25 Jun 2020 13:42

Primakov Readings: Russia to remain negative factor in U.S. domestic politics - Deputy FM Ryabkov

MOSCOW. June 25 (Interfax) - Russia will remain a negative factor in U.S. domestic politics regardless of what administration comes to power in the U.S., Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

"Unfortunately, it's by no means a farfetched claim that Russia is a negative factor in the domestic American context, but this is an indisputable circumstance of the current period," Ryabkov said on Thursday during an online session of the Primakov Readings organized jointly by Interfax and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"As a matter of fact, we can't say which administration, Republican or Democratic, which comes to power in Washington next year following the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, we'll be better off under," he said.

"The anti-Russian consensus is deeply rooted" in the U.S. establishment, Ryabkov said.

Arms control

Moscow sees no easy path in arms control talks with the United States, as the positions of the two countries differ considerably, Sergei Ryabkov said.

"We see no easy path, that's clear. We have our own agenda on arms control, which is considerably different from that of the U.S.," Ryabkov said during the online session of the Primakov Readings.

It cannot be said that the parties spoke "over one another" during the most recent talks in Vienna, Ryabkov said. "That's not so: we listened, we heard, we mutually reacted to messages, but our positions on the fundamental issues never came close," he said.

"We agreed on the process, not on the essence of what needs to be done. That's also important, that's not bad right now, either, but nevertheless, a fact remains a fact: the content side of the discussions is difficult; it is difficult to process in the direction of broadening areas of contact," Ryabkov said.

Russia will continue working on these issues, and it welcomes the fact that an understanding has been reached that long pauses in contacts are undesirable, he said.

New START Treaty

The prospects of extending the New START Treaty or creating a new similar document are vague, Carnegie Moscow Center Director Dmitry Trenin said during the online session of the Primakov Readings.

"It will probably be necessary to balance, prevent a war, regardless of what decision is made regarding the future of the New START Treaty under such conditions when arms control is practically absent," Trenin said.

"I don't think that even if the New START Treaty is extended by five years, a successor to it will appear soon. Probably, the next treaty will be very difficult to work out, from the point of view of negotiations. It's a very abstract question today of when it will appear, whether it will appear at all," he said.

Trenin also said that he sees no prospects for fundamental changes in Russia-U.S. relations in the foreseeable future: they will remain confrontation-based.

"The main issue is preventing a war by accident. We've several times approached a line when deterrence ceased to be a term of political science. We tested deterrence in Syria a couple of times in 2018. So far, these tests have proven to be successful: deconflicting is working, but on the whole, we're quite close to this line. Further along, there will already be a direct armed clash," Trenin said.

Russia is ready to live without the New START Treaty, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in his turn.

"Yes, of course, we're ready for this, and the president of Russia has said this on a number of occasions," Ryabkov said.

"The Americans know that we won't save this treaty at any cost, especially at the cost that they want from us," he said.

"We believe that it is mutually beneficial, that both sides need it, and that it is a significant factor ensuring international security and enhancing strategic stability, and that it would be optimal to extend it, if possible, by the maximum period envisaged in the text of the treaty itself, i.e., by five years," Ryabkov said.

When commenting on the agenda where Russia and the U.S. could take joint steps in the field of arms control, Ryabkov said that "it proved to be quite a challenge even to determine topics for the future expert working groups, which will have to gather and negotiate the relevant issues in the period leading up to the next interdepartmental meeting similar to the one held on June 22."

"We have a different scale of priorities and different views, even on the methods of work, but there is one conclusion: we need to meet more often," he said.   

U.S. negative focus on China

U.S.-China relations have palpably worsened amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the negative focus of the United States on China is here to stay, Sergei Ryabkov said. 

"I absolutely agree with the opinion that the focus of the United States and U.S. elites on China is here to stay. We also agree that the situation in U.S.-China relations has noticeably worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic and every related circumstance. Clearly, there are factors which will promote the stabilization of their relations, they shouldn't be underestimated, and there are lots of them," Ryabkov said during the online session of the Primakov Readings.

"Both Washington and Beijing are experienced in finding compromise solutions to rather complicated problems. Yet, the critical mass of negative issues, which is literally being pumped into their relations by Washington, is also growing and has to be taken into consideration," he said.

Bolton's memoir

The publication of former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton's memoir calls into question the confidentiality of Moscow's contacts with Washington, Sergei Ryabkov said.

"I understand that this book, as well as a lot of other things happening in the U.S., is not about that country's foreign policy, but about its domestic policy. And everything that's written there about foreign policy is just a set of tools and the continuation of war using different means, not politics, and this is what should be taken into account," Ryabkov said during the online session.

"You can see what a trap or a pitfall this produces: we can't be sure that any discussions, including delicate, discreet, confidential, and trusting ones, won't suddenly become available to the public for some reason," he said.

The Primakov Readings is a new joint project of Interfax and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences. As part of the project, Interfax will host a number of online meetings of experts, politicians, and public figures that will address topical problems and international relations, as well as the global economy amid the crisis. The project is supported by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Gorchakov Foundation, and the Moscow World Trade Center.

The previous sessions of the Primakov Readings "U.S. can't afford to contain both Russia and China - experts""TAPI's future to remain hostage of politics for long time - experts" and "Cancellation of EU restrictions against Russia unlikely in near future - Russian diplomat" were held on June 4, June 11 and June 18.

Interfax, IMEMO to hold the next online session entitled "Middle East in the Modern World: Hostage to Time" as part of the Primakov Reading on Thursday, July 2.