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Please enter the digits in the box below:  |  Interviews  |  Laurie Bristow: We want to look for ways to work constructively with Russia


December 23, 2019

Laurie Bristow: We want to look for ways to work constructively with Russia

Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Russia Laurie Bristow, who is leaving his post, has given an exclusive interview to Interfax in which he speaks about prospects of relations with Russia, arms control, the situation in Syria and surrounding Iran, as well as other topical problems on the international agenda.

Question: We are meeting shortly after the parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom at which the Conservative Party led by Boris Johnson secured a convincing victory. What is your forecast regarding the policy of the new British government in relations with Russia? Will it be tougher or more balanced than that of the previous government? What is London‘s current attitude to improving relations with Russia?

Answer: First of all, I have to say that the reason we held the election on December 12, of course, was because we needed to move forward as a country on the question of leaving the European Union. What had happened under the previous parliament was that it had become impossible to reach a decision on what we actually wanted to do with the European Union. So we held an election, and, as you know, Mr. Johnson‘s party won a large majority, an 80-seat majority. What that means is that he has a strong position in Parliament, and my guess is that means it will be a five-year parliament and five-year government with a strong mandate to do what they want to do, particularly with regards to Brexit, but more generally.

That, I think, is the key condition for how we take forward our relations with Russia. There are certain objective facts in the relationship with Russia that make things very, very difficult – of course the biggest was the Salisbury attack using a chemical weapon in March 2018. There are of course other areas where we have major disagreements with the Russian government.

But you will remember that Mr. Johnson came here in December 2017 as Foreign Secretary, and the reason he did that was that he wanted to see if it was possible to create a more constructive relationship with Russia.

I am pretty confident that this will remain his view and the position of the government. We will do what we need to do to protect ourselves from the things that the Russian government does and that we find threatening, but that we will want to find ways, we want to look for ways to work constructively with Russia where it‘s possible and where it is in the interests of both sides. That I don‘t expect to change.

Q.: You said in an interview with Interfax about a year ago that you saw the main goal for 2019 as the gradual stabilization of relations with Russia after the crisis caused by the Skripal affair. Have positive shifts been made in this area? Could you please speak about them in detail and give concrete examples?

A.: The Salisbury attack was a very serious problem. It is a very serious problem. It is not resolved. You know, a woman died - her name was Dawn Sturgess - a number of people were made very, very ill by that substance. It was a very, very big problem. It is a very big problem. What we are looking for there is the response on the Russian side to signal to us that they have drawn the appropriate conclusions from what happened and what we did afterwards and essentially that nothing like this will ever happen again.

As regards stabilizing the relationship, the most important thing of all was a conversation between the two leaders. President Putin and then Prime Minister Theresa May met at the last G20. The Russian side initiated that conversation, and our advice, the decision of then Prime Minister was that we needed to talk on both sides. So, the discussion took place, it wasn‘t an easy discussion – it was never going to be an easy discussion under those circumstances – but what came out of it was direction from the two leaders to their systems that you need to talk to each other.

What we‘ve done concretely over the course of the last year is to reopen channels of communication. This‘s been a decision on both sides. I‘m not going into all of the details of those channels, because some of them are sensitive and confidential, but the people who advise our leaders on both sides on matters of national security are talking to each other about how to manage risks better, how to clarify our intentions and understand the other side‘s intentions, in particular in the areas of national security and defense.

A couple of contacts I can talk about. If you look at the international agenda, the subjects where we talk to each other every day in the Security Council, where it has leading members of the international community, members of the Security Council, we have to work together. For example, our Special Envoy for Syria Martin Longden was in Moscow two week ago to talk to his counterparts in Russia about how to move forward from the situation that we now have.

I had in Moscow last week our political director, Richard Moore. Richard is the Foreign Secretary‘s top advisor on matters of international security. He was here with his European colleagues, French and German colleagues, to talk with their Russian colleague, Sergei Ryabkov, about the Iran nuclear deal. The reasons you well know. The Iran nuclear deal is in trouble. We agree with Russia on what we are trying to achieve here. We are trying to incentivize Iran not to go down the route of developing nuclear weapons. We completely agree on this. What we are trying, what we are discussing with our Russian colleagues is how we achieve that objective in the circumstances we are now in.

