Participants – who have prepared for weeks to play the roles of respective ambassadors of the NRC states – had an opportunity to kick off the debate in an interactive session with Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, Deputy Secretary General of NATO. Ambassador Vershbow, speaking both in Russian and in English via VTC from Brussels, told the audience in Moscow that “partnership between NATO and Russia is a serious and important issue,” with Allies and Russia striving since the Lisbon summit in 2010 to turn “our relations into a true strategic partnership”.
Describing himself as “an optimist when it comes to prospects for the NRC”, the Deputy Secretary General said, “with the right dose of political goodwill, good education, and enthusiasm – which you, as a young generation, have in abundance – we can use the NATO-Russia partnership to change Euro-Atlantic security architecture for the better”. His address was followed by a lively question and answer session covering a variety of topics from missile defence and air policing to Afghanistan and persistent Cold War stereotypes.
The opening session entitled “Russia-NATO partnership in the framework of a fight against emerging security challenges and threats” also brought together a number of decision-makers, officials and diplomats who addressed the students. Speakers included the Ambassador of Norway to Russia H.E. Knut Hauge, the Deputy Rector of MSLU Yuri Sukharev, the Director of the MSLU Information Centre for International Security Alexander Bartosh and Dmitry Balakin from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Representatives from the Ministry of Defence and State Duma, as well as the Heads of the NIO and NATO Military Liaison Mission Moscow also attended. These interventions provided role-play participants with useful background information and gave them a chance to hear official positions of NATO, Allied countries and Russia.