US Ambassador to Russia Opens WW II Museum Exhibit On His Father, Reviews US-Russia Relations

New Orleans, La. – Ambassador Beyrle says the new exhibit outlines his father Joe's rare wartime experience, starting with his parachuting into Normandy on D-Day.

"He was captured by the Germans fairly soon after that and spent the next six months in prison camps. He escaped twice. He was recaptured twice. The third time he escaped in January 1945 was from a camp located very close to where Russian forces were advancing for the final assault on Berlin. So when he escaped from the camp he went east and linked up with a Russian armored unit."

He told members of the World Trade Center, World Affairs Council and Consular Corps of New Orleans about his more than 25 years in foreign service. And he says he's banking on Russia being a strong U-S ally.

"Russia really matters a great deal to our ability as Americans to achieve our own national interests, whether we're talking about stemming the spread of weapons of mass destruction or international terrorism. Having Russia pulling with us, contributing to international solutions to those problems is going to get us a lot farther than if Russia is taking a neutral or a negative stance."

Beyrle is working on easing visa restrictions to allow more travel opportunity for Russians.

"It will certainly facilitate much more exchange of businessmen and students. And frankly it will make it easier for Russians to visit the United States, and cheaper as well. It's one of the biggest areas of our gains in tourism, is Russians coming to the United States just to go to Disneyworld or to visit Bourbon Street."

Beyrle says the biggest obstacles to progress are corruption in Russian bureaucracy and uneven democratic development.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming