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New Arms Control Negotiation Academy Seeks to Reimagine International Security

Six institutions from the United States, Russia and Europe recruit 16 future leaders in arms control for intensive training program.

Cambridge, Mass.; Washington, DC; Reykjavík, Iceland; Frankfurt, Germany; Moscow, Russia — On July 1, 2020, six renowned academic institutions from the United States, Russia, and Europe join forces and welcome the inaugural cohort of the Arms Control Negotiation Academy (ACONA), a new, highly selective program that will train 16 emerging international security leaders in arms control history, technology, and negotiations with the goal to identify new pathways that can reduce tensions between great powers.

ACONA is a multi-institutional collaboration led by and hosted at the Negotiation Task Force at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies (U.S.), in collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program (U.S.), Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre at the University of Iceland (Iceland), the Higher School of Economics (Russia), Moscow State Institute of International Relations (Russia), and Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (Germany).

The American, Russian, and European scholars are gravely concerned over the continuing disintegration of the global arms control architecture, including the recent collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, and the uncertain future of the New START agreement. “Scientists and civil society can and must play a leading role in creating new spaces for open dialogue to overcome this crisis,” said Harvard lecturer Arvid Bell, Director of the Negotiation Task Force and ACONA Executive Board member. “If we don’t act now, we could soon face a world without a single strategic arms control agreement for the first time since the 1960s.”

Born out of this crisis of arms control, ACONA is founded on the understanding that global security depends on constructive engagement between the United States and Russia as well as the broader international community. “We have to start from scratch and build a new generation of scholars, diplomats, and decision-makers who are familiar with the history, theory, and negotiation techniques of arms control,” said Professor Christopher Daase of Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, a member of the ACONA Executive Board. 


The Academy solicited applications worldwide to fill only sixteen spots. The selected ACONA Fellows hail from eight countries—including four experts each from the United States and Russia—and a diversity of professional and academic backgrounds. "I am delighted that so many smart young people are interested in learning more about negotiating arms control agreements. We will need them—their brains, expertise and enthusiasm—to go forward," said Rose Gottemoeller, former Deputy General Secretary of NATO and former U.S. Under Secretary of State, and a member of the ACONA International Advisory Board.

Over the course of one year, Fellows will acquire advanced negotiation skills and collaborate on international research projects to generate new ideas about the future of arms control. They will meet virtually in August 2020 for the first “Negotiation Boot Camp,” a week-long intensive workshop. The second boot camp will take place in Iceland in January 2021.

The small Nordic state has served as a neutral meeting place for one of the most important historic achievements in global diplomacy. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan met in Reykjavík in 1986 for productive talks that led to the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty.

“It's great to know that young people, some of whom were not even born when Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan met in Reykjavik, will be coming there to learn about the past and present of nuclear arms control and to discuss the future,” said Pavel Palazhchenko, ACONA International Advisory Board member and Mikhail Gorbachev’s chief English interpreter, who participated in all U.S.-Soviet summits leading to the end of the Cold War, including the 1986 meeting between Gorbachev and Reagan in Höfði House, Reykjavík.

Other ACONA International Advisory Board members in addition to Gottemoeller and Palazhchenko are Professor William C. Potter, Director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and Foreign Member to the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Russian Academy of Sciences member Alexei Arbatov, Head of the Center for International Security at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO).

ACONA is funded by Fondation "Avec et pour autres," the Negotiation Task Force, the Icelandic government, and the University of Iceland.

Inaugural ACONA Fellows

Ms. Amina Afzal
Senior Non-Resident Fellow, Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad

Mr. Iskander Akylbayev
Executive Director, Kazakhstan Council on International Relations

Ms. Álfrún Baldursdóttir
Consular Service Officer, Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Mr. Logan Brandt
Mid-Career Cadre, Center for Strategic and International Studies Project on Nuclear Issues

Ms. Jessica Bufford
Program Officer, Nuclear Threat Initiative

Dr. Maria Chepurina
External Relations Officer, Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization

Ms. Marianne Fisher
Associate Project Officer, International Atomic Energy Agency

Ms. María Garzón Maceda
Policy Leader Fellow, European University Institute

Dr. Alexander Graef
Researcher, Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg

Dr. Oleg Krivolapov
Research Fellow, Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies

Ms. Brynja Oskarsdottir
Strategic Communications Expert

Dr. Kanica Rakhra
Consultant, Disarmament and International Security Affairs Division, Indian Ministry of External Affairs

Dr. Maria Roskoshnaya
Chief Export Control Officer, ROSATOM Group

Dr. Victoria Sanchez
Foreign Affairs Officer, U.S. Department of State

Dr. Benjamin Schaller
Research Fellow, UiT - The Arctic University of Norway

Mr. Astan Tugov
Second Secretary, Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation



The History and Public Policy Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars focuses on the relationship between history and policy making. A leader in uncovering and publishing policy-relevant documentation, the Program works with a global network to build next-generation research capacity, foster dialogue and debate on history, and push for greater archival access.

Höfði Reykjavík Peace Centre, a collaborative effort of the City of Reykjavík and the University of Iceland, is a forum for international multidisciplinary cooperation, with an emphasis on the role of small states, cities and citizens in promoting peace. Höfði is the name of the house where Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavík in 1986 and refers to the role Iceland played as a small non-militarized state in the conflict between two superpowers.

The Moscow State Institute of International Relations is Russia’s most revered educational institution with a wide range of educational programs and specializations. Enjoying an excellent reputation and high positions in academic ratings the University has built up a wide net of international contacts. The development of bilateral and multilateral contacts continues to be a key priority of the MGIMO strategy today.

National Research University Higher School of Economics, consistently ranked one of Russia’s top universities, is a leader in Russian education and one of the preeminent economics and social sciences universities in eastern Europe and Eurasia. Having rapidly grown into a well-renowned research university over two decades, HSE University sets itself apart with its international presence and cooperation.

The Negotiation Task Force at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University promotes innovative solutions to Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security challenges by creating spaces for cross-cultural negotiation research, training, and strategic analysis. The NTF pioneers new models for high-impact knowledge dissemination, trains practitioners in advanced negotiation skills, and builds long-term conflict management capacity.

The Peace Research Institute Frankfurt is one of the leading conflict resolution think tanks in Europe. PRIF scholars conduct knowledge-driven and applied basic research with the pursuit of passing practical outcomes on to politics and society. The institute develops options of action and provides background information and analyses for ministries, parties, NGOs and companies. PRIF scholars advise politicians and expert committees, contribute to expert consultations, and participate in delegations and committees of the German Federal Foreign Office on European and international level.




Arms Control Negotiation Academy (ACONA)
Negotiation Task Force (NTF)
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies
Harvard University
1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Phone: +1 (617) 496 2180

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