State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has said that he will take a decision about a meeting with Jon Huntsman, US envoy to Russia, only after the American embassy in Moscow has sent an official request to Russia’s Parliament. At the same time, Volodin commented on the issue.
The US embassy earlier said on Twitter that Huntsman had asked for meetings with some Russian officials, including Vyacheslav Volodin. As the speaker put it, “Of course we need to look to formal decisions rather than tweets”. He stressed the fact that the lower chamber of parliament had not received any official request and that the Russian side, in its turn, had not initiated any meetings. Volodin also urged the Americans to think twice before calling for meetings between the US ambassador and Russia’s high-ranking officials.
As he said, “tomorrow the ambassador’s decision to contact us may cost him his job, and we will be accused of influencing somebody. But then it will turn out that it was their own initiative”.
The speaker was also surprised at Huntsman’s intention to meet him in Moscow shortly after the United States imposed sanctions on some Russian politicians. “There should be no double standards”, Volodin noticed, adding that Russia stands for open and transparent relations. “I believe that it will bring more benefit to our nations and our people”.
When asked by politanalitika.ru about the situation, Anton Haschenko, Russia’s political scientist, pointed out that in general it was not unusual for politicians of different ranks to contact each other. Unfortunately, US-Russian relations currently fall a long way short of normal diplomacy.
— Normally when countries have healthy relations, there is nothing wrong with diplomats meeting heads of state and policymakers, both formally and informally. Such meetings, by contrast, allow for a better understanding of each other and improved dialogue.
But if we remember that it was not Russia that launched a witch hunt and how the meetings of the Russian ambassador with American officials were perceived abroad, we will appreciate Volodin’s ironic remarks – in the good sense of the word.
It is also surprising that amid Russia’s uneasy relationship with the United States, the American embassy tweeted Jon Huntsman’s request for meeting with some of our high-ranking officials. Incidentally, the tweet came earlier than the official request was sent. It is at least weird and points to the conclusion that this is just a kind of “how-open-I-am” politicking rather than the ambassador’s desire to engage in a constructive dialogue. However, it may turn out that it is all the fault of negligent staff.
Alexey Martynov, Director of the International Institute of Newly Formed States, stressed in a detailed comment to our website the US strange means of communication with Russia’s office-holders:
— Let’s start by saying that the State Duma speaker belongs to the nation’s public officials, number 4 in Russia. Of course, using Twitter is fashionable in the United States headed by the Twitter-in-Chief. Thus, the American ambassador seems to be in step with his employer.
However, Speaker Volodin, a high-level official, does not look to Twitter accounts, say, of ambassadors and even presidents. If necessary, the American side formally requests that gatherings or consultations be arranged. Appropriate procedures should be observed. Actually, the Foreign Ministry and other competent institutions are responsible for organizing important meetings. As for tweets of some person – who now works as the American ambassador – one can respond to them symmetrically, that is via Twitter.
As regards the sanctions brought up by the speaker, I consider his rhetoric quite reasonable. With the time going by, nobody wants to make peace with us. Moreover, one frantically seeks ways of cajoling some representatives of the Russian political, economic, scientific, cultural, and sports establishment into collaboration.
The same rationale lies behind our opponents’ actions. They do not favor the 2018 upcoming elections, Putin’s independent policies and his personality. Actually, they do not like the President’s unwillingness to abandon his overall strategy of restoring Russia to the superpower status it enjoyed in Soviet times. Our rivals think that during the presidential campaign and afterwards they will become capable of staging a coup in Russia, as they did in 2011-2012. Let us remind that it was Volodin, the then Head of the Presidential Administration’s internal policy department, who successfully prevented the Ukraine-style scenario from becoming reality. As I see it, the 2014 second color revolution was orchestrated in revenge for our enemies’ failure to foment the same revolution in 2012 in Russia. I believe it will not come off this time as well.
