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Interfax.com  |  Interviews  |  John Tefft: I know Obama hopes for better relations with Russia



Interviews


May 06, 2015

John Tefft: I know Obama hopes for better relations with Russia


U.S. Ambassador to Russia has given an interview to Interfax foreign political desk chief Olga Golovanova ahead of the V-Day celebration due in Moscow on May 9 in which he praises joint effort in defeating fascism and says that U.S. President Barack Obama hopes for improving relations with Russia in the future.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, you will represent the United States at the anniversary V-Day parade in Moscow on May 9. No other officials will come from Washington to Russia. Can one say that the U.S. is boycotting the 70th V-Day anniversary in Moscow? It is no secret that U.S. representatives were talking heads of other states out of visiting Moscow on the day. Five years ago U.S. troops paraded on Red Square. U.S. war veterans come to Moscow annually. How many veterans will come to Russia this year to take part in the V-Day celebrations?

Answer: I am proud to represent the United States in Moscow during the 70th anniversary of Victory Day. As you know, this anniversary has personal significance for me. Both my father and my father-in-law were veterans of the wars European front. My dad served in the Air Force in North Africa and Italy. My wife Mariellas father served in France in the wake of the Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy. Every year - on what Americans call V-E, Victory in Europe, Day, we honor the memory of our fathers and of all those who served so selflessly and sacrificed so much in the war.

In considering our representation, we took into account Russias ongoing violations of Ukraines sovereignty, as have several of our European Allies. There are a variety of ways the world will honor Victory in Europe Day, including on May 8 in Washington, where there will be a flyover of many of the vintage WWII planes to mark the occasion. Some European capitals will also be marking Victory Day.

While President Obama is not able to attend this years commemoration, I know that he hopes to see the relationship between our two great nations improve, after we resolve the source of recent tensions.

Q.: Do you believe that Russia is diminishing the role of the allies, in particular the U.S., during the WWII? According to your data, has Russia paid off its debt to the U.S. for lend lease shipments? If not, how large is the debt is now?

A.: Americans have deep respect for the tremendous sacrifices made by the Russian people and by others in the region during World War II. Having served as Ambassador in Russia and other former Soviet states, I am acutely aware of their heroism and sacrifice. And it has been very important to me to pay my respects by laying wreaths at memorials to the soldiers who perished in that terrible war throughout my diplomatic career and most recently in April and May this year.

Lend Lease played an important role in the war, and it itself is a reminder that that victory during World War II was a result of allied coordination in multiple areas throughout the war. Even though the political and economic systems of the United States and the Soviet Union were worlds apart during the Second World War, we were still able to cooperate in those years to achieve a greater good - the defeat of Nazi Germany. Today there are many global challenges that require the same type of coordinated action.

Q.: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the U.S. has been showing interest through unofficial channels in cooperating on security with Russia. Does this mean the resumption of activity of relevant sub-groups in the presidential commission? Might this involve the special services? Can this be done in the context of fighting against the Islamic State? Will the U.S. side make formal proposals in this respect?

A.: The United States and Russia do continue to cooperate on official levels in many areas, especially in the field of countering violent extremism. For example, the United States remains committed to addressing global nuclear security issues and to working with Russia on this mutual challenge. Space cooperation has been a hallmark of U.S.-Russia relations since 1971. Recently, two Russians and one American arrived at the International Space Station. Working together, we removed chemical weapons from Syria and we participated together in negotiations to contain Irans nuclear program. Lets remember that our goal is not to isolate Russia - our goal, as President Obama said, is "a Russia that is fully integrated with the global economy, that is thriving on behalf of its people, that can once again engage with us in cooperative efforts around global challenges. But were also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles."

Q.: Will the U.S. join the Normandy format discussions on Ukraine if invited?

A.: I cannot speculate on what President Obama would decide if invited to participate in the Normandy format discussions. We have remained actively engaged in the diplomacy around trying to bring an end to this conflict even outside of this format. As you know, Secretary Kerry speaks often with Foreign Minister Lavrov and his European counterparts. President Obama and President Putin also have spoken about Ukraine, and American and European diplomats at all levels continue to look for ways to encourage Russia to comply with its Minsk commitments. But these agreements should be implemented fully. None of the parties that made these commitments should pick and choose which portions of Minsk they wish to uphold. There can only be a diplomatic solution to this issue, and we continue to seek it.



Interviews
 

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U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman, who will leave his post in early October, has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about exchanges at the highest level between Moscow and Washington, a possibility of Russias return to G8, as well as his vision of the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on that is expected on August 2, about Russia‘s response to the U.S. and NATO possible deployment of missiles banned by the treaty, and about whether the Cuban Missile Crisis may repeat itself.

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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold negotiations on the sidelines of the Petersburg Dialogue forum in Germany on Thursday. Maas has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the forum, in which he speaks about prospects of settling the conflict in Ukraine, Germanys preparations for ensuring security in the absence of the INF Treaty and attempts to save the Iranian nuclear deal.

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German Ambassador to Russia Rudiger von Fritsch, who is leaving Moscow after a five-year mission, told Interfax about the state of affairs in bilateral relations, Germanys position on the Nord Stream 2 project amidst sanction risks, and assessed prospects for settling the crisis in Ukraine under the new authorities in Kyiv.

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U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about results of the trilateral meeting on Afghanistan settlement that took place in Moscow on April 25, prospects of the intra-Afghan meeting in Doha, and Russia‘s role in the Afghan issue.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has given an interview to Interfax ahead of the Alliances 70th anniversary that is to be celebrated on April 4. He speaks in the interview about the NATOs vision of future relations with Russia, its attitude to the situation surrounding the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty and the New START Treaty, as well as further plans of expanding the Alliance.

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British Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the current situation in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia, the impact of the Skripal case on it, the restoration of the numbers of diplomatic staff, exchange of information on counter-terrorism, possible introduction of sanctions over the Kerch Strait incident, the INF Treaty, and British-Russian economic relations.

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