Richard Samuels is a renowned expert for international relations, not only as an academic, but also in practice: He worked as Advisor for the U.S. government and taught at top-universities such as Yale and Princeton. Moreover, Samuels is Director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology as well as chairman of the Japan-US Friendship Commission. As an Einstein Visiting Fellow, Samuels conducts research about Japan's role in East Asia's security policy at the Graduate School of East Asian Studies.
“After decades of accepting U.S. supremacy in Asia as the foundation of its foreign and security policies, finding the right distance between the U.S. and China is the most important strategic choice facing Japan today. 'Getting it just right' with these two powers requires military and economic readjustments. The Japan-U.S. alliance is still the bedrock of Tokyo's grand strategy, but it was designed for a bipolar world that many Japanese strategists understand has passed. A rising China and a United States in relative decline are today at least equals in Japan's strategic calculus. My research in Berlin - based upon field work in Japan - will explore the shifting dynamics of East Asian security and its impact on Japan's evolving national security strategy, particularly the evolution of Tokyo's intelligence capabilities.“
Please name three things that you spontaneously connect to Albert Einstein.
Perhaps because I am not a physicist, the first things are conjured from my early memories -- his electrified hair and his violin. They somehow communicated to me as a young boy that scientific genius needn't be divorced from daily life or art. The third is less superficial. It is the wonderful book, Einstein's Dreams, by Alan Lightman, my friend- and now my in-law through the marriage of our children. Alan is a physicist who playfully and imaginatively captures the pain of creativity and the metaphysics of relativity.
Is there a place in Berlin that links to the work on your research project?
Yes, everywhere I see the brass stolpersteine reminding Berliners of their city's history. In addition to their never failing to be deeply moving, they also remind me of how Germany and Japan have differentially embraced their pasts. War memory is challenged in many ways in Western Europe; not everyone is fully healed-or will be. But here it seems a living and mostly healthy organism. In East Asia it remains a central trope in international relations-- a raw wound blocking reconciliation and fueling animosities that threaten regional and global security.
Who or what inspires you at work?
Albert Hirschman, a native Berliner, has long been an inspiration. His early work on economic development changed the field of political economy. But it was the way in which his magisterial treatises Exit Voice and Loyalty and The Rhetoric of Reaction traversed disciplines that changed the way I thought about the scholar's central tasks, research and exposition. Jeremy Adelson's superb biography of Hirschman, Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman, further heightened my admiration and determination.
Which district in Berlin do you like the most, and why?
Our son has lived in Neukölln and in Kreuzberg, and now lives in Moabit with our daughter-in-law. Each is a lively and interesting neighborhood. But my wife and I are especially fond of the area in Schöneberg near Viktoria-Luise-Platz. This is because WinterfeldPlatz is our favorite market in the world and the nearby Goltzstraße is such a pleasant and unassuming street along which to stroll or enjoy a coffee.
With whom would you like to exchange your workplace for one day, and what would you do then?
I was a soccer referee for 15 years in the United States-officiating mostly high school and recreational matches in “over the hill“ league where the sides are made up of former college athletes who, in their mid-30s still love the game, even if their skills have diminished. When I watch matches, I tend to focus as much on the referee as on the players, and Pierluigi Collina was always my favorite center ref. I already have his haircut (and I hope his integrity), but if I could also have his fitness and judgment, I would be thrilled to officiate one of his international matches. Even though he has mediated a large number of major battles, I am not sure he'd be equally thrilled to lecture my students on East Asian security.
Photo: Pablo Castagnola/Einstein Stiftung Berlin