Q.: Are high level bilateral contacts and visits possible in the near future, for example meetings on the sidelines of international forums and mutual visits?

A.: The top priority for London over the next six weeks is Brexit. We have a deadline of the end of January to leave the European Union. That is a very large task in terms of negotiation and preparation, but what follows that is an even bigger task which is negotiating our future, creating other arrangements with the European Union once we left. So, that will be the top priority of the government. We also have, of course, the question of what happens to our relations with our other key allies, the United States and so on, in the world in which we are out of the EU.

As regards Russia, what I said about the direction of my leaders is important that remains the policy of our government - it remains, as far as I understand, the policy of the Russian government – that we need to have contacts, we need to build on those contacts. My advice to the incoming government in London, the new government in London is around what we think those contacts should look like through 2020.

I think top level contacts are more likely in the margins of international events at this stage in our relationship, but if it suits both sides to do top level, senior level bilateral visits, of course, we will not be against that.

There is one other question coming up quite fast, which is the invitation from the Russian side to our Prime Minister to attend the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow on May 9. We are looking very seriously at that question. It‘s not a straightforward question, because we commemorate the war, the end of the war in slightly different ways, there are questions wrapped up in that. It is very, very important for us and for Russia and for the other participants in World War II. We think seriously about what happened, we commemorate the sacrifices and we draw conclusions for what that means to the modern world.

Q.: Is it possible that London will adopt new anti-Russian sanctions that differ from EU restrictions with the Conservatives having won the election under the slogan of Brexit? In spring, one said that the UK may adopt its own ‘Magnitsky list‘. Moscow is seriously worried about British economic sanctions against Russian companies. But new sanctions mean an inevitable spiral of confrontation and a further deterioration of bilateral relations… And this is taking place against the backdrop of Europe speaking about the possible mitigation of sanctions against Russia as the implementation of the Minsk Agreements on the Donbas settlement and the Normandy Format negotiations progress.

A.: For as long as we are members of the European Union, we take part in the European Union sanctions regimes. That is how the European Union works. When we leave the European Union we will have more freedom to decide our own national sanctions arrangements. We will take our decisions on that at the time.

What I should, though, is that these discussions always need to focus on what is the purpose of sanctions. The European Union brought in sanctions after the illegal annexation of Crimea, we brought in a range of sanctions on Russia for what Russia was doing and is still doing in Ukraine. If Russia‘s approach to Ukraine were to change, then our view on the necessity, the need for sanctions, I think, would also change.

As regards the so-called Magnitsky Act, this is something that the new government in London intends to bring in. It is named after Sergei Magnitsky – of course, a Russian case – but the purpose of that act is to give us more powers to target human rights abuses anywhere in the world. It‘s not specifically about Russia. So, it‘s named after a Russia – I think you understand why – but I think the point is always come back here to what is the purpose of sanctions. Sanctions are a way of us signaling that a partner country is doing something that we find very, very dangerous, something that we simply cannot agree to and trying to raise the price of that. We don‘t do it simply because it‘s Russia.

Q.: I think Russia has made some statements about possible economic sanctions against Russian companies. Is it possible that the UK adopts its own economic sanctions against Russia, similar to American ones?

A.: As I said, we will have more freedom to decide our own sanctions regimes once we are outside of the European Union. But I think what I can predict is that the basis on which we take decisions, the analysis on which we take such decisions will continue to be very closely aligned with our European and American partners. We take decisions on sanctions because we want to send a signal that something deeply unacceptable is happening.

The Americans have their own approach to sanctions, their own priorities – that’s a matter for them. But with regard to Russian companies in the UK generally, a large part of my job and of my Embassy‘s job is to attract Russian trade and investment to the UK. That will not change. What we are doing is looking much more carefully at whether the sorts of business, the sorts of people coming to the UK from Russia, or from other countries, are people that we actually want in the UK. So, what is the source of the money? Are these people engaged in other things that are contrary to our national interests? This is not specifically direct to Russia.

