A Russian man considered to be one of the top experts in his country's relationship with the United States said Thursday in Monterey a strained relationship between the two countries was not a factor in the Boston bombing.
Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, downplayed reports the FBI and CIA ignored warnings from Russian authorities about an alleged Boston bomber.
"You can imagine the people at the FBI swamped with all sorts of reports about all sorts of things and they may have looked at this ... and put it aside," he said Thursday before a speech at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. "I do not believe that this decision is motivated by whatever Mr. Putin does elsewhere. You're talking (intelligence) professionals — and professionals are professional, immune from political noise."
Two U.S. officials told The Associated Press earlier this week the Russian government contacted the FBI and CIA separately in 2011 with concerns about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the alleged Boston bombers.
The FBI said its investigators found nothing to suggest Tsarnaev was part of an extremist group and shared that information with the Russians, The AP said.
Trenin, a former Soviet and Russian military officer, said the alleged Boston bombers were "beyond the pale in all respects.
"As someone who has spent 20-plus years in the military," he said, "I can understand a guerrilla blowing up a military officer's canteen .
Trenin spoke to about 100 students in the Irvine Auditorium on "Why Russia matters to the United States."
He said his country now finds itself in a "pretty unenviable position of being neither a threat nor opportunity" for the U.S.
Yet he said Russia matters to the U.S. for a number of reasons, including: its economy continues to improve since the start of the post-Soviet Union era; it's a major producer of oil and gas; is rich in other natural resources (especially water); is a major exporter of weapons and nuclear technology; and its proximity to North America.
Anna Vassilieva, the director of MIIS' Graduate Learning Initiative in Russian Studies, said she invited Trenin because "he is the top expert on U.S.-Russian relations."
She said the goal of her program was to introduce students to experts so they could learn directly from them. After his speech he taught a class, in Russian, to Russian-speaking students.
Trenin concluded his speech with a bit of Russian pride.
"Russia is unlikely to wither away," he said. "... It's a country with a past but not a country of the past. It is certainly a country with a future and of the future."
Phillip Molnar can be reached at 646-4487 or email@example.com.