MOSCOW: On the first day of her visit to Moscow, US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was received by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. The focus was on the issues of ensuring the work of the embassies of states on the territory of each other. Russia has offered the United States to lift all restrictions that have been introduced over the past few years. However, the attention of experts and observers is riveted on further meetings of Nuland – it is expected that the American diplomat will discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow hosted talks between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland . This meeting was the first in the framework of a three-day visit of an American diplomat to Russia. The Foreign Ministry reported that the parties “discussed in great detail the entire bilateral bloc.”
“This was the main focus. Among the international themes, in the foreground were the problems of strategic stability and the prospects for continuing work in this area. Although Madam Senior Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs does not nominally discuss this topic, since the so-called Russian portfolio is assigned to her, she expressed several considerations, we reacted to them, “a TASS source commented on the results of the meeting .
Next in line are negotiations with Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration Dmitry Kozak and Assistant to the President of Russia for International Affairs Yuri Ushakov .
One of the specific proposals of the Russian Foreign Ministry was the mutual removal of all restrictions on the work of the overseas missions of Russia and the United States.
“The state and prospects for the development of relations between the two countries were discussed. Particular attention is paid to issues related to the functioning of the foreign missions of Russia and the United States on the territory of each other.
It was emphasized on the Russian side that hostile anti-Russian actions would not remain unanswered, but Moscow did not seek further escalation. We propose to remove all restrictions that have been introduced on both sides over the past few years, “
The fact that the Russian Foreign Ministry is focusing special attention on the problem of the so-called embassy wars is not surprising. Problems in this area began in December 2016, when the outgoing US President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the country and seized a number of objects of Russian diplomatic property in the United States. Obama took these actions in response to the alleged interference in the American elections by the Russian special services. Later, mutual expulsions and accusations were repeated several times.
The meeting between Ryabkov and Nuland did not bring any progress in solving this problem. This was announced by the Russian diplomat himself following the talks.
“Not that there is a breakthrough – there is no progress. And there is potential for possible further exacerbations if we do not make significant additional efforts to normalize. Americans do not listen to our logic, to our demands, ” Ryabkov said .
The result of such a development of events may be a complete freeze of diplomatic relations with the United States – such a scenario is not ruled out in the Russian Foreign Ministry. However, the parties agreed to continue consultations on the work of foreign missions, the issuance of visas and other issues.
However, this state of affairs is unlikely to have a negative impact on Russian citizens – the issuance of visas is already frozen, says Russian International Affairs Council expert Alexei Naumov to Gazeta.ru .
“Of course, freezing the work of diplomatic missions is the last step in deteriorating relations before any military action,” the expert added.
At the same time, the work of the diplomatic missions of the two countries in each other’s territories is already practically frozen – the American embassy practically does not issue visas and only deals with consular assistance to its citizens, a similar situation develops for the Russian embassy in the United States, says Naumov.
“In fact, this is bringing the formal status to the real state of affairs. This will not entail any specific consequences, because it is already impossible to obtain a visa. But it doesn’t bring anything good, ”the expert added.
But nevertheless, it is better not to bring the embassies to closure, emphasizes the interlocutor of Gazeta.Ru, – the presence of diplomatic missions in the country softens the tension in relations.
“When you have any moments of exacerbation, it is always convenient for you to have an ambassador, an embassy at hand, so that you can ask him for clarification. It is always convenient to have a diplomatic representation to establish some kind of civil and inter-social dialogue, ”explained Naumov.
However, there is still a chance to avoid a complete freeze of diplomatic relations.
“It was not in vain that Ryabkov said that he hoped to avoid this development of events. We have hoped many times and have been deceived many times. Maybe this time we will be lucky after all, ”said Naumov.
From general to specific
Nuland’s visit will last until October 13. Until that time, she is still scheduled to meet with the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Russia Dmitry Kozak and Assistant to the President for International Affairs Yuri Ushakov.
It is noteworthy that both politicians in one way or another deal with issues related to resolving the crisis in relations with Ukraine: Ushakov has repeatedly broadcast the Kremlin’s position on contacts with Ukrainian officials, and Kozak oversees the work of the Normandy Four on the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR.
At the same time, according to the press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov, one can hardly expect that the dialogue along the Kozak-Nuland line will develop into a separate bilateral format.
“So far, in fact, such a Kozak-Nuland format is hardly possible. On the other hand, some of the first such timid contacts are being revived on a bilateral basis. Of course, this is positive. There are many disagreements, but, nevertheless, such contacts are only welcome, ” Peskov emphasized .
Experts believe that Ukraine is the key issue for which Nuland flew to Moscow (taking into account that this visit was initiated by the United States, although it was known that the diplomat was on the Russian sanctions lists).
“Nuland recently visited Kiev and, accordingly, some attempt will be made again to reconcile something in the context of the situation in eastern Ukraine.
At the same time, the expert assumes that it will not even be about changing approaches, but about freezing the level of relations with Russia that has formed on this issue at the moment.
“Blinken (US Secretary of State) is trying to build predictable relations with Russia – that is, in fact, to freeze them so that nothing happens. There are no talks about any new agreements, relations are de facto frozen, and, accordingly, neither the Americans nor our side are expecting any progress, “Dudakov believes.
“I think she will try to convey Blinken’s point of view that Washington is fully satisfied with the frozen situation in eastern Ukraine, so the United States would just like it not to unfreeze. I think that Nuland will roughly say about this – they say, you do not provoke the DPR and LPR so that they do not go on the offensive, but we, for our part, will somehow restrain Kiev’s actions, ”Dudakov said.
In turn, Alexei Naumov believes that the article of the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev , in which he claims that it is useless to negotiate with the Ukrainian leadership, directly points to the Ukrainian issue , is to talk with the United States.
“We saw Dmitry Medvedev’s article, it was not published in vain – the Kremlin does not consider the Ukrainian leadership as some kind of legitimate participant in the negotiation process. The Americans, in turn, insist that they are not directly negotiators on the Ukrainian process, that there is a Ukrainian state with which to speak, “
– explained Naumov.
According to him, this became the main contradiction, because of which the discussion of the situation in Ukraine in the Foreign Ministry failed.
“I think that the consequences of the failure of any discussion of the Ukrainian issue is Ryabkov’s statement. The parties have once again fixed that they have no points of contact on this issue, and they look at this issue diametrically opposite, ”the expert added.