22 September 2017
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PRESS RELEASES AND NEWS

21.04.2017

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with Kommersant newspaper, published April 19, 2017

Question: Do you know when and where President of Russia Vladimir Putin will meet with US President Donald Trump?

Sergey Ryabkov: We have reaffirmed our readiness for such a meeting several times. We understand that contacts at the highest level are crucial for adjusting the agenda, areas of focus and the direction we are moving in.

We confirmed our willingness to organise such a meeting during our contacts with our American colleagues. Last week’s visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow has strengthened our belief that the new US administration is also willing to move towards this goal. However, for a meeting of our leaders to be successful, we need to prepare for it, which is what we are doing.

Question: When can it be held?

Sergey Ryabkov: The tenor of our relations with the United States is such that any premature announcements or any information planted ahead of time will play a negative role. So, I will end my answer by repeating that we are working towards this.

Question: Several weeks ago, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said the meeting could be possibly held before the G20 summit, which is scheduled for July in Hamburg, Germany. Is this still possible, or is there too little time left to prepare for this meeting?

Sergey Ryabkov: Anything is possible. Overall, the issue concerns the coordination of our leaders’ schedules, as well as our expectations of such a meeting.

Question: What do you expect from it? Will it be just a chance to feel each other out, or do you expect practical agreements to be reached at it?

Sergey Ryabkov: We have formulated a series of priorities, which we believe should be discussed during preparations for this meeting. Our American colleagues also have practical and clear issues they plan to raise. We cannot say that our priorities coincide always or on all issues. However, this is normal, especially considering the low level of our relations with the new US team, the obstacles that have been deliberately erected by the previous US administration, and the efforts taken by certain forces to hinder the normalisation of Russian-US relations.

Question: Talking about priorities, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a news conference in Moscow that Russia has handed the US some cooperation proposals, including on cybersecurity. In what other areas did Moscow propose cooperation to Washington?

Sergey Ryabkov: I would probably be disloyal to my profession if right here and now I provided you detailed information about what was or was not done in this respect. I can only say that specific ideas and proposals can be presented in various forms. In particular, there is a non-paper format.

Question: This sounds paradoxical…

Sergey Ryabkov: This does not refer to tweets or emails. Such proposals are typically presented on paper. The non-paper format makes it possible to send a less official signal than, say, a message or a diplomatic note. It is rather an invitation to dialogue, to sharing comments. Overall, the status of this kind of document is lower than of any other written form.

Question: Why did Russia choose this format for making its proposals to the US?

Sergey Ryabkov: We don’t want to do anything that would inconvenience the other side. We understand that everything related to Russia or relations with Russia is, unfortunately, a source of controversy in the US today, especially in Washington, where the concentration of political thought, which is not always conducive to normalising bilateral ties, is the highest. Far from everything that comes from us is taken neutrally, in a business-like manner by the Americans. On the contrary, much of what we say, write or ask about becomes – to use a word that is common in the US today – toxic.

On the whole, however, I believe we have found a form in which we can get our ideas across to the US side. And we received some comments from it. Now our priorities have become clearer.

The information security issue that you’ve mentioned is multi-dimensional. It includes fighting cybercrime in the classical sense of the word (say, bank card scams) and encroachments on intellectual property. The Americans have brought in the issue of “political hacking.” It is not a taboo to us, either, even though it was “overheated” by the Obama team’s efforts. We are willing to discuss the entire range of these issues with the Americans. We proposed this dialogue to the previous administration but got no response. Now we have renewed this proposal and hope that the response will be more positive.

Question: Following Mr Tillerson’s visit to Moscow, the creation of a Russia-US working group to normalise relations was also announced (it has been dubbed the “impasse-busting group” in the media). Do I understand it right that you will head it on the Russian side? Who else will be there, and when will it start working?

Sergey Ryabkov: No decision has been made yet, including on the group’s composition, and it would be irresponsible of me to say that I could head this group on the Russian side.

There were various forms of dealing with controversial issues. Under George W. Bush, there were so-called check lists. The sides exchanged lists of issues that caused tension or irritation. And then those issues were addressed, with different degrees of success, in an effort to reduce the number of items on those lists.

Under Barack Obama, there was a bilateral presidential commission where issues were analysed and addressed by issue-specific groups. This work was coordinated at the level of Foreign Minister and Secretary of State. However, this format is history now.

Today it seems some compact mechanism will be put in place. Not a top-heavy structure with the participation of representatives of numerous agencies but a fairly flexible structure that will be able to change its configuration depending on specific issues. However, we have yet to reach the point of finalising this effort to announce officially who will be in charge of this mechanism on both sides – above all, because not all vacancies have been filled on the US side yet. This process is not going smoothly, but we take an understanding view of it. The most important thing is that as a result of the talks with the Secretary of State in Moscow, a firm decision was made to establish such a group. It is expected to work without excessive rhetoric or historical digressions (although it is impossible to do without that completely), and its participants are expected to focus on specific issues. I believe they will be making proposals for the leaders – ideas that would help clean up the “mudflow” that was generated under the previous US administration.




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