JUNE 8-9, 2021


For six decades the Dartmouth Conference has provided private citizens of Russia and the United States a forum for sustained, substantive discussion and debate on issues critical to their nations and to world peace. Since their first meeting at the height of the Cold War, with the support of leaders in Moscow and Washington, these citizens have acted jointly and equally. While conducting their dialogue independent of their governments, they have nevertheless maintained constructive ongoing relations with their national leaders. In all that the participants have done over these 61 years, each has sought knowledge and understanding about what motivates the other, about the experiences, values and objectives those on both sides bring to their discussion, and about how each side sees the role the other plays in affecting issues of importance to their national interests and global roles.
These discussions and debates have served as productive tools of public diplomacy and “second track” diplomatic engagement. In some critical times Dartmouth participants have provided constructive paths to address acute issues in global and bilateral relations. They contributed to resolution of the Cuban missile crisis, had a role in encouraging early institutions in support of U.S.-Soviet trade and, at the outset of the Conference’s second decade, played a significant role in initiating the first bilateral U.S.-Soviet work on climate change. As regional issues and conflicts grew more central to relations between Moscow and Washington, Dartmouth participants formed a Regional Conflicts Task Force that took up issues of Arab-Israeli peace, the meaning and implications of the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan and the subsequent withdrawal of the Russian troops, and later, the development of efforts to promote resolution of the conflict around Karabakh and the Tajik civil war.
In the more recent past the crisis in our relations that emerged with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine brought leading citizens in Russia and the United States to agree to reestablish Dartmouth plenary meetings that had ceased after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Dartmouth’s leaders agreed that a broader dialogue among citizens could contribute to a clearer understanding of the issues dividing our governments and societies, and the potential for bridging those divides. As these discussions evolved, the Conference further undertook efforts to promote active citizen-to-citizen cooperation in the conviction that joint activities are an essential basis for broader understanding and cooperation between our societies. In December 2019, for the first time in the history of Dartmouth, conference participants issued a public statement urging our governments to extend the foundational New START Treaty limiting the US and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals and preserving the framework for further strategic arms control.
At the beginning of its seventh decade, the need for the Dartmouth Conference and its informal dialogue has grown even more essential. Three decades after the end of the Cold War, the Euro-Atlantic and broader international order face growing uncertainties. The emergence of major new economic and political powers has significance for the international order. New technologies, climate change and a devastating pandemic have tested the capacity of leading nations to pursue common interests. Yet in this context, bilateral relations between the United States and the Russian Federation are dangerous, fraught, and largely unproductive. Governments on both sides presume relations will be adversarial and driven by competition. Official governmental engagement between Washington and Moscow is at a low point, and there is little evidence that either side sees improving relations or working to address shared challenges as a priority.

In these conditions the Dartmouth Conference, as a forum for citizen dialogue and engagement, has special relevance. Even as the end of the Cold War and a new world of constant digital interaction and social media communication removed barriers to open communication and engagement between our societies, the model of sustained, substantive in-person discussion and exploration of issues before our people remains essential. In times when official relations limit the ability of our governments to productively address the issues that divide us or to pursue cooperative action where our interests coincide, citizens have a special obligation to add substance to the dialogue between our nations through open, honest discussion. To that end, Dartmouth will continue to seek enhanced understanding of the views of both sides and, where we find it possible, encourage joint action in support of the interests of our peoples, and global peace and prosperity.

Our agenda will encompass both global and bilateral topics as well as efforts to encourage joint citizen action to promote progress on shared objectives. We will address a number of questions:  What is the global context for our relations at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century? How does today’s international order differ from that at the end of the Cold War? What happened to the post-Cold War vision of a future Europe—whole, free, at peace, and undivided—and why do we begin our fourth decade after the Cold War with a newly divided Euro-Atlantic community? What objectives do each side pursue today in defining its policies and actions toward the other? What are the sources of friction? What challenges do we share?
The United States and Russia remain the two largest nuclear powers. The extension of the New START Treaty has preserved an essential core established by decades of effort to reduce nuclear arsenals and the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Strategic stability following the extension of New START remains a central issue. Preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction more broadly demands attention and action by both sides. Our dialog today will also necessarily engage new subjects. The new frontiers of our security environment—outer space and cyber space—have for a long time been ignored by our governments and the international community, and we have an urgent need for a basic framework for conflict prevention and cooperation in both these areas.

Our nations also have special responsibilities for newly pressing global issues. The ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic have brought home recognition that viruses do not respect international borders, that encouraging greater cooperative efforts between our scientists and experts makes our fight against the viruses more effective, and that immunization can be more effective when combining the impact of multiple countries’ vaccines. The growing urgency to manage the effects of climate challenges affects both our nations. As leading Arctic powers, the US and Russia have special responsibilities for the future of this critical region. This shared interest underscores the special stake we each have in finding effective ways to address the broader challenge of climate change.

Dartmouth will continue directing its attention to regional conflicts and the implications these conflicts have for the relations between our two countries and for global peace and stability. To the extent possible, the Dartmouth Conference working group on regional conflicts will take up the ongoing and potential future conflicts in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and other regions.

The post-Cold War development of broader people-to-people ties has assumed an essential place in managing our relations. Preventing travel, cultural, scientific, and educational exchange, and business ties from becoming hostages to political disagreement will require sustained attention and support. Dartmouth will seek to expand the joint activities of its working groups in public health, library cooperation, and fire/emergency services to include other areas of mutual interest. There will be a focus on engaging younger generations, the custodians of our future, in such activities.

Restoration of active, effective diplomatic ties and formats for sustained diplomatic engagement will be essential to permit progress on the issues we identify as central to a healthy, well managed, and productive relationship. The Dartmouth Conference participants will work to understand domestic political challenges and different views about values and other issues that have brought our official relations to the present unproductive state. Our participants will seek to understand and build paths to reestablish the infrastructure of diplomatic contacts both countries require to conduct substantive and comprehensive relations, to serve the needs of their publics and private-sector businesses, and to achieve broader engagement between the societies.

As we begin our new decade, the participants of the Dartmouth Conference are united in their determination to build upon the past contributions our forum has made toward building productive, peaceful relations between our nations and our peoples. We will continue to encourage our governments to expand the scope of the official and diplomatic dialogue, pursue joint actions to address shared interests and common challenges, and pursue clearer understanding of the difficult issues dividing us. We are aware that domestic politics in our countries today have a greater impact on the formation of approaches to foreign policy than they had in the past, and that the emergence of new means of communication can raise new obstacles to mutual understanding. Yet the human dimension today remains central to our relationships. As custodians of the Dartmouth legacy and mission, we will strive to maintain the stability of this channel of communication and its relevance to the pursuit of productive and positive relations between Russia and the United States.

Adopted June 8, 2021