Resetting the U.S.-Russian Reset

The National Interest

The following is a transcript of an interview with Dmitry Peskov, deputy chief of staff and press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, conducted by Paul Saunders, associate publisher of The National Interest and executive director of the Center for the National Interest, Washington, D.C. The interview was conducted Wednesday morning, January 23, 2013.

Paul Saunders: Thank you very much for taking time to talk to us. The “reset” in the U.S.-Russia relationship was one of the first foreign policy initiatives during President Obama’s first term. We heard recently that senior State Department officials have said that the word “reset” should be retired because the relationship has moved in a new direction and it’s no longer necessary to have a reset. How do you see the future of the reset after President Obama’s reelection?

Dmitry Peskov: Well, as a matter of fact Russian Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov would say that is a very popular idea here in Moscow [to retire the word “reset”] and that it is a process that cannot be endless. And if the reset lasts for too long, that means to make something different, a different operation to get the process going. So let’s hope together that this is not the case. Well, unfortunately the flow of our bilateral relationship, the flow of some steps from Washington, it shows a kind of an attitude that unfortunately cannot be treated in Moscow as a “reset” mood. So that’s why we are very sorry because we are looking forward to having a working relationship of close partnership with the United States, developing a mutual responsibility for global security, for global strategic security, for regional security and solving all the issues in that connection and originally by diplomatic and peaceful methods, taking into account each other’s relationship, but definitely it takes two to tango. I mean we cannot build a bilateral relationship of friendship and partnership on our own. Unfortunately we witnessed some steps that in no way can be treated as a “reset” attitude.

Saunders: Can I ask which steps you have in mind?

Peskov: Well, I mean the Magnitsky law, the way it was discussed, the whole attitude towards Magnitsky actually. The Magnitsky case was artificially politicized and then the way it was supported, the toughest version of this draft was supported by President Obama, which definitely does not contribute to the further development of our bilateral relationship or a sphere of mutual understanding and mutual trust.

Saunders: The Obama administration, as you know, opposed that legislation, although of course when it was approved by Congress President Obama signed it. In Russia of course there has been the Dima Yakovlev law passed by the state Duma and signed by President Putin, with one of the bigger impacts being its effects on adoptions to the United States, which many Americans and particularly people in Congress have seen as disproportionate. Is that something— the Yakovlev law in the Duma, which obviously President Putin signed—is that something he supported? Or did he oppose that law before it was passed by the Duma?

Peskov: Well, there was a reaction of Russian lawmakers to the Magnitsky law definitely and the fact that that the Magnitsky law was adopted was a trigger for Russian parliament members. And the initiative of Russian deputies was supported by the President and the law that passed through the Duma was signed by the president. Definitely there is a response. What do you say now? What you say now is that Russia has zero tolerance towards laws like Magnitsky. That it is inappropriate to use an artificially politicized issue to interfere in domestic affairs. To raise the fear that does not exist in reality. This is a subject of zero tolerance for us.

Saunders: The way that you were talking about the reset suggested that maybe you don’t see the U.S.-Russian relationship as a major priority for the Obama administration in dealing with Russia. There have been press reports that the U.S. national-security advisor was coming to Moscow, then that trip was delayed. There have been reports that President Obama might come to Moscow, but there have been other reports saying that President Obama may not come to Russia until the G-20 Summit and not make a special trip. Do you believe that the Obama administration sees its relationship with Russia as a foreign-policy priority?

Peskov: Well definitely, I repeat, we would like to have our relationship with the United States be as advanced as possible. We would like to ensure that the relationship is a genuine relationship of strategic importance, of global importance. We attach very great importance to this relationship. We hope for a reciprocal attitude from Washington in this respect because otherwise there will be no chance for this relationship if the interest comes only from the Russian side. And definitely the Russian side will not be able to lead without any reaction and with any steps of the kind that have been witnessed lately.

Saunders: There are some Americans who would look at President Putin’s decision not to come to the G-8 Summit at Camp David not long after he was reelected, and also President Putin’s May 7, 2012 foreign-policy decree, which really seemed to give greater emphasis to Russia’s relations with Europe and Asia than its relations with the United States, and who see that as a reflection of Russia not really seeing the United States as the same kind of priority that perhaps it did in the past. Do you believe that Russia’s relationship with Washington . . . (interrupted)

Peskov: No, I definitely believe that this is not the case. It wasn’t an attempt to show anything or to prove anything by not coming to Camp David, as Russia was represented by the prime minister and the president [Putin] had a very serious explanation that was delivered to our American partners for why he was not able to attend the meeting at Camp David. To the contrary, it was actually quite a good atmosphere—in our relations, quite a promising one. There were very significant hopes that with the beginning of a new presidency, President Obama will have a very, very fresh continuation of a positive environment in our relationship. So this is it, we cannot go backwards.

