it feel a little smaller. Clutching the copy of the paper that I had studied so meticulously that morning, I strutted into the basement. I say strut because I was trying to show that I was confident, that I wasn’t a little freshman and that I deserved a spot on the staff.

“You’re a design dog!” they cried, followed by gifs and pictures of puppies and poodles dressed as humans or whatever else crawled from the corners of the Internet. 

“Привет,” they said to my confusion. I learned more about Russia and its language than I ever expected to know while in this basement. Can I speak it? No. Can I understand it? No. But, I’ll always think of the copy desk and this basement whenever someone mentions Russia.

I can never have any regrets about skipping into this basement freshman year. Everything is a learning experience, and this was one. While I did learn a lot about newspaper design and AP style and perfect grammar, I learned more about people, and how interesting everyone’s lives and loves and beliefs are, and what it looks like to see passion in his or her eyes. I learned about my campus, and my newfound city and the world around me. I learned about good music, and vegetarian/vegan dishes and that it is possible to eat pizza for like two weeks straight and still get excited when the Dominos guy walks in the room. 

It’s been a good run, Daily Texan. Thanks for everything.

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Photo Credit: Shannon Butler | Daily Texan Staff

As observers of international affairs, we have a tendency to divide the world into good guys and bad guys, friends and foes. Old maps from the Second World War show the allied countries in one color, the axis countries in another. Cold War maps depict our allies in blue or white, the communists usually in red. Since Sept. 11, 2001, American policymakers have divided the world roughly between our friends in the war against terrorism, and those states that support or house terrorists (what former President George W. Bush infamously called the “axis of evil”). 

Russia, under its dictatorial president, Vladimir Putin, poses a problem for these somewhat unavoidable colors on our maps. Putin’s actions in the last year have clearly shown that he aims to challenge American and West European influence in the territories around his state. Putin has invaded South Ossetia (formerly part of the republic of Georgia), Crimea and eastern Ukraine to prevent those regions from joining the European Union or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, despite strong support in each nation for cultivating these Western connections. Putin has flagrantly vetoed efforts in the United Nations to punish Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal attacks on his own population. On July 17 paramilitary forces in eastern Ukraine operating Russian weapons shot down a civilian aircraft, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 civilians. Undaunted, Russia has continued to support this kind of reckless behavior, including provocative military aircraft flights near E.U. and U.S. borders. 

Some observers have diagnosed a new Cold War, with a renewed division in Europe, but that exaggerates the Russian threat. For all his brutality, Putin is not seeking to close off Russia to Western capital, people or ideas. If anything, he wants his chosen allies at home to benefit from foreign investments, high-skilled workers, innovative technologies and modern media. Putin recognizes that Russian power and prosperity require integration, not separation, from global capitalist markets and knowledge industries. His goal is to manage Russia’s global integration for his maximum benefit, minimizing what he perceives as the advantages of the U.S. and E.U. Putin has shown little concern for the freedoms and living standards of his own citizens; his priority is the power of the state that he controls.

Condemning Putin as an aggressive tyrant is not sufficient, and it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Cornered and isolated dictators almost never back down; they usually turn to more threatening policies. Similarly, ignoring Putin’s misdeeds and hoping for the best in negotiations will not work, either. Aggressive and self-righteous tyrants seek to exploit opportunities; they will push against their neighbors until someone pushes back. 

The challenge for American and European policy is to contend with the current realities and the likely reactions from Putin toward various Western actions. Many of our discussions of policy caricature our adversaries, while they simultaneously overstate our power and understate the range of our options. Like the simple lines and colors on our maps, our strategic vision of the world is much too simple. The key task for policy observers is to avoid dichotomies between good and evil and instead conceptualize how the United States can discourage Putin’s continued aggression without further antagonizing the Russian dictator by backing him into a corner. 

What the United States needs is a policy that builds what former Secretary of State Dean Acheson called “situations of strength” while also offering Russia dignified exits from confrontation. Rhetoric about “stopping” Russia overstates our capabilities, and efforts to humiliate Putin make the resolution of conflict more difficult. Backing down is hard for everyone, especially political strongmen who rule through intimidation. Firmness, preparation and respect — even for brutal regimes — are key elements of a workable relationship. Political efficacy requires reasonableness in addition to moral indignation.

So what does a firm, prepared, respectful and reasonable U.S. and E.U. policy toward Russia look like? Historical experience points to three basic elements. First, the U.S. and E.U. should state clearly why we believe that Ukraine, Georgia and other countries around Russia deserve the right to join the E.U., NATO and other Western organizations if they wish. We must show consistency, seriousness and interests beyond immediate gains for our own societies. An adversary, like Russia, cannot appreciate our interests and values if we do not articulate them effectively.

