Lavrov talks Trump, US-Russia relations, and diplomatic scandals at major press conference


January 17, 2017 – Fort Russ News – 

RIA Novosti – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

Photo credit: RIA Novosti, Grigory Sysoev

Expectations for first contact with the new White House administration, the prospects of US-Russia relations, and the dangers facing Russian diplomats in the US were the main topics of Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov’s latest major press conference.

US-Russia relations

Journalists were interested most of all in relations with the countries of the West, first and foremost the US. Responding to questions on this matter, the Russian foreign minister emphasized that Russia is acting from the position of recognizing equality and the mutual consideration of interests. Based on such a position of mutual respect, Russia is ready to build relations with the US, EU, and NATO. However, Lavrov remarked, this must be done “without importing values and without attempts to impose any kind of values,” especially since “these values have already been seriously discredited.”

The minister added that Moscow shares the opinion of US President-elect Donald Trump that every country should answer for its own development. “We advocate for everyone to be independent and for there to be less dependency in the world, for there to be respect for the law and the legitimate interests of every state,” Lavrov stated.

Expectations for the new White House

No less interest was displayed towards the question of what Russia expects from the new American administration.

Lavrov responded that Moscow “fearlessly” but “unenthusiastically” expects that Donald Trump’s team will be inaugurated and fulfill its duties. Lavrov expressed hope that cooperation with the new administration will be more effective than under Barack Obama.

The Russian foreign minister stressed: “If what Donald Trump and his team are saying about Russia and their readiness to seek joint approaches to solve common problems and overcome common threats – if this is the position of the new administration, then we will respond reciprocally.” 

Speaking of Trump, Lavrov remarked that the US President-elect is not like any of his predecessors in his views. “At the heart of these views are the core interests of the US as Donald Trump understands them,” Lavrov explained. 

According to the minister, Russia welcomes the fact that one of the US’ main priorities is the fight against terrorism and that Trump and his team’s statements suggest that they will not use double standards in this fight. However, Lavrov continued, Moscow will be able to start officially agreeing with Washington on possible ways of cooperating in the fight against terrorism in Syria only once the new president and his Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and intelligence representatives are inaugurated. 

First contact with Trump

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Russia’s first contact with Trump’s team could be a meeting on Syria in Astana. According to Lavrov, Moscow hopes that the new US administration will accept an invitation to this meeting. 

As concerns reports spread by the media on preparations for a Russia-America summit in Reykjavik, Lavrov said that there have been no instances of contact for planning anything of the sort. As the foreign minister noted, Russia will be ready to resume dialogue with the United States on strategic stability, but this is possible only after the president-elect is inaugurated.

“Only when everything is in place in the new administration and when practical work begins, then it will be clear how relations between the US and the surrounding world will be constructed,” Lavrov concluded.

Diplomatic intrigues

In recent years, relations between Moscow and Washington have significantly deteriorated partially due to the pressure experienced by Russian diplomats in the US. The Russian foreign minister noted that the American intelligence and security services have increasingly actively harassed and tried to recruit Russian diplomats over the past several years.

Lavrov recalled how in April 2016 attempts were made to hire a liaison-advisor of the Russian Embassy in Washington. American intelligence services also attempted to make a recruitment offer to another diplomat by putting $10,000 and an offer of cooperation in his car in his absence.

“The money was deposited into our accounts and is now working for the benefit of the Russian state if anyone is wondering,” Lavrov said.

Moreover, Lavrov rejected accusations that American diplomats in Moscow are kept under surveillance and subjected to pressure. 

“We’ve received complaints that the American Embassy here works in intolerable conditions under surveillance, that the ambassador can’t breathe, and that no Russian agencies let him in,” Lavrov recounted. However, when Russia investigated this situation, it turned out to be just the opposite: Russian ministries, departments, and parliamentarians have accepted the American ambassador dozens of times more than the Americans have ever accepted Russia’s ambassador. 

In addition, American diplomats have “literally visited everything in all length and breadth,” Lavrov added. 

“Not to mention the fact that, in addition to espionage, the US Embassy’s diplomats have repeatedly been seen participating in our opposition’s rallies, anti-government protests, and unsanctioned meetings, including undercover. Decide for yourselves,” Russia’s foreign minister concluded.

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Lavrov also recalled several occasion when the Americans engaged in intelligence activities under diplomatic cover and resorted to disguising themselves. The minister mentioned the famous incident when an undercover diplomat in a wig and fake eyebrows attempted to enter the US Embassy, refused to show the guard his ID, and hit him. He also reminded the audience of the incident when a male diplomat disguised himself as a woman. 

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