Status: Open

4th Cohort Students (2019-2021) Of The Dual Degree Master’s Program In Nonproliferation Studies Defended Their Theses

June 9, 2021

MOSCOW, JUNE 9, 2021. PIR PRESS. «Strategic stability in Russian-American relations… What to expect from Iran’s missile program… What are the chances that the DPRK will abandon nuclear weapons… How to 3D-print a drone and what this means for the arms control regime… Does nuclear energy have a future in the Middle East … These are just some of the topics we were discussing for the last two evenings and into the night, connecting Moscow, California, New York, Yekaterinburg, Seoul … “Discuss” is the exact word. But, strictly speaking, it was students from different countries who reported to the members of the State Examination Commission headed by General of the Army Vyacheslav Trubnikov. And MGIMO University, PIR Center and Middlebury Institute of International Studies “connected the wires”. Students are now masters. The Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation has taken a new qualitative step forward. And has confirmed that this master’s program is not just “international”, not just “unique”, but also with a stable quality mark», ‒ Vladimir Orlov, PIR Center Director, MGIMO Professor and Academic Advisor of the Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation.

On June 1 and 2, the master’s theses defense of the 4th cohort students of the Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation took place. This program is developed jointly by the PIR Center, MGIMO, and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS, USA).

Students of the program from Russia, the United States and South Korea presented their final papers as the result of their studies on the program in 2019-2021. The defense of theses took place in the Zoom format.

The State Examination Commission was headed by Vyacheslav Trubnikov, General of the Army, Hero of the Russian Federation, Board Member of IMEMO RAS, Member of PIR Center Executive Board. Evgeny Buzhinskiy, Lieutenant-General (Retired), Chairman of PIR Center Executive Board, Mikhail Lysenko, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (ret.), Associate Professor of the Department of International Law of MGIMO, Member of PIR Center Advisory Board, Sergey Veselovsky, Associate Professor at the Applied International Analysis Chair of MGIMO, Vladimir Orlov, Professor of MGIMO, Director of PIR Center, Academic Advisor of the Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation, and Alexey Ubeev, Member of PIR Center Advisory Board were among the State Examination Commission members.

Scientific guidance from the Russian side was carried out by Alexander Vorontsov, Head of Department for Korean and Mongolian Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the RAS, Mikhail Lysenko, Associate Professor of the Department of International Law of MGIMO, Sergei Veselovsky, Associate Professor at the Applied International Analysis Chair of MGIMO, Mikhail Troitsky, Director of the School of Government and International Affairs of MGIMO, Vladimir Orlov, MGIMO Professor and PIR Center Director, Alexander Nikitin, Director of MGIMO Center for Euro-Atlantic Security.

The research team of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey was represented by Jeffrey Knopf, Professor and Program Chair of Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, Jeffrey Lewis, MIIS Professor and Director of East Asia Nonproliferation Project (EANP) at James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), George Moore, Scientist-in-Residence at CNS, Philipp Bleek, MIIS Associate Professor in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies Program, Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, Scientist-in-Residence at CNS, Edward J. Lawrence, Professor Emeritus at MIIS. Nikolai Sokov, the Senior Fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation, also acted as a scientific mentor. Director of James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies Dr. William C. Potter also took part in the master’s theses defense procedure. The active participation of foreign partners of the program in the preparation and defense of students’ theses has proved that the synergy of the leading educational institutions of Russia and the US gives positive results.

The substantive part of the master’s theses defense was the presentation of students with a brief analysis of the main provisions of their papers. The defense procedure also included a traditional discussion session and comments from the scientific advisors and opponents from both Russian and American sides. 4th cohort students presented qualitative research on topical issues from both practical and theoretical points of view. The presented analysis touched upon the differences between Russian and American approaches to strategic stability, the problem of NATO nuclear sharing arrangements, missile technology control regime, prospects for the Russian-American dialogue on strategic offensive arms control, prospects for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and additive technologies in the aerospace industry. In addition to deeply researched theses, most of the students demonstrated confident command of the issue substance in a discussion with the State Examination Commission. Besides, some students got recommendations to publish their master’s theses in leading analytical journals on global security, especially in informational and analytical materials of PIR Center.

All members of the State Examination Commission were involved in a discussion, which reflected a genuine interest in the topics of final papers and a high level of scientific training of graduates. Professors and mentors of the Dual Degree M.A. Program in Nonproliferation Studies noted the intellectual growth and evolution of students during their education. According to Vladimir Orlov, “in a number of cases, significant progress of students was noticeable, since not all of them hit the road with a good command of the nonproliferation issues. Constant self-improvement in combination with professional mentoring of the scientific advisors ensured success at the final stage”.

The commendable results of the 4th cohort students showed that neither the pandemic nor the complexities of distant learning caused an adverse effect on the quality of education and the level of professional training of master’s students.

The head of the State Examination Commission Vyacheslav Trubnikov encapsulated results of the theses defense in an astute comment, “Congratulations to 4th cohort students of the Dual Degree M.A. Program in Nonproliferation Studies on the highly successful completion of their education and the defense of their theses. I would like to note the high-quality and truly scientific approach of students to writing final papers.  I emphasize that the high level of theses was achieved due to the perseverance and hard work of the students, as well as the sensitive mentoring of experts from Russia and the United States. The members of the State Examination Commission with interest and at times with appreciation discussed the widest geographic and bold thematic variety of the students’ master dissertations.”

