Consul General Alexander Pisarev gave an interview to the Houston-based International Focus magazine
1. First, tell us about yourself and walk us through your background.
Upon graduation from the university I worked as a research fellow in Academic Institute on the United States and Canadian studies. I hold a PhD in history. In 1991 I joined the Ministry of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation. My previous overseas postings were in Washington, DC; Wellington, New Zealand; and Geneva, Switzerland. In June 2017 I was appointed Consul General of Russia in Houston.
2. What does the Consulate General for the Russian Federation do in Houston? What parts of America are covered by your Houston Office?
Our consular district encompasses the central southern part of the United States spanning from Arizona to Alabama, from Nebraska and Iowa to Texas and Louisiana, 13 states total. The primary purpose of our work is to promote economic, business, trade, scientific, cultural and other ties between Russia and states of our consular district. In cooperation with the Houston U.S.-Russia Chamber of Commerce we’re doing our best to spur investment in the Russian Federation and mutually beneficial business ties, facilitate cultural events and student exchange. Here in Texas we are especially focused on such important areas as space and energy. On mutual basis Russian and American cosmonauts are trained in Houston Johnson center and in Star City close to Moscow. There is a team of Russian specialists here working to control the International Space Station.
3. Tell us about the Consulate General of the Russian Federation, and what are the services it provides?
Our office provides a variety of official services. We issue passports to Russian citizens residing in the United States, help them with citizenship matters, provide a wide range of notary services, issue visas to citizens of the United States and other foreign citizens living here. By the way there are more than two hundred thousand Russians who live in the 13 states of our consular district, including more than fifty thousand in Texas alone.
The good news I’m excited to announce to your readers is that since March 4th, the Russian Federation and the United States apply a universal fee for all visas regardless of their type and validity period. Practically, our office now mostly issues multiple 3-year visas to American citizens. The same type of U.S. visas are issued to Russian citizens. We hope this will become a major step towards greater business, humanitarian and tourist exchange between our two countries.
4. What are some past, present and future goals for the Russian’ relationship with the U.S.?
The Russian Federation has a very stable vision of our relations with the United States and we do not see a point in dividing them into past, present and future. This vision is based on the assumption that the United States is the world’s only superpower. At the same time both Russia and the United States are permanent members of the UN Security Council, and our countries share a special responsibility for maintaining strategic stability, peace and security in the world. Being the leading military powers, we are the only two counties having the full nuclear triad at our disposal (strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic submarines). A full-scale US-Russia bilateral dialogue is absolutely vital for the whole world. It is especially important now that we witness the rise of terrorism, multiple regional crises and overall international turbulence due to the disintegration of arms control and non-proliferation regimes.
5. Tell us about your perspective on ways that the United States-Russian cooperation may be furthered.
What I would like to emphasize is the importance of the two countries working together. Of course there was a period of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States from 1949 to 1989 when due to ideological differences we considered each other foes. But today we share the same values of freedom of speech, democracy, respect for human rights, market economy. You can easily see it if you compare the texts of Russian and American constitutions.
Historically speaking, most of the past our countries cooperated with each other. From the declaration of armed neutrality, by which Catherine the Great supported the US in the War of Independence, to the Crimean War when American surgeons worked at hospitals of the besieged city of Sevastopol. From the American Civil War, when Russia was the only European power to support President Abraham Lincoln to World War II when the Soviet Union and the United States together crushed the Nazi and Japanese military machines threatening to enslave Europe and the whole world. The Russian Federation was among the first countries to support the US in the fight against terrorism after 9/11. Today it is critically important to build on this heritage, preserving such areas of bilateral cooperation as peaceful space exploration, medicine, agriculture, cultural and people-to-people ties. Since more than 50 thousand American fans visited last year’s FIFA World Cup matches in Russia this huge interest speaks volumes about the potential our collaboration holds. The Russian Federation will always stand for equal, mutually respectful and pragmatic relations based on reciprocity and constructive dialogue.
6. What are some big picture issues facing the Russian Federation today?
In the 1990s Russia survived a period of chaos brought about by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The present age of stable development started in 1999 and brought the Russian people tangible improvement in quality of life and prosperity as the country’s GDP more than doubled during these 20 years. But we look into the future and want our country to become an economic leader of the 21st century. To that end the Russian Federation is now developing 12 of so called “national projects” that will allow the country to undergo a qualitative change by the year 2024. These national projects are focused on such areas as healthcare, education, housing, environment, all kinds of infrastructure, employment, science, digital economy, culture, small business and exports. They include concrete measures to combat poverty, improve life expectancy, increase income for all Russian citizens, jumpstart innovative economy and create highly productive jobs. Around $430 billion will be assigned for these projects. Half of that money will come from the federal budget, 25% – from the budgets of the regions, 25% – from the private sector.
7. Doing Business in Russia
The Russian Federation is doing its best to improve investment climate in the country. Since 2012 when the government was first tasked with a massive investment climate program aiming to drastically improve business conditions in Russia we made significant progress. We have not achieved all the goals just yet, but one evidence of us being on the right path is that in World Bank’s annual Doing Business report Russia jumped from 120th in the world in 2012 to 31st in the year 2019. Our consulate as well as the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC, stand ready to provide all necessary assistance to American companies willing to do business in Russia.