Second, attention to Ukraine, Georgia and other countries does not mean that Russia should be ignored. Quite the contrary, U.S. and E.U. leaders should reach out explicitly to show that we value dialogue with Russia. We should give Putin reasons to want to do the right thing.

Third, and perhaps most important, Washington and Brussels must truly represent global opinion. Instead of falling into Putin’s trap of conceptualizing the conflict as a battle of the rich West against the rest, President Barack Obama and his counterparts must appeal to other major countries in East Asia, Latin America and Africa. Putin must see that there is little sympathy for his behavior around the globe. World opinion matters, and skillful diplomatic work to mobilize world opinion on behalf of democracy and national sovereignty is crucial.

Although the lines on the maps still matter, they should not force our thinking into rigid “us” versus “them” assumptions. Putin’s Russia is a threat, but it is a manageable threat. Policy leadership on this topic is more about diplomacy, negotiation and creativity than the moralistic rhetoric that dominates our public discussions. We can indeed help to lead the world without simplistically dividing it.

Suri is a professor in the Department of History and the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Follow him on Twitter @JeremiSuri. 

The UT System will further consider divesting funds from Russia as relations between the U.S. and the Russian governments worsen because of conflict in Ukraine, according to System officials.

At a Board of Regents meeting on Sept. 15, Regent Alex Cranberg brought up the possibility of divesting from Russia.

“It is important because Russia is threatening the USA through NATO,” Cranberg said in an email. “As President Obama has said, Putin has ripped up the ‘rule book.’ He is resurrecting the national and ethnic rivalries, which were so devastating to the 20th century.”

The University of Texas Investment Management Company, or UTIMCO, has about $200 million invested in Russia currently, according to Bruce Zimmerman, CEO and chief internal officer of UTIMCO. Zimmerman said this is a relatively small amount of money compared to the $35 billion the organization has invested in other parts of the world. 

“Divesting from Russia, in and of itself, would not necessarily be an overly significant event,” Zimmerman said at the meeting in mid-September. “The larger concern I think would be if we did begin putting in changes to the investment policies related to political and or social issues, then there could very well be a substantial domino effect.”

In an interview Thursday, Zimmerman said it is the System’s policy that UTIMCO make investments based upon economic factors and not to become involved in political situations. Zimmerman said many companies and organizations participate in divestment movements to make a political statement, such as the Rockefeller family, who is planning to divest $860 million of its charity out of fossil fuels to try and fight climate change.

“Once you decide there is one political or social issue that merits an investment decision, where does the list end?” Zimmerman said. “The context of all this is if you make economic decisions based on noneconomic reasons, there’s an economic cost.”

The regents have agreed to continue discussing the divestment issue at future board meetings.

“There comes times in the Board’s life and in the nation’s life that we may need to take a look at some of these things,” Regent Gene Powell said at the meeting in September. “I would encourage us not to foreclose in considering these items.”   

Zimmerman said if the System does decide to divest from Russia, UTIMCO would be selling $40 million of its private equity below market price.

“If we were to try to sell that position today, we might only get about $20 or $30 million for it, so there would be an immediate cost,” Zimmerman said.

Cranberg said the System should not make investment decisions based on matters of personal choice, such as opinions on alcohol or tobacco, or based purely on the domestic policies of other countries. 

“Our policies as a public investment vehicle should be based only on maximizing legal returns for our students and mission, other than factors materially affecting the security of the United States and our armed forces,” Cranberg said.

Jack Matlock, former United States ambassador to the Soviet Union, visited the LBJ Library on Tuesday and said current American-Russian relations are intensifying.

Matlock said he fears the aggression between the U.S. and Russia is relatively high.

“The rhetoric now in Russia and Washington reminds us of the height of the Cold War,” Matlock said. “I don’t think we are entering a new cold war, even though the rhetoric sounds like it.”

In the modern political climate, Matlock believes the U.S. is taking the wrong steps in addressing Russia.

“I think we have gotten ourselves in a very dangerous situation, in terms of our relationship, in part, because we have failed to understand some of the lessons we should have learned when we ended the Cold War,” Matlock said.

After studying at Duke University, Matlock attended Columbia University, where he specialized in Russian studies. Matlock went on to teach at Dartmouth College, but decided he wanted more from his occupation later on.

“He decided he could do better things than teaching nasty undergrads,” government professor Zoltan Barany said. “He had an explicit goal in mind to become the American ambassador to the Soviet Union.”

Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library, said Matlock’s involvement in the Cold War makes him an ideal source for information on the contemporary relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

“There are few who know more and were more instrumental in the ending of the Cold War than Jack Matlock,” Updegrove said.

