Andrey Baykov Opens ACONA Boot Camp

Andrey Baykov Opens ACONA Boot Camp

10 January 2022

January 10th marked the opening of the second boot camp for the new cohort of the Arms Control Negotiations Academy (ACONA) — a joint educational program of Harvard University, MGIMO University, and four other partner organizations from Russia, Europe, and the USA. The Vice-Rector for Science and Research and ACONA Executive Council member Andrey Baykov gave a welcoming speech for the organizers and participants of the program.

The Vice-Rector noted with satisfaction how quickly ACONA, an educational program, is turning into a young expert community, united by common professional interests, even in the context of virtual meetings due to the pandemic. He also appreciated the way research is organized at the Academy. “As MGIMO University was established by the Russian Foreign Ministry and is conducting research in the interest of the Russian foreign policy, it’s important for the institution to make sure that the research is of practical use. It’s encouraging to see the results of work done by the research groups of the second cohort and understand that they can be easily put into practice,” Andrey Baykov noted. He also recalled the US-Russia talks on safeguards, which were taking place on the same day in Geneva and expressed his hope that after a while discussions of similar significance will be held by the ACONA graduates.

The ACONA is a 12-month program for 16 young experts from various countries and regions of the world to get the necessary skills and knowledge for conducting talks in the realm of arms control. The participants are to attend three 5-day boot camps, during which and in between them they study the history of arms control, learn about the technics and practice of negotiations and do research in mixed international groups. Young experts present the results of their project to the Academy’s experts to jointly develop innovative approaches to complex arms control issues. After completing the program, the fellows receive an Academy’s certificate and join the alumni community, which allows them to engage in other projects of the ACONA partner organizations.

For the first time the program was held in July 2020 – June 2021. The first cohort included the MGIMO graduates A. Tugov (Russian MFA) and M. Chepurina (CTBTO PC). Among the fellows of the second cohort there are two graduates of the MA dual degree program “WMD Nonproliferation, Nuclear Policy and Global Security” V. Bedenko (Otkrytaya Yadernaya Set) and Y. Yuan (PhD program of MGIMO University and China Foreign Affairs University).

The research project in the second program consists of two parts. Between the first and the second boot camps the mixed international groups prepare a policy brief on the major issues of nuclear non-proliferation and arms control from the perspective of the relevant talks. After the presentation of policy briefs the ACONA participants are to draft a policy memo for diplomats of the countries concerned and the representatives of the international organizations.

The design and implementation of the research component of the Academy’s program is supervised by the Chief Strategy Officer and Research Fellow at the IIS Center for Middle Eastern Studies Adlan Margoev. As it was the case during the first launch of the program, he acts as a research superviser of one of the four research groups, whose project is devoted to the political and technical issues concerning the implementation of the IAEA safeguards system in Iran.

Laura Rockwood and Ali Vaez, leading experts on the IAEA safeguards and Iranian nuclear program, spoke at the presentation of the project moderated by Adlan Margoev together with ACONA Coordinator Matthew Kokkinos on the first day of the second boot camp. The experts appreciated the project and suggested ideas to improve the wording and talking points proposed by the research group. The detailed comments by the experts were followed by a Q&A session, including the discussion among the guest experts. The topic in question is especially important against the backdrop of the eighth round of talks in Vienna on reviving the Iran nuclear deal.

The ACONA second boot camp will also host the discussion of another policy brief on a potential US-Russian arms control agreement. The guest reviewer will be the Senior Research Fellow at the IIS Center for Advanced American Studies Andrey Baklitskiy, who has already participated in the program as an expert.

The ACONA fellows are likely to have an opportunity to present their projects for the first time in person in Iceland, as it was planned in 2019 before the launch of the program. The organizers consider inviting the alumni of the first cohort to join the third boot camp, as their program was held virtually due to the pandemic. The in-person session will allow for better ties between the participants and stronger basis for the alumni community.

In March 2022, the applications will be accepted for the third cohort of the Arms Control Negotiations Academy. To prepare the portfolio for selection in time, we invite you to learn more about the requirements from the last year’s announcement. The selection takes into account the regional and country quotas, and MGIMO University, as partner of the program, encourages a high number of applications from Russia.

The ACONA organizers from MGIMO University intend to further participate in the development of the Academy, including within the framework of the “Priority – 2030” program. As Andrey Baykov noted last year, “MGIMO’s full-fledged participation in the Arms Control Negotiations Academy is a contribution to the University’s international cooperation in a key area for Russian foreign policy. MGIMO University is justifiably proud of its own traditions in this area: a graduate of the first cohort of students of the University, Roland Timerbaev, was the leading negotiator of the Soviet delegation at the discussions on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Timerbaev's legacy is preserved and further developed by the PIR Center, a leading Russian research center, with which MGIMO has been holding a double degree master's program in nuclear nonproliferation for five years, the only one in the world in this area."