Russian relations expert speaks at UI

By Erik Allgood

Dr. Eugene Lawson, co-founder and former president of the U.S.-Russia Business Council, gave the keynote address for the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center’s annual Current Affairs Forum.

“I live out in Oklahoma and like to take advantage of any chance I get to cross the Mississippi River,” Lawson said, “I like to talk to students, as a former teacher.” The lecture was titled, “Russia: Friend or Foe?”

Lawson lectured on the importance of the United States’ economic involvement in Russia. He said that although Russia is a tough market, most of the serious investors who enter it make a profit. He also spoke about how the economic downturn had negatively affected its economy at a rate comparable to the U.S.

“He seemed like such a knowledgeable person with a lot of connections to the top guns,” said Keun Won Song, sophomore in Business. “I am very impressed that the University offers this sort of event.”

Wolfgang Schlor, deputy director of International Programs and Studies, listed Lawson’s accomplishments in his introduction, including several awards for his efforts improving U.S. and Russian relations. Schlor also cited Lawson’s service as vice chairman of the Export-Import Bank under a nomination given by President George H.W. Bush.

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“That is an introduction my father would have appreciated and my mother would have believed,” Lawson said.

Lawson said that relations between the United States and Russia have been strained by their sale of weapons to countries such as Venezuela.

“This is a little close to our backyard,” Lawson said, “To governments to which we are not on good terms.”

Russia and the U.S. are united in their shared interest in keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear threat, Lawson said.

“Russia has longstanding relations with Iran,” Lawson said, “It is absolutely necessary that we work with them.”

Richard Tempest, director of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, said that Lawson was an obvious choice for this lecture.

“He is one of the only people in his field who has experience as an academic, businessman and government official,” said Tempest, “He was able to give us information in all contexts. There are very few people like that.”