Moscow lifted sanctions on the US Under Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, which allowed her to enter the country for a summit with her Russian counterparts. On October 11, she arrived in Moscow and hold talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Chief of the Russian Presidential Staff Dmitry Kozak, and others.
The negotiations come just days after four US senators urged Joe Biden to expel 300 Russian diplomats and take “immediate action to increase staffing at the US embassy in Moscow”.
“Russia must issue enough visas to approach parity between the number of American diplomats serving in Russia and the number of Russian diplomats serving in the United States,” the senators said. “If such action is not taken, we urge you to begin expelling Russian diplomats, to bring the US diplomatic presence to parity.”
The same week, NATO decided to reduce the number of the Moscow delegation to the military bloc’s headquarters by half, forcing Russia to bring home eight envoys from its permanent mission to Brussels.
“These actions, of course, do not allow us to pretend there is a possibility of normalizing relations and resuming dialogue with NATO. Instead, these prospects are undermined almost completely,” the Kremlin Spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, stated.
As for the talks on Monday, according to the former Russian Ambassador to the US and First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sergey Kislyak, Nuland’s visit was an important event since both Moscow and Washington accumulated a large number of issues that needed to be discussed.
“The very fact of dialogue is a step in the right direction on our part. Essentially, this is the first working contact at this level after Joe Biden’s administration came to power, so such contacts usually cover a wide range of issues,” the diplomat said.
The negotiations between Nuland and Ryabkov lasted more than an hour and a half. At the meeting, Ryabkov stressed that Washington’s policy of further confrontation was capable of causing further degradation of Russian-US relations.
“A realistic approach is required to building them on the basis of principles of equality and mutual respect for each other’s interests,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Despite difficulties existing in the bilateral relations, the Russian authorities believe that it is important to create favourable conditions for improving cooperation between the two countries in trade, economy, and investments, according to the Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, in a video greeting to the participants in the meeting.
“The Russian government finds it important to create favourable conditions for the development of Russian-American trade, economic and investment cooperation […] which is in the interests of developing practical cooperation and improving the well-being of citizens of Russia and the United States,” he said.
As the two countries have imposed numerous sanctions on each other as well as significantly restricted their mutual diplomatic missions amid years of worsening relations, the Russian Foreign Ministry has made a proposal to the US to mutually lift all restrictions on the operations of the two countries’ diplomatic missions. Even though Ryabkov did not rule out a temporary cessation of operations of Russian and American diplomatic missions, he stressed that the Kremlin would prefer to avoid such a scenario.
“The current condition and prospects of bilateral relations were discussed. Special attention was paid to the operation of Russian and US foreign missions on each other’s territory. The Russian side stressed that hostile anti-Russian actions would not remain without retaliation, but Moscow did not seek a further escalation. We suggest lifting all restrictions that have been imposed by both sides over the past few years,” the Russian Foreign Ministry commented on the talks.
In turn, Nuland stressed that her main mission was seeking to build stable and predictable relations with Moscow, which have been spiralling downwards for over seven years now. Unfortunately, Ryabkov noted that as the result of the meeting, no noteworthy progress has been achieved, which was also reported by the local media stating that the talks “were floundering as the diplomats struggled to find common ground”.
“The topics of visas, the operating conditions of diplomatic missions, the rotation of diplomatic staff, the overall normalization of the activities of Russian foreign missions in the United States and the United States in Russia retain a significant crisis potential, and it cannot be ruled out that some further exacerbations are possible in these areas […]. The positions of the parties do not fit well. Americans do not listen to our logic and our demands. But nevertheless, the conversation was useful. At least we agreed to intensify these discussions and hold specialised consultations,” he concluded.