Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) returned to St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) this Fri., March 3. Senator Cardin delivered a speech about U.S.-Russia relations, outlining what he believes the Russians have done, the appropriate response, and subsequent legislation he is sponsoring about the situation. He spoke for more than an hour, and also took questions from the audience. The talk took place in the St. Mary’s Hall Auerbach Auditorium, which had nearly every seat full with faculty, staff, alumni, and local members of the St. Mary’s community.

Senator Cardin has served the state of Maryland as a Senator since 2006. Previously, he was the Representative of Maryland’s Third congressional district, a seat he held from 1987 to 2007. Cardin has both a wealth of experience in the United State legislator, and expertise of foreign relations. Cardin is the Ranking Member (second-most in seniority) of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The Senator’s experience expands outside our own nation, according to the Center for The Study of Democracy “he currently serves as the ‘Special Representative of Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance for the 57-nation Organization and Cooperation in Europe.” He has been identified as a “Russia Hawk” by Nate Silver, Editor-in-Chief of FiveThirtyEight, meaning that Cardin has taken an aggressive stance on U.S.-Russia relations.

Dr. Maija Harkonen, the executive director of The Center for The Study of Democracy (CSD), started off the talk by providing the audience with background information on the conflict between Russia and its surrounding nations. Specifically, she spoke of Northern European security. Dr. Harkonen showed a picture of the Kremlin, Russia’s government complex in Moscow. She pointed out the dreary skies, claiming that it was foreshadowing as she elaborated that she took the  photo the same day that Crimea voted on their Referendum to join Russia. Harkonen continued to explain the complex history behind Crimea, its importance and its standing today.

Dr. Harkonen explained that the Russian annexation of Crimea is illegal because it violates both the Ukrainian constitution and International law. She stated uncertainty of the Medvedev doctrine’s role in justifying Russian aggression into foreign nations, but cited it as a possible factor.

Post Cold War, according to Harkonen, fears of military engagement shrunk greatly. Sweden and Finland both substantially shrunk their military holdings. Yet now, feelings are hostile once again. The change, according to Harkonen, happened due to Russia feeling humiliated following the collapse of the USSR, and in order to prevent Baltic states from slipping deeper into NATO orbit.

Harkonen concluded her portion of the talk as Senator Cardin arrived to the Auerbach Auditorium. Cardin was running late due to a previous commitment. The morning of March 3 the senator had joined other members of the Maryland legislative delegation in Rockville to denounce anti-semitism and stand in solidarity with the jewish community. According to WTOP, “at the end of the event, the stage was packed with men and women from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and other religious communities, all joining to offer support to one another.”

SMCM President Tuajuanda Jordan was introduced by Harkonen who commended President Jordan for adding Bachelors of Science degrees in 6 disciplines, and the creation of the African/African Diaspora House learning and living center.

Dr. Jordan thanked Dr. Harkonen for the background information. She proceeded to introduce  Senator Cardin as an expert on U.S. foreign relations.

Senator Cardin took the stage at around 12:15 pm. To read more about his thoughts on U.S.-Russia relations, please refer to the “Talking Russia” article in the World Perspective Section.