Matlock, who also served as U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia, said the notion that the U.S. single-handedly brought an end to communism is incorrect. He said Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union and general secretary of the communist party, brought communism to an end in the Soviet Union.

“It wasn’t military pressure, but Gorbachev, who, step by step, removed the party from control,” Matlock said. “He was able to do that because the Cold War was over and the lack of military pressure from the outside freed him up to try internal reforms.”

Matlock said the Cold War ended before the Soviet Union collapsed, and communism still existed in the Soviet Union years after the Cold War had come to an end.

“What actually ended the Cold War was negotiations, backed by strength, but it wasn’t strength alone,” Matlock said. “As much as we negotiated an end to the Cold War, we proved the power of diplomacy, rather than the power of military strength.”

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The last decade has witnessed a proliferation of proxy wars throughout the Middle East, Africa, central Asia and Southeast Asia. These are violent, often genocidal, conflicts between local groups fueled by larger foreign actors. The Pakistanis have been a notorious practitioner of this strategy, funding the Taliban and other extreme groups throughout war zones in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Iran has played a similar game in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.

Russia, however, has become the worst offender. Its direct military support for violent forces in Syria and Ukraine poses one of the greatest threats to international stability today as we have seen in the recent downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 by Russian-supported Ukrainian rebels. In Syria, Russia’s aid to the military of Bashir al-Assad has contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and a civil war that is breaking apart the states in the region. The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a rump group of extremists in control of territory stretching from the Syrian border with Turkey to the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Falluja, is a result of the fighting surrounding Assad. He and his Russian, as well as Iranian, supporters have attracted a transnational Islamic revolt that has drawn fighters from across the region and beyond. The extremists have filled a political vacuum in the areas that Assad and the deeply divided Iraq government cannot control. Through its military support and its veto of United Nations action, Russia has prevented a solution to this crisis.

Recent events in Ukraine fit the same dangerous pattern of Russian behavior. On March 21 Russian President Vladimir Putin forcefully annexed the Crimean Peninsula, taking the Black Sea territory from Ukraine. He had done this by sending irregular Russian forces into the territory, motivating local Russian-supporters to stage a Moscow-inspired rebellion against Ukrainian authorities. The international community universally condemned Russian aggression, but Putin falsely claimed this was a legitimate act to protect Russian speakers.

Putin made a similar argument for the eastern part of Ukraine, which also has a large Russian-speaking population, especially in industrial cities like Donetsk.  Russia has deployed advanced weapons, military trainers and its own soldiers to support a violent separatist movement in Ukraine. It is fueling a proxy war, designed to create a separate Russian Ukrainian state that will stand against the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO.)

The brutality of Russia’s proxy wars in Syria and Ukraine created the Malaysian Airliner tragedy that resulted in the tragic death of 298 innocent civilians, none of whom had any connection to these conflicts. On July 17 Russian-supported rebels in Ukraine, and perhaps Russian military forces, fired a surface-to-air missile at what they thought was a Ukrainian government airplane. They were using these missile attacks to destroy government aircraft threatening rebel-held areas. The accidental destruction of the civilian aircraft was the result of this aggressive use of force against the Ukrainian state, made possible by the most sophisticated Russian military hardware. Without Putin’s support, the Ukrainian separatists would never have threatened the Malaysian airliner, flying 30,000 feet above the ground.

The escalating violence of Russia’s proxy wars undermines hopes for stability in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. These conflicts will continue to produce a large death toll, destabilize local governments, and demand American and allied intervention in response. President Barack Obama has condemned Russian behavior and he has led efforts to implement stiff economic sanctions on key Russian actors, including many of Putin’s closest business supporters, the “Oligarchs.” President Obama has had mixed success encouraging the European Union and other key international actors to act similarly.

The time has come for a more significant American response. The United States should initiate a firm policy of containing Russian meddling beyond its borders. The President should offer a detailed public account of Russia’s actions, he should forthrightly condemn this behavior, and he should isolate Moscow from full participation from all American-influenced trade and diplomatic organizations until Moscow abandons its support for proxy wars. The purpose is not to isolate Russia permanently, but to make Putin and his supporters pay a heavy international and domestic cost for their aggressive behavior. Negotiations can continue with Moscow, as they always should, but Russia should no longer benefit from status as a respected international actor. It is indeed a rogue state, and will remain such as long as Putin continues his current proxy war policies. Nothing is gained by operating from old, wishful fictions. 

Suri is a history professor who specializes in international modern history. 

Keith Livers, associate professor in the department of Slavic and Eurasian studies, talks about Russian idealism during a Q-and-A hosted by the International Affairs Society. The panel featured four professors who discussed the current conflicts between Russia and Ukraine. 