Commending students for their results, Dr. William C. Potter said, “I continue to be very impressed by the professionalism of our young Dual Degree M.A. Program scholars.  The students whom I observed in the defense of their theses demonstrated a deep understanding of the topics they researched. They also communicated their findings in a thoughtful and cogent manner.  I am persuaded that they have very bright futures before them in the nonproliferation and international security field.  They will make both Middlebury and MGIMO proud.”

“Given the difficult circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, the quality of the theses and the comprehensive amount of research the students completed were especially impressive. The students presented their findings and responded to questions in a highly professional manner. The thesis projects covered a wide range of topics, from the future of US-Russia arms control to prospects for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula to the implications of additive manufacturing (i.e., 3-D printing) for missile proliferation. The graduates of the Dual Degree M.A. Program should have promising careers ahead of them,” Jeffrey Knopf, Professor and Program Chair, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said.

4th cohort of the Dual Degree M.A. Program was not only successful from an academic point of view, but also showed that MGIMO, PIR Center and MIIS keep up with the times by contributing to improvement of the quality of world science and diplomacy in the field of global security. As Assistant to Director on Special Projects, Education & Training Program Coordinator of PIR Center Elena Karnaukhova notes, “4th cohort of our Dual Degree M.A. Program in Nonproliferation Studies demonstrated gender balance. We, in PIR Center, are proud that this field attracts girls who show brilliant results in their scientific activities. We are glad that Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation makes a significant contribution to the development of the women’s agenda in Russia and promotes active involvement of women in the fields related to international security. Our exceptional graduates from among Russian student girls become valuable assets for science and diplomacy, improving the image of Russia in the international arena.”

In 2021, 8 graduates of the 4th cohort (2019-2021) are going to obtain diplomas from two universities – Russian and American; they are awarded master’s degrees in International Relations of MGIMO and Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies of Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. So, how do they assess their education and results?

“Before the Dual Degree M.A. Program, I had an engineering mindset with limited knowledge in international relations. This program truly challenged me and pushed me to look at critical problems from different perspectives. Going forward, I will use the knowledge I gained from these courses to work towards a better future. Also, it was unbelievable to present my research to experts with such incredible backgrounds, really a once in a lifetime experience,” recollects alumnus Allison Anne Owen (USA).

“As a student of the Dual Degree M.A. Program, I had the opportunity to learn about the world of nonproliferation and arms control from practitioners and experts whose experiences provided a broad range of viewpoints, something that is necessary to allow students to gain a nuanced understanding of the thorny issues surrounding nuclear weapons in the modern world. The thesis defense was a good opportunity to get constructive feedback on the topics that we had explored,” Collin Patrick McDowell states (USA).

“Being a part of this Dual Degree M.A. Program was a transformative experience that exposed me to the new area of knowledge taught by the top practitioners and scholars in their respective fields. Of note, the curriculum allowed me to pursue my research interests through its required dissertation component. Working under the guidance of advisors from both schools, I examined the various applications of certain disruptive technologies; I investigated the potential implications for national security and the global distribution of power. Presenting dissertation findings before the esteemed Committee during the defense was followed by a number of valuable remarks and defined directions for my future studies. Overall, this unique program provided excellent preparation for a truly global career in security and nonproliferation,” Irina Yarovaya says (Russia).

“It was a meaningful two years. I was interested in the nonproliferation in East Asia. The classes were intense and demanding, but since I was interested in this subject, I was able to put in the effort and receive good results. Writing the thesis was arduous; however, both of my advisors at MIIS and MGIMO were extremely helpful in drawing an outline and planning the schedule for my thesis. Luckily, I got an A for my defense which is grateful. These two years were awesome. I am very grateful to everyone who helped our cohort from PIR Center, MIIS, and MGIMO,” Yoo Dong Suk points out (South Korea).
“Today, when the US-Russian relationship is worse than they were in the darkest period of the Cold War, the Dual Degree M.A. Program in Nonproliferation Studies bears particular importance. It is crucial to normalize bilateral dialogue between the two countries, and the only way to do so is to work on the understanding of each other’s position, red lines, as well as room for cooperation. Communication with MGIMO/MIIS professors contributed a lot to forming my balanced approach towards the key issues of international relations, namely, global security, WMD nonproliferation, and nuclear policy. Now, after my thesis defense, when the Dual Degree M.A. Program is finished, I can say for sure that it was the right decision for me to choose the program. I am grateful to PIR Center Team, MGIMO, and MIIS professors for their contribution to the program’s successfully functioning and training a new generation of unique professionals,” Inna Rodina says (Russia).

Meanwhile, PIR Center continues to accept applications from Russian enrollees for the NTI Scholarship, which partially covers the costs of studying at the Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation (MGIMO-MIIS-PIR Center). Don’t miss the opportunity to join the ranks of young experts in the field of nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament and global security (read more:

For all questions related to the Dual Degree M.A. Program in Nonproliferation Studies, you can contact Assistant to Director on Special Projects & Education and Training Program Coordinator Elena Karnaukhova by e-mail