Q.: British media reported about Russia‘s ‘interference‘ in the Brexit referendum and about Russia‘s possible ‘interference‘ in the election. But no hard evidence has been given to date. Boris Johnson made a statement indicating that there was no actual interference. What is your comment on this?

A.: Mr. Johnson is the Prime Minister, what he said is the position of the government that we have seen no successful interference in the UK‘s political life from Russia. Of course, that‘s something that we look at very carefully the whole time with regard to Russia and others who might wish to interfere in our political life. Our position there is that we are not ever going to accept foreign powers trying to influence our political processes. Any more, I think, than Russia wouldn‘t accept foreign powers‘ interfering in Russia‘s political processes.

There is a more general question here about the use of things like Facebook, social media, propaganda, dezimformatsiya. That is a very serious problem, and it is one where we are working closely with allied partner governments, the industry itself, with academia to try to understand what to the nature of the problem is and what effective responses to it are. This is the world we‘re living in I am afraid.

Q.: Do you agree with the assessment that business could play an important stabilizing role in relations between Moscow and London? The Russian trade representative has recently noted a 15% growth in bilateral trade.

A.: Trade and investment play a very important role in the life of our countries, whether it is a stabilizing role or not - this is just in terms of trade alone - this is $19 billion trade relationship between the UK and Russia. It‘s our 21st biggest market. What that means is a lot of jobs, a lot of people‘s jobs in the UK and Russia depend on that relationship, on trade and investment. I would go further and say that the nature of our economies means that a lot of what we are talking about here are industries of the future, the things that will generate wealth, that will generate economic well-being in the next 20-30 years. It‘s really important that we think in those terms.

As regards stabilizing our relationship, I agree the political relationship is at times very, very difficult. The point about trade and investment is that the relationship between the UK and Russia goes much wider than the politics, the relationships between the governments. The governments can and should do what they can do to create the conditions for trade and investment, but what we are not going to do is to compromise out national security in order to secure trade and investment with Russia or any other country. You know, the first task of any government is to protect ourselves, is to protect our country, and if we see things being done by Russia or other countries that we find threatening, we will take action to respond to that.

Q.: Do you predict further growth in bilateral trade?

A.: I hope so. That‘s my job.

Q.: Despite enormous differences with Moscow, the Trump administration is actively cooperating with Russia on anti-terrorism, including between special services. Is the UK going to resume such contacts? What about cooperation in the fight against crime and in cyber security?

A.: We do actually, we have actually cooperated with the Russian state and the security agencies on questions of national security. You‘ll remember that during the Sochi Olympics and during the World Cup last year a major task for all of us is to keep the public safe during that. So, we have tens of thousands of British visitors coming to Russia for the World Cup - we had the football teams, we had media – it is massively in our interests that Russia was able to hold that tournament in a safe, secure and enjoyable manner. We worked with Russian agencies to achieve that.

The situation is, of course, complicated by the fact that our ability to work with the Russian state and particularly its state security agencies is affected by incidents like Litvinenko murder and then by what happened in Salisbury. That is going to limit our ability to work effectively with the Russian state. It‘s not what we want.

Another example where I would like us to move forward is aviation security. Russia lost 300 citizens in the Sharm el-Sheikh attack. It could have been 300 British citizens. If there is a weakness in aviation security, in airport security anywhere in the world, it affects your citizens, it affects our citizens. There is a very clear joint interest there in working to strengthen the security of civil aviation.

We are working within the political realities that we have on both sides, but that is our intention, whether there are interests that are in common, things that we can do together, we should do them together.

Q.: And what about countering organized crime and cooperation in cybersecurity?

A.: They are more difficult. We used to have liaison officers here in Moscow, when I was here over 10 years ago, working on serious and organized crime. They are no longer here, essentially because the Russian state wouldn‘t give our officers visas. If Russia wishes to cooperate seriously with us on organized crime, of course, we are ready to do so, but the emphasis is on the word seriously.

Cyber is much, much harder because it‘s an area that immediately brings you into questions of what the state is doing, and we are not ready yet for a cooperative relationship with Russia, because too much of what we see directed against us essentially comes from the Russian state.

Q.: Arms control is now one of the most serious global problems given the collapse of the INF Treaty and the uncertainty over the New START Treaty. What is London‘s attitude to the idea of concluding a global arms control agreement that would involve the United States, Russia, and China? Is Britain prepared to join this agreement, since the UK and France are nuclear powers and their arsenals, in my opinion, should be taken into consideration in the global balance of powers?

A.: These discussions are massively complicated and very technical, but the underlying principle is very simple – why did the Soviet Union and the United States agree the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1980s? They did it because the nature of those weapons is very, very dangerous and destabilizing. They have very short flying times, which means very short decision time - minutes – for leader on both sides and a high degree of ambiguity about what is on top of the missile – is it nuclear or is it conventional? The purpose of the INF Treaty in 1980s was to make both sides safer – that‘s what it achieved.

The effect of the loss of that treaty is that everyone in Europe, including Russia, is less safe, and we regret that. All NATO countries have the same view on why the INF Treaty collapsed. That’s because Russia developed and deployed a missile that was not allowed under the treaty. We are where we are. The treaties themselves, bilateral treaties, between the U.S. and Russia – so both the INF Treaty and the New START – it‘s for those countries to decide what the future of those treaties are.

With regard to the UK‘s position, since the end of the Cold War we have unilaterally massively reduced our nuclear stockpile. Our deterrent is based on the minimum necessary deterrent to ensure our national survival. It‘s an order magnitude smaller than the nuclear stockpiles of Russia or the United States. That complicates the question of how you would bring other countries, besides the U.S. and Russia, into the agreement. But I think for us the fundamental question here is what makes us all safer – whether it is the nuclear agreements or whether it is convention arms control agreements or whether it is transparency and confidence-building measures – we need them. And we need to be talking very seriously over the next few years with our Russian partners about whether we are more or less secure than we were five years ago, and if it is less secure, what do we need to do to get to a much safer position.

Q.: The United States has introduced sanctions against participants in the Nord Stream 2 gas project. Germany openly and vigorously opposes this. What is London‘s position on this project?

A.: More generally on Nord Stream 2, we are skeptical about the need for the pipeline in terms of overall European energy security. The question for is here what are the arrangements that make Europe‘s energy security and economic security greater? Of course, European countries are going to buy gas and oil from Russia and from elsewhere. That‘s the market, that‘s how things operate. We don’t buy a great deal of gas from Russia, we buy very small amount. What we are looking for here though is a relationship with the main oil and gas suppliers in which neither the buyer nor the seller has undue market power. What we are looking for is the situation where the market is effectively regulated and decisions are taken on purely commercial grounds.

One of the issues around Nord Stream 2 is, of course, the question of Ukraine. Ukraine is country that relies to a large extent on transit revenues from gas in particular. The loss of those revenues will have an effect on Ukraine. It is not in our interests for Ukraine‘s economy to take another damaging hit. And I would argue it‘s not in Russia‘s interests either for that country to be economically insecure or unstable.

Q.: President Trump has recently called on European countries to actively participate in Ukraine‘s restoration, to give help to Ukraine to restore its economy. Is the UK ready to take part in this effort?

A.: We are giving a lot of help, support and advice to the Ukrainian government about how to reform their economy, how to reform their governance, how to reform their military and national security operators. This is our contribution to what Ukraine‘s trying to achieve as a democratic country to modernize itself and to build a stable law-based economically strong democracy. Of course, we are working very closely with our French and German counterparts as they take forward the discussions in the Normandy Format, specifically on bringing peace to eastern Ukraine to create the conditions for the successful development of that country.

Q.: How would you assess the recent developments in the Normandy Format, including the recent summit and agreements reached lately?

A.: As I said, we are in a very close contact with our French and German counterparts and as we are close with the Americans as well. I think it‘s positive that the summit took place. There hasn‘t been enough top-level decision-making content on how to bring that conflict to an end. I think for us the English phrase ‘the jury is still out‘ on whether those meetings will actually deliver what we all want to see happened, which the cessation of hostilities in the Donbas, which in turn open up political space for the Ukrainian government to do what its voters want it to do, which is to modernize the state, develop a strong economy, develop a strong democracy. Again, our view on that is that for Ukraine to succeed in their part is in Russia‘s interests. But there is also the question of Crimea. Nobody apart from Russia recognizes the legality of what Russia did in Crimea.

Q.: President Trump said that Russia might be invited to the next G7 summit. What is London‘s attitude to this idea?

A.: No decisions have been made on that yet. The G7, the G8 was, is a club of advanced democracies, likeminded countries. The reason why Russia‘s membership in the G8 was suspended was because Russia‘s actions in Crimea, in Ukraine demonstrated that Russia was not a likeminded country. That‘s where the things stand. If that changes, if Russia demonstrates that it does wish to cooperate with us on a likeminded basis, of course, that opens the discussion as to whether the G8 is an effective format, is a good format for all sides to do that. But the moment we want to see Russia create the conditions for its return to the G8.

Q.: So, you cannot say at the movement what the British position will be, if...

A.: I think I just did.

Q.: Now concerning the Skripal affair. Do the British authorities plan to bring the Skripals before journalists for them to hear their reaction to what happened first hand? Why have not they yet given an interview to, say, BBC, Sky News or British newspapers? And it is hard to cite security reasons here.

A.: I think I can explain it very simply. They are free people, they are free to make their own choice if they want to speak to the media, British or anyone else‘s media, they are free to do so. We are not going to tell them to do so, we are not going to tell them they can’t.

But they are also people whom somebody tried to kill using a nerve agent, and they came very close to death. They are both still recovering from that experience. We see our responsibility here, first of all, to help them in their recovery, and second to keep them safe – somebody tried to kill them using a nerve agent. If they want to speak to the press or to anyone else, we will make that happen. What we are not going to do is to force them to do anything - we can‘t, they are free people. What we are not going to do is anything that puts them at further risk.

Q.: Does that mean they don‘t want to talk to the press at all at the moment?

A.: As I understand, at the moment they don‘t want to. You‘ll recall that Yulia Skripal did do an interview to the media some time ago. That was her decision. It was her father‘s decision not to.

Q.: When do you think their case can be brought to court in the UK?

A.: First of all, we have identified suspects in the crime, our position remains those suspects should face an English court. The crime was committed in the UK, the evidence is in the UK, the victims are in the UK, that‘s where any legal process should take place.

In the Litvinenko case, of course, we also identified suspects, we asked for the extradition, you know the answer from the Russian side.

After a quite a long period of discussion in the UK, we decided that there had to be some form of public process to look at what had happened there. Without suspects it was impossible to have a trial, so instead we held what is called in the UK a public inquiry, so an independent judge looked at all of the evidence and gave a report on what happened on the base of the evidence - that report is published, it‘s freely available on the Internet – and the judge gave his conclusions on what the evidence said.

I can‘t yet predict what will happen in the Skripal case, because our first priority remains to bring the suspects to justice in the United Kingdom. There are other methods for having an inquiry, if at some future stage we decide on what is appropriate.

Q.: Has there been positive movement in the diplomatic ‘visa war‘ with Russia? To what extent does the escalation of bilateral relations influence the policy of issuing visas to ordinary Russians wishing to visit the UK?

A.: I don‘t like the word ‘visa war‘. What happened last year – in March, April, May last year – was that as part of our response to Salisbury we required 23 Russian intelligence officers to leave London. The Russian response on their side was to require 23 of my staff to leave Moscow, and other measures were taken. At the end of that though both sides decided that we wanted to keep embassies in each other‘s capitals, and if you keep embassies in each other‘s capitals, you need staff to do that. All diplomatic services work on the basis that you send people for a set number of years and then you replace them, so on both sides there is a need from time to time to replace staff. That‘s what happening. So, it is very difficult, the discussions, I must say, are time-consuming, not always very productive, but both sides are keeping their embassies open, both sides have sent new staff to those embassies, including quite recently. And that‘s the position.

As regards ordinary Russians, there is no effect at all on the ordinary travelling Russian public of the visa service that we provide. We had to change the arrangements here is Russia for the backroom processing – we moved that to London – but you still apply for you visa in the same way – visa application centre - the processing time is about the same, the cost is the same, the approval rate has actually grown up, so 99% of applicants are getting their visas.

