BREAKING: Fletcher School sever ties with two Russian universities in response to war on Ukraine

The Fletcher School at Tufts University has announced that it will sever academic ties with the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), an elite research university under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, following Russia’s war against Ukraine. Fletcher also cut ties with the National Research University. Higher School of Economics (HSE), another Russian institution, earlier this month.

“Fletcher has had an eight-year relationship with MGIMO,” Fletcher School Dean Rachel Kyte wrote in an email to Fletcher students and faculty on Feb. 15. “It was established at a time of declining relations between the West and Russia as a way to build understanding through open dialogue. Today, we have made the decision to end this relationship because the University cannot, in good conscience, continue to maintain a formal relationship with an institution whose leaders have spoken out in favor of war against the ‘Ukraine.

Patrick Collins, executive director of media relations, echoed Kyte’s sentiment that continuing the Fletcher-MGIMO partnership is against Tufts’ morals.

Stephanie Schwartz, Director of Communications at Fletcher, explained in more detail the decision to end the Fletcher-MGIMO partnership in a written statement to the Daily.

Recently, the rector of MGIMO approved the war against Ukraine,” Schwartz wrote. “Fletcher’s leadership has indicated to the rector their strong disagreement with his and other rectors’ support for the war, and expressed their support for the courageous alumni, faculty and students of MGIMO who have called for meaningful peace negotiations and the immediate end of the war. »

The MGIMO press office did not respond to the Daily’s request for comment.

IApart from being a highly ranked university, MGIMO is a think tank and feeds into the upper echelons of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Sergei Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, is the chairman of the board of directors of MGIMO.

Tufts is not the first university in the Greater Boston area to join the chorus of voices denouncing Russian aggression and the institutions complicit in it. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced on February 25 that it would end its partnership with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology. The MGIMO member page on the website of the Association of Professional Schools of International Business was also removed, suggesting that the association also severed relations with the Russian university.

Before Fletcher cut ties with MGIMO, Tufts Professor of Political Science Oxana Shevel explained to the Daily why the partnership with the Russian university had to be terminated. Shevel, who is the president of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies, a national expert on Ukraine for the Global Citizenship Observatory, and an associate of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institutesaid it was a simple question of morality whether to continue the relationship in light of the MGIMO administration’s public support for Putin’s war.

MGIMO – its administration, its deans – justifies this invasion of Ukraine,” Shevel said. “They are reproducing Russian propaganda, their deans talked about it on the BBC, justifying the war… the president of the whole university signed an open letter in favor of the war. … As far as I’m concerned, it’s completely morally unacceptable for Tufts to be affiliated with an institution like this.

She qualified her condemnation of the Fletcher-MGIMO university partnership by acknowledging that many MGIMO students spoke out against the war in an open letter, challenging the university’s public stance.

“That doesn’t mean that [Fletcher] cannot cooperate in different ways and give a platform, for example, to students or occasional professors of MGIMO who can speak out against [the war]”, Shevel noted.

Prior to Tuesday, MGIMO students were enrolled jointly with Fletcher students in a course on US-Russian relations taught by Professor Fletcher and co-director of the Russia and Eurasia program Chris Miller. MGIMO students met virtually with their Fletcher counterparts and collaborated on academic projects. In previous semesters, students enrolled in the joint course have also traveled to meet in person. In his Tuesday email, Kyte wrote that, effective immediately, MGIMO students would no longer attend the course.

Sam Bonelli, a second-year candidate for the Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at Fletcher enrolled in the US-Russian Relations course, said the decision to sever the Fletcher-MGIMO relationship stifles dialogue between Russia and the United States at a critical moment in world politics.

While I agree that we cannot in good faith have a relationship with an entity that condones war and outright denies the damage that is occurring, this decision only bolsters the Kremlin’s agenda, reinforcing the narrative that the West tries to strangle Russia,bonelli wrote in an email to the Daily. “This course was created in response to deteriorating relations between the West and Russia to foster open dialogue – we cannot end it when dialogue is most needed.”

bonelli says that by Kyte announcement email came as a surprise to Fletcher students enrolled in the course on US-Russian relations.

We had no idea this was happening and we learned along with everyone else,” she wrote. “We had group presentations (groups consisting of Fletcher and MGIMO students) scheduled for tomorrow and were completely caught off guard.”

bonelli believes that the MGIMO students of the course have yet to receive the news in an official capacity, which she says misrepresents Fletcher and on the American dialogue with Russia more generally.

“As far as I know, MGIMO students have not discovered [the end of the Fletcher-MGIMO partnership] in an official capacity,” she wrote. “I can’t help but think about how they feel and react to our abrupt absence.”

Taylor, another Fletcher student enrolled in the US-Russian relations course who asked that his name be withheld to protect his privacyechoes At Bonelli’s feeling that ending its collaboration with MGIMO is counterproductive to Fletcher’s mission as a school of law and diplomacy.

“There’s nobody going to be affected by this except for everyone in the class,” Taylor said. “It will do nothing but potentially prevent criticism from [Fletcher]which is my perception of the move.

Taylor said the joint Fletcher-MGIMO course was valuable in helping Fletcher students better understand both the Russian diplomatic perspective and the Russian media landscape as Putin wages war on Ukraine. They stressed that their disappointment that the class is not moving forward jointly with MGIMO students does not amount to an endorsement of Russian aggression.

“No Fletcher student supports the invasion of Russia and none of us were convinced by the story of a special military operation in the Donbass as they claimed, which is the official Kremlin story,” Taylor wrote in an email to The Daily.

The course will continue with only Fletcher students, but Taylor and Bonelli expect that the absence of their MGIMO classmates will significantly weaken the impact of the course.

“What is a course on US-Russian relations with only US perspectives? BonnellI said.

Fletcher has also ended its academic partnership with HSE University. The partnership previously consisted of a joint course entitled International Environmental Law, co-taught by Visiting Professor Fletcher David Wirth and Daria Boklan, Professor at HSE University and available to Fletcher University and HSE students.

Fletcher’s relationship with the Higher School of Economics ended this month and we have notified them that we are not renewing the agreement at this time,” Schwartz wrote.

Kyte did not mention the end of Fletcher’s relationship with HSE University in his March 15 email to Fletcher students and faculty.

Ty Blitstein contributed reporting for this article.