To Carey Cavanaugh, U.S.Russian relations are like a Rolling Stones song.
Cavanaugh, a former U.S. Ambassador with the Department of State who worked out of Washington and Moscow, compared the relationship between the two nations to the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
On Monday night, he addressed a crowd of about 50 at UF’s Grifﬁn-Floyd Hall to discuss the countries’ current relationship. Cavanaugh, a UF alumnus who graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in Russian studies, was invited as part of the Global Challenges Speaker Series.
Cavanaugh said while there’s been debate about the U.S. having tumultous relations with Russia, the focus should be on compromise and pragmatic approaches.
“It isn’t good relations or bad relations, we want to have a relationship with Russia, but what we really need is a productive relationship,” Cavanaugh said.
President Donald Trump’s apparent praise of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, as well as reports of Russian hacking during the presidential election, made his talk relevant, Cavanaugh said.
Ingrid Kleespies, a UF Russian studies professor, said U.S.Russian relations have been tense since 2014 with Russia’s annexation of Crimea, located in Ukraine.
She said she doesn’t condone Russia’s actions, but thinks it’s good for students to get a broader understanding of the country’s choices.
“I certainly think that American press and media can have a tendency to kind of paint the Russians as the bad guys,” Kleespies said. “It would be great to have Americans think about the motivations behind Russia’s actions.”
Christine Le Jeune, a 34-year-old UF anthropology doctoral student, said she attended the talk to hear from an expert. Though Le Jeune studied for a year in Moscow, she said she wanted more information about the topic.
“I really wanted to use the opportunity to catch up and hear from someone who is basically, in my opinion, living history,” said Le Jeune.
For Cavanaugh, being back at UF is a way to inspire students. As an undergraduate, he said he decided to pursue diplomatic relations after hearing from guest speakers in the field.
Now, over 40 years later, Cavanaugh said he hopes to have the same impact on students.
“That was part of what captured me at the University of Florida and led to a career with the government,” Cavanaugh said. “There are jobs that are fascinating, where you can make a real contribution, make a difference not only in the people you’re working with, their lives, but even potentially the state of the nation and the world.”
UF alumnus and former Foreign Service Officer Carey Cavanaugh gives a speech to prospective U.S. State Department students on Monday. Alec Werthman, a 21-year-old UF biochemistry and molecular biology senior attending the talk, said he initially attended the lecture to satisfy a class requirement, but later realized it helped solidify his career choices.