The numbers are going slightly up, last period which I have numbers, we issued over 146,000 visas to Russian citizens [from July 1, 2018 to June 31, 2019]. This is an important part of the relationship between Russia and the UK. We want Russian to travel to the UK for business, tourism, education, whatever, if it a legitimate purpose. We want them to travel and we want British citizens to travel to Russia for similar reasons.

Q.: How does the UK view prospects of the Syrian settlement and the current role of Russia and Turkey in the situation in northern and northeastern Syria? Is the UK going to actively participate in providing humanitarian aid to Syrians and in Syria‘s restoration?

A.: This is a catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe of global proportions - 400,000 Syrians have died in the civil war there, half of the population has been displaced. In our analysis, this is the direct result of policies pursued by President Assad‘s government. That is the cause of the civil war, essentially it‘s a war on his own people.

We are contributing to the humanitarian relief effort in the last eight or nine years. We spent something like £2.8 billion (230 billion rubles) on humanitarian work related to the Syrian conflict. You know, this is our largest ever humanitarian effort. I would invite you to compare that with the amount of money that Russia has put in the humanitarian effort.

We are where we are. The question or the questions the international community going forward is first of all a political process. There needs to be a political process overseen by the United Nations that brings peace to Syria. We support that.

We welcome the fact that the Constitutional Commission at last met back in October. There are very serious questions about what any future political arrangements might look like, but there is a process in place.

There needs to be a serious international effort to address the humanitarian crisis. So, it‘s not only the humanitarian effect of millions of Syrians, but it is the impact on surrounding countries as well, so Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey – Turkey has taken in millions, literally millions, of Syria and that puts a financial burden on that country.

There is a question of counterterrorism. There are a lot of extremists in Syria. We are a member of the global coalition that has been fighting Daesh in particular in northeaster Syria. Russia works in its own way. But, you know, countering terrorism coming out of Syria and Iraq remains a top priority for us as for the global community. What we are not going to do though is to bankroll Assad‘s government. We think the Assad‘s government is the cause, the problem of this conflict. We are not going to hand him a blank cheque to say he might carry on. What we are interested in doing is working with the international community to support a future for Syria in which the Syrian people have chosen their own way and where essentially Assad‘s war on this own people doesn‘t continue.

Q.: Now coming back to Iran. You‘ve mentioned that there were discussions in Moscow regarding the JCPOA. Could you please go into detail about what is the UK‘s general attitude to the JCPOA? As far as I understand, there are some disagreements between London and Washington on it.

A.: There are disagreements between London and five of the members of the six, E3+3. We agreed several years ago on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, the purpose of which was, is to incentivize Iran not to go down the route of developing nuclear weapons. That remains our objective, our view. It is Russia‘s view and it is the United States‘ view as well. The U.S. administration has taken a different approach to achieving that end.

The purpose of the talks, our political director, the foreign secretary‘s chief advisor on security matters were in Moscow, with his French and German colleagues to talk to the Russian colleague about how to achieve the purposes of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

If it‘s possible to adapt that agreement to achieve those objectives – fine. If it‘s not, we need to find another way of achieving the same objectives. But this is a case where the UK‘s interests, Russia‘s interests are almost exactly aligned, and it is not in our interest, it is not in our national security interest for there to be a deeply destabilizing development of the sort that we are talking about here. So, Iran develops nuclear weapons, Iran‘s neighbors draw the appropriate conclusions from that. Those are Russia‘s interests, too.

As the leading members of the international community – we are both permanent members of the UN Security Council – we have a special responsibility here to work together to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation arrangements and to address the specific problem of the Iranian nuclear program. So, that‘s what we are doing today.

Q.: Next year Glasgow will host the UN Conference on Climate Change. How important is this event? Is London going to seek breakthrough on the discussed problems at it?

A.: Climate change is of primary importance to every single person on the face of the planet and their governments, too. If you look at what we are talking about here, we are talking about climate change causing extreme weather events – draughts, floods, fires – you are watching what is happening in Australia at the moment. Those things have affected Russia, too, in recent years. They affect the UK. The question is not solvable by individual countries alone. It is only solvable by a concerted, combined international action.

