When 85-year-old Ambassador Jack Matlock enters our lecture hall, he strides to the front of the room, takes off his newsboy cap and waits expectantly for our Professor’s introduction. We’re just a bunch of college kids with a vague notion of where Ljubljana is, while Matlock, the final Ambassador to the Soviet Union, is just sliiiiightly more impressive than we are. With 35 years in the foreign services, this 1950 Duke University graduate is a no bones about it thinker–he’s going to say what he means and mean what he says. After all, Matlock was instrumental in nurturing U.S.-Soviet relations, even acting as Gorbachev in several mock-summits with President Ronald Reagan.
Today’s lecture is about the current state of U.S.-Russia relations, particularly in light of our most recent election, and the “flood of news and announcements about Russia’s so called interference.” Matlock begins by saying that, “I’m not going to try and predict anything, but when it happens, I’ll explain why it was inevitable.” (This got a bunch of laughs.) Although Matlock believes that Trump won without any help from Russian hacking, “that particular incident had absolutely nothing to do with getting Trump elected,” he points out that, “you don’t have to take a Psych course or an International Relations course to know Russia wanted Trump to win.” In Matlock’s eyes, the Russian government so vehemently believed that Clinton would win, that they hacked the DNC to prove their might.
Much of Matlock’s lecture was spent reflecting upon the missed political opportunities and hubris of the last 20 years. In his eyes, Russia can be part of the U.S. solution or the U.S. problem, but at this rate, post-Cold War U.S. triumphalism has significantly tainted U.S.-Russia relations. (Matlock is very clear that the U.S. did not win the Cold War, or defeat Communism. “Communism defeated itself.”) While Matlock believes Trump “may have not made sense with anything he says,” he is hopeful that our new President will help establish a healthy working relationship between the two countries.
So what should we expect? Not totally sure, and neither is Ambassador Matlock.