The matter is that they fail to grasp the essence. They fall short of understanding that the more intense the pressure they exert on the elite, the more eager the establishment is to rally around the national leader. As far as Vyacheslav Volodin is concerned, he is a member of Putin’s team and a man who owes everything to the President. I suppose he will fight for the national leader to the bitter end, to his dying day.
The US-led collective West has a by far more rudimentary knowledge of our life and our motives than it parades. They grossly exaggerate the potential of their technologies, which we have studied in detail and compartmentalized, and we have worked out the tools to resist them. And the year of 2012 is a graphic example. Nevertheless, this story continues to unfold. On the one hand, a war is declared on the Russian elite to pressurize a sufficient group into collaborating. On the other hand, it is such counterprogramming through frustration.
Their media systems and new media promote a negative agenda. They ban the participation of our athletes, prohibit our symbols, impose sanctions on our leading enterprises and major businessmen who often triumph over Western structures as well as compete with them. They distress and sting us through the media; they try putting our politicians, political scientists, and journalists on different stop-lists. They use prohibitions and restrictions, as well as promote a negative agenda of disappointment. Essentially, they only make things worse for themselves. They seek to thereby compel our elite into collaborating, betraying or, at least, exercising pressure on the authorities and the leader in order to force dramatic change to our sovereign policies or make us reject them altogether. However, their ideas prove wide of the mark. They will fail. Think tanks firing their projectiles in broad daylight do not hit the targets. The fuel burnt to elaborate a methodology or new underhand ways to hurt us or deceive us will be wasted.
Dmitry Suslov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, said in an interview to politanalitika.ru that the statement of the US Embassy to Russia is linked to expanding sanctions:
“We are dealing with the attempts to minimize the inevitable damage the new sanctions will inflict rather than to mend fences between Russia and the USA. The matter is that on January 29, the United States is due to introduce a broader package of anti-Russian sanctions than the targeted ones recently announced by the US Treasury.”
Secondly, the US is expected to release the “Kremlin report” on Putin’s closest acolytes and in general on people who are formally or informally involved in deliberating on major home and foreign policy decisions and adopting them. Both steps are taken in accordance with the document which Congress adopted last summer and Trump signed into law on August 2.
The impact will apparently be devastating in both cases. Meanwhile, the bilateral relations are already far from cordial. We are already in a state of a new cold war. A new arms race has already started. Russia has already been proclaimed an official enemy in the new national security strategy. In effect, we compete in numerous regions across the globe, including Syria, the Middle East, the post-Soviet space. The United States can and is very likely to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) sooner or later, and so on. In this respect, it is essential to maintain the dialogue and prevent the existing interaction from degenerating into insignificance. We must realize that the bilateral relations will only deteriorate in the near future. There are no alternatives here. It is only a matter of scale and pace.
From this viewpoint, given the inevitable further decline, it is necessary to maintain at least some interaction, at least some contacts. There is no other way to go as we are both nuclear superpowers. Therefore, Jon Huntsman, US Ambassador to Russia, is taking pre-emptive steps and holding meetings and talks with key Russian policymakers, including Vyacheslav Volodin. They are almost bound to be mentioned in the US report. Should the events unfold this way, it will virtually be tantamount to formally branding them US enemies, enemies of the entire free world, people who pose threat to world democracy and freedom. The labels attached to the Russian president will be applied to describe his circle.
Meanwhile the group includes real political heavyweights defining Russian domestic and foreign policy. To somehow reduce the adverse effect of the sanctions and maintain at least a relatively healthy dialogue, Huntsman is also trying to hold personal meetings with major Russian politicians. His behaviour is truly instrumental in minimizing the damage. He is trying to explain that it is not the Trump administration which wishes to impose the sanctions and that President Trump was against them. He points out that it was Senators who voted 98-2 on the bill.
Moreover, Jon Huntsman will say that the optional mentioning in the January 29 report implies personal sanctions later.