And what we will be looking for at COP26 in Glasgow next year is rather faster and larger decisions by the international community to do what is necessary. We mostly agree on what the problem is, but we don‘t agree on what the solutions are.

Take Russia. Russia is major oil, gas, coal producer, it is a major energy consumer, it is one of the world‘s great carbon sinks - the forests of Siberia, it is a major generator of science, including Arctic science, it is a major generator of scientific innovation. The answers to the question that we are looking at, we are faced with here, depend on good science, good innovation, decisive policy-making that takes us from where we are now to real-world solutions to the problems we are all looking at.

One of the points here, all governments are increasingly under pressure from public opinion, Russia is not immune to that. The Russian public, I think, are going to demand of your government in future years serious action to address climate change. We want to talk to you about that, we want to talk with you about that. What are solutions to the problems?

Personally, I think this a very important area where Russia and the UK can and should work actively together.

Q.: You are leaving the post of the British ambassador to Russia shortly after the New Year.

A.: Unfortunately.

Q.: Stay on.

A.: I would love to.

Q.: What are your most vivid impressions of working and staying in Russia?

A.: It wasn‘t always an easy four years, I won‘t go over again why. Everybody knows that. But I‘m very glad that I spent those four years here. At the professional level some of the biggest, most important subjects that any government deals with in the world today involve us talking with Russia. I mentioned climate change, another one I can mention – we don‘t talk about this a lot in classic diplomacy – but take for example the development of viruses’ resistance to antibiotics. Again, this matters to every single person in the world. If antibiotics stop working, you and I are in trouble. And one of the things we have successfully done with Russian in my time being here is to develop scientific links, university links that will proved the answers to those problems. This is hugely beneficial to the people of both countries.

At a personal level I have travelled as much as I can in this country. Of course, it is vast, there is never enough time, but I will take away some really warm memories, things like the World Cup – just watching thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of foreigners coming to Russia, most of them have never been here before, and they are going away thinking ‘yeah, I‘d rather like that‘. And the mirror image on the Russian side, Russia accepting lots of visitors with warmth and hospitality and understanding that we can actually do this.

Q.: You mentioned that you travelled a lot throughout Russia. What was the most attracting region you visited?

A.: There are lots of things, but the highlight I have to mention is climbing volcanos, watching bears in Kamchatka.

Q.: Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman dived into an ice hole to feel closer the Russia soul. Have you ever tried this?

A.: I have to admit I haven‘t. I don‘t have a high tolerance to cold.

Q.: If it is no secret, what will you do after you return to London? What post will you take? I understand that this does not depend on you, but you still want to work in the sphere of relations with Russia?

A.: It‘s not a secret. I don‘t know what I will be doing back in London. We had an election recently, and the government is still making senior appointments. If it were my personal choice, of course, I would continue to work on Russia in some capacity. I think this is one of the most interesting, one of the most attractive countries I had the privilege to be involved with.

Of course, there are rather large disagreements we have with the Russian government, but if I were to be offered another four years here, I would say yes without any hesitation.


New U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, who has recently started his mission in Moscow, has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about priorities of his work and assesses the prospects of developing bilateral relations.

The En+ Group effectively turned a new page in its corporate history in 2019. Now the group has a unique governance scheme for Russia - without a domineering shareholder and a loyal majority on the board of directors. The board chairman, Lord Gregory Barker, is convinced that the changes adopted in the framework of the plan he devised to get the company removed from the U.S. sanctions list will ultimately do the company and its shareholders good, irrespective of the deal with OFAC. Lord Barker told Interfax in an interview about the work of the new En+ board, dividends and long-term strategy.

Cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC countries, foremost Russia, has lasted for three years already and in this time the oil market has seen shakeups that have threatened to cause a split within OPEC and jeopardized the fate of the OPEC+ agreement to curb oil production in order to balance the market. OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo spoke with Interfax on the sidelines of the 16th annual meeting of the Valdai Club in Sochi about how decisions are made and OPEC‘s position regarding geopolitical events that have hit oil markets.

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 Russia‘s return to G8, as well as his vision of the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

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.

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, Germany‘s preparations for ensuring security in the absence of the INF Treaty and attempts to save the Iranian nuclear deal.

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, Germany‘s 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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