Saunders: Maybe I could ask a couple of foreign policy questions that aren’t so narrowly connected to the U.S.-Russia relationship. One is about Syria. Now of course as you know in the United States, U.S. officials, many members of Congress have been, I guess I would say, disappointed with Russia’s role in international efforts to find a solution to the civil war in Syria and to remove President Assad. What is Russia prepared to do to resolve the Syrian crisis?

Peskov: Well, the question is what we are all prepared to do in order to solve the Syrian crisis. Because there are lots of countries giving different kinds of support to rebels, to opposition, that definitely do not support a viable or sustainable solution to the Syrian crisis. To the contrary, it leads to further degradation of the situation there in Syria. As a matter of fact, we support the idea that the future of Syria is subject to decisions taken by all sides of the Syrian conflict—President Assad, his government, the Syrian people, including those who are being named as opposition. Those are the only ones who should make a decision. The decision about the future of Syria cannot be taken somewhere abroad, cannot be taken in the other capitals, because this kind of decision cannot be viable. We sincerely believe the plan that was suggested by President Assad is a kind of continuation of the Geneva talks and could constitute a very good basis for further attempts of a settlement of the problem.

Saunders: Turning to Iran, its nuclear program is another priority for President Obama in his second term and certainly for other governments as well. Iran appears to be moving closer to having a nuclear weapon capability. There are many people in the United States who believe the only way to avoid military action to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is a united international effort that would put more pressure on Iran and encourage Iran to negotiate. Do you think Russia is ready to take any further steps to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program?

Peskov: Well, actually we are standing on the same ground as our American partners in terms of Iran, so actually strategically we share the same values. We do not want to jeopardize the non-proliferation regime, but at the same time we will accept the rights of the Iranians for peaceful nuclear energy. In this sense, we seem to have a very wide arch now of diplomatic means, diplomatic and political means, in our dialogue with the Iranians in order to ensure that the non-proliferation regime is kept properly and to assure the international community that all relevant proofs are taken and that there shouldn’t be any concern. So in this sense we have to continue our dialogue with the Iranian side. We still have room for diplomatic activity and then we still have to use our common influence, our joint influence, to continue the dialogue with Iran.

Saunders: Do you believe that additional sanctions would be helpful?

Peskov: Actually, we don’t believe that sanctions are the best way to solve problems in the international arena. We have witnessed numerous times when sanctions did not create any obstacles for very grave situations, but they were significantly harming the civilian population, the people of the country, and making their living unbearable. So sanctions are not every time a good way or the best way. Diplomacy is preferable, and we have to be wise enough to use the capacity of diplomacy 100 percent. We are hoping for reciprocal understanding from our Iranian partners. It definitely takes a cooperative attitude from our Iranian partners and we do hope that this attitude will be exposed.

Saunders: If I could just ask one final question . . . There are many people in the United States who are concerned about the domestic climate inside Russia. A number of Russian opposition leaders travel frequently to Washington and express their concerns to Congress and the American media. Do you see any opportunity or plans for the Russian government to engage with Russia’s opposition? Also, another big concern in the United States relates to Russia’s NGO law and the restriction of foreign NGOs. Do you see opportunities and even a reason for foreign NGOs to operate in Russia? Do you believe that they contribute to Russian society? Certainly many in the United States and in the West believe that they do.

Peskov: Well, any element of Russian society, of Russian public opinion, of Russian political society, is a permanent concern of Russian leadership, of the Russian government, for those who are involved in Russian politics. We are effective enough to ensure a growing civil society, growing political engagement. Definitely we have those who are considered to be members of the opposition. Some of them are popular enough; some of them are not popular at all. But, as a matter of fact, the dialogue between the Russian government and the opposition cannot be a subject of the bilateral relationship between Moscow and Washington, and in no way can be an issue of [state-to-state] discussion. Frankly speaking, these kinds of concerns that you have mentioned are concerns that we cannot take into account and will not take into account because those are our domestic affairs, our domestic politics. We are a democratic country sharing the same values with the whole world, but we are a country that will solve all the problems, domestic and the like, without any interference from abroad.

Saunders: Thank you very much, Mr. Peskov.

Peskov: It was my pleasure. займы на карту срочно займ на карту онлайн https://zp-pdl.com/best-payday-loans.php https://zp-pdl.com/apply-for-payday-loan-online.php займ на карту онлайн

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