Vladimir Olenchenko: "Russia and US make step towards dialogue"

"A very, very good meeting," according to US President Donald Trump, was held yesterday between the US President and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, despite the fact that the West's entire information agenda was dedicated to the dismissed FBI Director James Comey (the Russian minister was repeatedly asked about connection between these events by the US media) and the strengthening of conspiracy theories between Trump and the Kremlin. A senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Olenchenko, told Vestnik Kavkaza about how "good" this Lavrov's visit to the US  really was.

- In your opinion, how positive was this visit of Sergei Lavrov to the US for talks with the new president and secretary of state?

- It is necessary to proceed from the fact that Russia and the United States still keep their own interests, and the goal of the meeting, both from the Russian and the US side, was to find common ground for creating a stable dialogue between states. The Russian-US relations are the factor, which determines international stability, and responsibility for it lies with both the Russian and the US sides. But it is important to determine the current extent of possible rapprochement, and realize that our approaches will always differ. At this meeting, of course, a serious step was taken towards a dialogue, since the US President met with the Russian Foreign Minister and they exchanged views. If both the Russian foreign minister and the US president give a positive assessment of the talks, we can confidently say that the meeting proved reliable.

- Should we wait for any changes after this meeting?

- Since the interests of both Russia and the United States are global, it would be unreasonable to wait for changes on the whole range of problems, but we can talk about progress in the most acute issues. The most important among them is the Syrian crisis. Two steps have already been taken on Syria: first, the agreement has been reached on the creation of de-escalation zones, and second, the regime of preventing conflicts has been restored. In my opinion, there is still a range here, and Moscow and Washington have agreed that the Syrian crisis can be resolved only by peaceful means, and not by the practice of forceful intervention.

- Could the meeting help to lift sanctions against Russia?

 - First of all, it is worth noting that according to the Russian point of view, the sanctions were not introduced by us, so we should  not worry about them - it is a burden that the US and other Western countries have taken on themselves, so they should think about how to get out from the sanctions regime. That is, Moscow will not conduct any negotiations on this matter, since the imposition of sanctions was a unilateral act on their part, which means that the lifting of sanctions should be the same unilateral act.

Look: neither the contents of yesterday's press conference of Lavrov and Tillerson, nor Trump's Twitter statements indicate that this issue was discussed. The US State Department's press release says only that the sanctions will be lifted when Russia stops implementing the actions that caused the sanctions - a very flamboyant formulation that can be regarded both as a desire to continue the sanctions and as an opportunity to withdraw from the sanctions regime. Of course, we must consider that the current political leadership of the United States is affected by three burdensome factors. The first one - the sanctions were created and introduced by the previous administration. The second one - the opposition to the current Washington's policy has a fairly high intensity in the US. Third, the US still has to look back at the allies. All of them hamper Trump's desire to get out of the impasse which the Russian-US relations have reached.

- What is Russia looking for in dialogue with the United States in the first place?

 - We are interested in the principles of this dialogue, since we want it to be conducted on an equal basis, so we had a cooperation or at least coordination of actions on those international problems that we could solve together. And Sergei Lavrov's two meetings with Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson, of course, created the prerequisites for the movement towards understanding.

- Will this meeting affect the prospects of Russia's relations with the European Union?

- When we say the European Union, it can be understood as a homogeneous mass, and as a complex of several groups of interest. The EU has its own hawks, its pigeons and its neutrals, but now, unfortunately, the voice of the aggressive minority is heard most loudly. Without a doubt, they are looking back at the US and, for sure, they want to get in unison with actions of the US. The NATO summit will take place on May 25, and there will necessarily be contacts between the US leaders and its allies, where Washington will be able to concretize for Europe its new approach to Russia.

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