Embassy of the Russian Federation in the USA
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19 february

Ambassador Anatoly Antonov's opening remarks at the online-conference with Council on Foreign Relations

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for inviting me to give a speech. A meeting with American experts is not only a good opportunity to outline Russian views but also to hear your opinion and recommendations on topical issues.
Russian-American relations are going through one of the most difficult periods ever. A large number of disagreements have accumulated between our countries. They are aggravated by the lack of a systematic professional dialogue that could give us a chance to sit down and calmly explain our positions to each other. I am often asked who is to blame. Probably, this question should force to answer that both sides are to blame. But I can say with full responsibility that we have made every effort to maintain normal cooperation. There is only one condition: Washington must treat Russia's interests with respect and not try to subject our policy to the American one.
Now it is a critical moment for the U.S. domestic political life as a new government is getting settled in and shaping approaches to particular issues. The current times in relations with our country are especially complicated: it has become a custom that each U.S. administration leaves a very difficult legacy to its successors. In recent years, the American authorities have adopted so many anti-Russian decisions impeding cooperation that it will be extremely difficult to overcome them even in a favorable environment.
Let me remind you that the previous administration has imposed sanctions against Russia about 50 times under various pretexts. Regrettably, when our American colleagues see that we have our own opinion and are ready to stand for it, their first inherent instinct is to exert pressure. As you can see, the pressure does not work but drives the relationship further into a deadlock. To paraphrase the distinguished Henry Kissinger, we can only state that sanctions are not a policy, it is an alibi for the absence of one.
Despite all the negativity in the bilateral context, there are issues that we can and should deal with together. The Russian and U.S. presidents, in their telephone conversation on January 26, agreed that the existence of serious disagreements should not prevent our countries from a dialogue. On the contrary, it is during crisis periods interstate communication is needed more than ever. It should not be forgotten that our countries contribute to a large extent to maintaining strategic stability and global security, solving urgent regional problems and countering dangerous challenges.
In this context, let me refer to the extension of the START Treaty which in fact remains the only constraining instrument in the nuclear and missile sphere. We hope that the preservation of this treaty will allow leaving behind the trend towards dismantling of arms control and nonproliferation mechanisms, so prevalent in recent years not due to our fault. The Russian Side is ready to negotiate on a broader agenda. The essence of our proposals is to develop a security equation that would take into account the emergence of new military technologies and other factors affecting strategic stability.
One of the most pressing issues remains ensuring predictability and transparency taking into account the demise of the INF Treaty.
We also expect that Washington will respond to the initiative of adopting a joint statement at the highest level on the inadmissibility of a nuclear war (relevant Russian draft was handed over to the U.S. Side on October 22, 2018). In our view, it would be reasonable to also include into this document not only the idea of the inadmissibility of a nuclear war as such but of any armed conflict between nuclear powers.
Of course, the potential for bilateral interaction is not limited to the disarmament agenda. Joint efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and climate change are in the interests of both countries. Let me stress that we have proposed numerous times to the U.S. Side to cooperate on a number of specific projects. They relate to the exchange of letters with commitments of non-interference in each other's internal affairs, collaboration to ensure cyber security, modernization of agreements on the prevention of incidents at sea and in the airspace. Our proposals are still on the negotiating table. We are confident that their implementation will help to rebuild the mutual trust and improve the state of Russian-American relations.
We will be raising all these issues at the White House and the State Department upon the appointment of officials responsible for Russian affairs. We consider the restoration of a full-fledged communication on the level of governments and parliaments to be a primary practical task. It is too early to make any predictions. At the same time, we remain on the ground of reality and have no romantic expectations. Presidents come and go, parties change, but the U.S. fundamental policy of containment of Russia in every possible way stays unchanged.
We are ready for a pragmatic cooperation to the extent that Washington is ready for. We understand that in order to prevent the downward trajectory in our relations, it will take a great deal of good faith, engagement and systematic alignment of constantly emerging disbalances. It does not always work out. But apparently there is no other solution for doing business between our countries. To overcome the current challenges, both sides should follow this line in their best own interests. They often happen to coincide rather than diverge, especially when they are understood correctly.
Many American political experts wish to know what the U.S. can do to defuse the existing tensions. I believe that it is necessary to find a common ground on the core issue - readiness to build relations with Russia on an equal basis, without intentions to remake each other or bring ideological differences into state-to-state relations. It is time to stop trying to divide the world into right and wrong countries, good “democratic” and bad “authoritarian” states. The post-war world order, based on the UN Charter, was created by different countries and recognizes equal rights for all, regardless of their political system.
The desire to replace international law with a so called "rules based order", determined by Western capitals, leads to an aggravation of conflicts and loss of control in the management of international system.The initiative of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir V. Putin to convene a P-5 summit is a response to the necessity to reaffirm the basic principles of conduct in the international affairs and devise solutions for the most pressing challenges of our time.
In conclusion, I would like to highlight that the Russian-American relations have never developed steadily, there were highs and lows. Nevertheless, Russia and the United States always got close in the face of a common threat. History has quite a few examples: starting from the armed neutrality, which Ekaterina the Second declared to provide assistance to the North-American colonies in their fight for the independence, to the American Civil War, when Russia was the only European country to actively support U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. We fought together against Nazism and every year we celebrate the historical Elbe Day. That is why it is important to remember that the periods of good relations yielded only benefits to the peoples of both countries and international security.