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Ukraine isn’t enough of a U.S. priority to warrant military involvement, although Russia has shown its willingness to use military force, according to government professor Robert Moser in an on-campus roundtable discussion Wednesday.

Slavic and Eurasian studies professors discussed the ongoing situation between Russia and Ukraine as part of “Putin’s Russia and Eastern Europe,” sponsored by the International Affairs Society.

Moser, who also serves as chair of the government department, said the U.S. doesn’t plan to go to war with Russia.

“Ukraine is more important to Russia than it is to the United States and western Europe,” Moser said. “Ukraine has been historically viewed as sort of part of Russia, in its sphere of influence. If you lose Ukraine, from a certain perspective … you lose sort of the heart of the Slavic homeland, and there’s genuine fear that core interests — military, social, political, as well as economic interests — would be violated if Ukraine became part of the [European Union].”

Moser said the U.S. government remains firm in its decision to refrain from taking military action because of the notable effects economic sanctions have had on the Russian economy. He also said each country’s military view of Ukraine differs greatly — with Russia having higher stakes in the region because of its proximity. 

Wesley Howard, a government and international and global studies senior and director of programs for the society, said the topic was chosen for the round table in January, before most people knew about the events going on in the region.

“We didn’t expect the crisis to occur in the timely manner it did, but … a lot of interest got spurred … [and] the professors were relatively talkative and wanting to join onto the panel,” Howard said. “A lot of people pretty interested in the region think it seems difficult for the region to overcome because what precedent does it set for future invasions or future Russian power proliferations?”

Mary Neuburger, professor and chair in the department of Slavic and Eurasian studies, said she thinks reports from and about the situation are lacking perspective from the region where Ukraine used to be part of Russia.

“There’s an easy way to watch the media and go, ‘Yeah, Russia’s evil,’… and I think there’s this story that‘s being fed to Americans — a very uncomplicated narrative of Russia’s evil, Putin’s evil, they’re taking up the Ukraine … and I think part of the problem is a consistency problem for us on foreign policy,” Neuburger said.

A resident cycles past soldiers in unmarked uniforms standing guard outside the Ukrainian Military Prosecutor’s Office in Simferopol, Crimea, Thursday, March 20, 2014. The lower house of Russian parliament voted Thursday to make Crimea a part of Russia following Sunday’s Crimean referendum in which its residents overwhelmingly backed breaking off from Ukraine and joining Russia.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Political conflict in Eastern Europe has not only affected Russia’s relations with the West, but also UT summer study abroad programs in the region.

Russian Express, a language and culture program that has students spend four weeks in Kiev, Ukraine and four weeks in Moscow during the summer, was forced to move the location from Ukraine three weeks ago after political unrest erupted in the country, according to Elliot Nowacky, administrator and resident director for the program.

The 11 students participating in Russian Express selected Irkutsk, Russia, located in Siberia, as the new destination, Nowacky said.

Nowacky is also the administrator for the Moscow-Texas Connections Program, where students spend 10 weeks in Moscow at the Higher School of Economics. Nowacky said this program will continue as scheduled.

“We’ve gotten no indication from our partners at the Higher School of Economics that it’s going to be a problem getting the visas, which is required for [the students] to go to Russia in order to study,” Nowacky said.

The five-week Moscow Plus Program was canceled on March 6 by Thomas Garza, Slavic languages and literature associate professor, mainly because of a low number of participants, according to Betsy Brown, program and outreach coordinator for the Texas Language Center.

According to Brown, the summer program had more than six applications this year, but participants kept dropping out for personal reasons or to join another program where they could receive grant support, such as Moscow-Texas Connections. Brown said there eventually ended up being only a few participants who had confirmed enrollment by March 1.

“That doesn’t really make a study abroad program,” Brown said. “We thought we would be able to merge [Moscow Plus] with another program, but it just kept getting smaller and smaller.”

Garza said his decision to cancel the Moscow Plus Program was affected by the heated relations between the U.S. and Russia over Russia’s intervention in Crimea and Ukrainian politics.

“The added complication of the Crimea crisis and the effect that it might have on securing visas this spring certainly weighed on my decision, but it was the low [participation] that persuaded me to postpone this year’s program,” Garza said.  “I hope to run the program again in the future.”

Zachary Berru, international relations and global studies sophomore who planned to participate in Moscow Plus, said even if the program is held in the future, he is no longer sure if he wants to travel to Russia.

“This situation [between the U.S. and Russia] is escalating way too rapidly, and I’m fearful things will get only worse,” Berru said. “I personally don’t feel like it would be safe at this point.”