'NO POSITIVE CHANGES IN WASHINGTON'S POLICY TOWARD RUSSIA'
Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation
Mr. Ryabkov was interviewed by International Affairs’ Editor-in-Chief Armen Oganesyan.
Source: International Affairs, Vol. 65, No. 6, pp. 1-15
Keywords: UN General Assembly, Russia, Iran, arms control.
Question: Sergey Alekseyevich, 10 members of the Russian delegation to the UN General Assembly have not been issued visas. Is that a continuation of the visa war? What action will Russia take in this connection?
Answer: It is important to note that two members of the Russian delegation – namely, K.I. Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, and L.E. Slutsky, chairman of the State Duma’s international affairs committee – were denied visas. The others who were not issued visas were delegation experts and persons accompanying our minister. Of course, these US actions have highlighted an acute problem. The US ignores not only international law per se but also its obligations as the host of the UN headquarters that signed a relevant agreement in 1947. I can’t recall a single instance when Washington took a stance ignoring self-evident things to such an extent. That is a new US anti-record in terms of the country’s positioning in the international arena.
In the future, the US can be expected to deliberately impede the normal political process and UN activity, especially with the participation of countries that are considered to be Washington’s geopolitical opponents since the stance taken by those countries does not suit the US side. This raises the question: What reaction do our US counterparts expect from countries whose representatives are treated this way? Do they really think that their actions will force us to reevaluate our approaches and adjust them to the US’s demands? I believe the effect is opposite to the one intended, and in this case the US is acting against its own interests.
It is also a fact that of late, a frivolous approach toward handling specific situations, ideas and proposals has been spreading at the UN. Thus, last year, a resolution of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly in support of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF) was rejected by the US, its allies and so-called sympathizers just because the resolution was sponsored by Russia. Nobody even tried to grasp the meaning of the document. The fact that it was sponsored by Russia was enough for our opponents to defy the obvious logic of action in favor of consolidating the cornerstone of international security.
As for countermeasures, we proposed that meetings, for instance, of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly and the UN Disarmament Commission be held not in New York, not on US territory. After all, events on any scale and with any composition have been held in so-called international capitals in Europe for decades. They have infrastructure, equipment and staff. There are efficient transport services there.
We will see how other members of the international community respond to that proposal. Russia is not the only country encountering defiant manifestations of US arrogance, which is indecent and shameful. Other countries have experienced similar problems. Earlier this year, there was a highly disturbing indication of what the US could do with respect to the UN. That is a demonstration of total disregard for the organization that is based in New York, on US soil. An idea has come up to relocate the UN headquarters. That is nothing new. In the course of time, this idea has been promoted not only by Russia.
As far as the visa war is concerned, it is ongoing, and it was unleashed by the US Barring Russian representatives from attending a Fort Ross Dialogue conference is the most outrageous recent case. There have been recurring problems with long-term assignments to Russian embassies and general consulates in the US The same applies to short-term business trips. In such cases, we respond in a symmetrical manner. However, we encourage the Americans to come to terms, not act according to the “eye for an eye” principle. So far, that has not worked. It seems that those who formulate and implement US policy toward Russia are focused on acting from a position of strength. It has long been very well known to everyone that this approach is doomed to failure.
Q: Did the UN respond to that in any way?
A: There is the UN Committee on Relations with the Host Country. All kinds of difficult situations, often highly controversial ones, are discussed within its framework. Naturally, we will continue to raise the issue before that body. When in New York, S.V. Lavrov has repeatedly addressed this issue, including from the General Assembly rostrum. I believe everyone heard everything. In my opinion, the response from the UN Secretariat could have been more cogent.
Q: What impression did Donald Trump’s statement at the UN General Assembly make on you?
A: It is a signal that under the present circumstances, national sovereignty and national interests are more important than, for instance, specific benefits from globalization in its classic definition. Trump’s speech contained sharp denunciations against countries pursuing an independent foreign policy course. Several topics, including climate-related issues, were ignored. I believe there is a certain context related to the upcoming US elections that Donald Trump’s remarks should be put into for conclusions to be drawn.
Q: Some experts hastened to say that Trump was targeting Biden but hit himself. However, Trump may have calculated everything. The failure of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation must have made him more confident in his standoff with the Democrats ahead of the election campaign. Still, how serious is the threat of impeachment for Trump?
A: Mueller’s investigation did not produce the effect that certain circles counted on – not only in Washington but also in some other capitals. We always knew that that would in fact be the case since it was absolutely impossible to dig up anything to substantiate the totally idiotic and wild allegations of collusion with Russia and Russia’s meddling in the US’s domestic processes. Objectively, that was simply untenable. Then an idea came up to try to identify other “vulnerabilities” in the current administration. In my opinion, what we are seeing now reflects the unhealthy atmosphere that has evolved in Washington today, when foreign policy “hot potatoes” are being ping-ponged back and forth across the table from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party for domestic political objectives. We are just watching that peculiar phenomenon from afar. We regard what is going on as a reflection of the current difficult stage of the domestic political discourse in the US.
Q: In your opinion, will the “Russian card” be played in the US presidential campaign?
A: I believe that is almost inevitable. Some say there are no grounds for pursuing the issue that has been played dozens of times in US domestic politics and does nothing to boost anybody’s ratings. Nevertheless, I think that the generally negative, “feverish” approach toward what is happening in present-day Russian politics, as well as in Russia’s foreign policy, has to a very large extent become an inalienable part of US political thinking, permeating the fabric of what is going on in present-day Washington.