While Russia’s Foreign Minister held talks with Trump and Pompeo about the breakthrough ceasefire agreement between Russia and Ukraine and the future of global nuclear arms treaties, the mainstream media focused on “election meddling” in 2020.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Washington, DC, today where he met with President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss issues including bilateral relations, arms treaties, and the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.
The overwhelming message from today has been the importance of continuing dialogue between Russia and the United States. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Washington for the first time since 2017, and he started the trip with a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Nuclear tensions have been high between the two countries, ever since the US announced that it was pulling out of the INF treaty earlier this year. Lavrov argued that the ball is in Washington’s court on the issue, noting that Moscow has offered to extend the New START treaty with no pre-conditions.
Pompeo did not say whether the plan was to keep the last major nuclear arms treaty between the two counties, or to pursue a new agreement, but he did say the US wants to work with Russia, and the goal is to include China in the next treaty that is signed.
This meeting follows a summit in Paris, where Russian President Putin met with Ukrainian President Zelensky for the first time. The leaders agreed to implement a “full and comprehensive” ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, and to exchange all “conflict-related prisoners by the end of 2019.
Putin referred to the agreement as an “important step” toward a de-escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, but following the meeting with Lavrov, Pompeo made a point to maintain that the US—in his words—does not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
“I’m proud of what this administration has done in the defense of that country’s sovereignty and security. I reiterated to Foreign Minister Lavrov that Crimea belongs to Ukraine, and that the resolution in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine begins with adherence to commitments made under the Minsk agreements,” Pompeo said.
On the topic of the ongoing conflict in Syria, both Lavrov and Pompeo said they want to move forward with the current agreements that have been made to stop a military offensive launched by Turkey back in October.
While we have seen Russia’s military filling the void left by US troops in Syria, there was no talk of the Trump Administration’s plan to keep some troops in the country in order to guard oilfields from ISIS, and then seize Syrian oil.
On the topic of Venezuela, Pompeo said he urged Russia to put its support behind opposition leader Juan Guaido, following a failed US-backed military coup. However, Russia has continued to support Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and Lavrov reiterated that the goal is to push for a solution defined by the people.
We are just months away from the next presidential election here in the US, and Lavrov said one of the biggest things hindering progress between the US and Russia has been continued accusations of “election meddling,” which Moscow has repeatedly denied and that no proof has been presented.
“We understand that our joint work was hindered, and it continues to be hindered by the wave of suspicion that has overcome Washington. We have highlighted once again that all speculation about our alleged interference in domestic processes in the United States are baseless,” Lavrov said.
The US has placed sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals and entities over the last five years, and while Pompeo insisted that the sanctions have nothing to do with the Russian people, Lavrov argued that sanctions do no benefit anyone. During this visit, Lavrov also held close-door meetings with President Trump at the White House, but it’s not clear yet if any agreements were made, or if the goal is this visit is simply to continue dialogue.