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Bruce W. Bean, MSU College of Law

Professor Bruce W. Bean began his international career upon graduation from Brown University as recipient of the first Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which enabled him to spend a year in Southeast Asia studying student political activity. After receiving his law degree, Professor Bean clerked for Judge Leonard P. Moore on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He practiced law at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett and then Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, where he worked closely with Rudolph Giuliani, later Mayor of New York City. Professor Bean then worked as Counsel for Finance & Planning at the Atlantic Richfield Company in Los Angeles. He returned to New York as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of a diversified financial services company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. While in this position Professor Bean continued his active involvement in mergers, acquisitions and divestitures and actively lobbied on behalf of his company’s interests in Washington.

Professor Bean lived and worked in Russia from March 1995 to July 2003. He was Managing Partner of Coudert Brothers’ Moscow office until June 1998 when he became Head of Corporate and Foreign Direct Investment for Clifford Chance – Moscow, at the time the leading law firm in Russia and the world’s largest international law firm. While in Moscow, he was active with the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission and served as Chairman of both United Way Moscow and the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia. He iss one of the original founders of the Russian Institute of Corporate Law & Governance.

At the College of Law Professor Bean teaches Business Enterprises, Strategic International Transactions, the Global Law Colloquium, Doing Business in Transitional Political Systems, and the Jessup International Moot Court Competition. He also serves as Faculty Advisor to the International Law Review. Professor Bean is Director of the LL.M. for Foreign Lawyers Program. He has taught courses for the Law College in Lodz, Poland, Kaunas, Lithuania and for the MSU LL.M. program in Dubai. He has previously taught at the University of San Diego’s Moscow Institute in Russia and at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute.

MSU Debate: Do you think that the argument is correct that other countries “model” the US system of decentralized federalism? Is this true for a country like Russia?

BWB: Yes, we were an early federation, but is there any reason to think we invented this system? There are overwhelming political reasons to call a system a “federation.”

No nation I am aware of has been crazy enough or desperate enough to create a system comparable to ours where each state in our federation has its own legal system. That has proven to be incredibly awkward and expensive, although great for lawyers.

MSU Debate: What are the potential benefits/concerns you see in Russia adopting a more decentralized approach to policy-making?

BWB: The Russian Federation has no interest in decentralizing. One of the first moves Putin made was to seek to gain control of the subjects of the RF. He appointed 7 regional administrators of the then 89 subjects of the federation and took control of designating governors. For Russia and the world this was actually a good thing, since some of the subjects were operated by criminal elements.

MSU Debate: Are there things that the U.S. could do that would benefit Russian governance in a meaningful way given the tensions between the U.S. and Russia

BWB: Is there any reason to think the US should take steps to “benefit Russian governance?” If by governance you refer to administration of the RF, why would we think we are better equipped than the Russians themselves to determine what would work best there? Indeed, under the Clinton administration Strobe Talbott and much of the US government did undertake that duty. Talbott was derisively referred to as “Proconsul Talbott” by the Russians and was uniformly despised. Of course, under Yeltsin, with oil prices under $20 for all of the 1990’s, Russia was desperate for US economic support through the IMF and therefore tolerated the incessant interference into Russian governance that the US administration and hundreds of know it all academics presumed to offer.

[If by governance you refer to corporate governance, we have done some good things and private efforts continue to offer to discuss with Russian lawyers developments here and there that could be =of interest to them.., The American Bar Association’s Section on International law has run a program in Moscow for the past 8 years where private lawyers get together. The next one is September 19.]

Carly, as one who was caught up in that “we-know-better” movement for years while based in Moscow, I can assure you the Russians know a great deal more about the US than we know about them. We should take care not to project our own ignorance of Russia onto the Russians and assume they know as little about the rest of the world, including the US.

As to your federation point, the slow deterioration of national sovereignty within the EU is a much better example of how others follow the US model. The EU has very gradually begun to do precisely what the States did while existing under the Articles of Federation immediately after our Revolution. The EU is currently a clumsy federation, but as the unavoidably need arises, they are moving very slowly closer to our model, often by decisions of the European Court.

MSU Debate: Your response was really very interesting. I apologize if our questions came off as overly “U.S. centered” – we debate about a resolution all year that asks what the U.S. should do and I think sometimes we forget that that does sound like “we-know-better.” You’re absolutely right to point out that, in reality, many countries are doing just fine without us.

BWB: You will note all kinds of nations commented on our issue in Ferguson last month. Maybe they have a point? were they wrong to lecture/criticize us since we do so much of that?

MSU Debate: I’m wondering if you would be willing to expand on your thoughts about the benefits of centralization in Russia. You say that a centralized approach allowed Putin to eliminate some criminal elements. Is that a process you see as largely completed or something that is still a work in progress?

BWB: There was a saying in Russia when we lived there that the farther one was from Moscow, the less significance Moscow’s government had. When Exxon had a problem in Sakhalin Island (beyond Vladivostok) Exxon would simply appeal in Moscow after losing there, and get the decision overturned. Russia will continue to evolve until long after Putin has left. This is exactly what we did for more than a century.

MSU Debate: This has very little to do with our topic this year but we discussed it at length last year. I’m wondering what your take is on Russia and Ukraine. What are the primary motivating factors sparking conflict there in your opinion? It also seems like U.S. attempts to intervene have done more harm than good in some instances. Are there actions any international actors could take that would moderate tensions there?

BWB: The US has been actively opposing Ukrainian governments since prior to the Orange Revolution (which we paid for). The folks who truly believe we can redesign the world in our image, or at least to our liking, are the policy makers in Washington. This cannot be blamed on Bush since it continued under Obama without interruption. We must know better, or at least there are those in Washington are dependent upon our thinking this is so. Never underestimate the power of bureaucratic “experts” to continue their role long after it is needed. Exhibit A? NATO.

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