A professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island has been given the chance to meet with different representatives from all around the world, not once, but four times.

Two weeks ago, Nicolai Petro attended the most recent of these meetings in Russia.  The meetings serve as an international “think tank” with a specific interest in Russian affairs, and are intended to provide attendees one-on-one time with senior Russian officials. These meeting are “something that just doesn’t happen in the world for senior political leaders,” according to Petro.

“The thing I get the most out of is the interaction with colleagues,” Petro said, reflecting on his attendance at meetings like this for the past 12 years. Up until two years ago, the objective of these meetings was to present Russia to the rest of the world. In the last two years, the goals have shifted and are now focused on discussing contemporary global issues with Russian officials first-hand

The meetings took place over a three-day period and covered topics such as war, economy and literature.

“The attraction is that you’re there for a week to interact with people, and the other is to listen first hand and be able to ask questions of senior international leaders,” Petro said. “Some people tend to be stuck up as you would expect, but other people tend to be really cool.”

Petro said that the experience, although interesting, can become tiring over a three-day period.

“It’s a very exhausting experience because it’s not just wanting to be awake and alert for the President’s speech, but every person you meet is interesting all the time,” he said. The discussions go on past midnight, which can drain a lot of energy. “The only drawback is it’s too interesting,” Petro said.

When speaking with different people from around the world he said one thing he thinks about  is whether or not they could visit URI, which he thinks would expose students to a foreign point of view.

This point of view is “something that is missing from the national press, the United States press,” Petro said. “It covers foreign affairs but only through a narrow, American lens.”

He continued that it’s fascinating to see all of the different media universes come together at this conference and talk about the same issues with different angles. “Combining all of those perspectives, you don’t get to the truth, but you do get a sense of why the context of politics matters and how that context affects the options that exist,” Petro said.