Post sponsored by

MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –

Question: One of the outcomes of the Geneva summit was an agreement to launch a dialogue on cybersecurity. What to expect from him? When and at what level, between which departments will the negotiations take place? Do you see the willingness of the United States to make such consultations regular?

Answer: Cooperation in the field of cybersecurity is currently one of the most promising areas of Russian-American relations. There is a strong impression that this issue is becoming one of the central issues on the bilateral agenda. At least this is the conclusion that can be reached here in Washington. It will not be an exaggeration to say that in fact every day I have to deal with materials from local media about hacker attacks on objects in the United States, which are allegedly carried out from the territory of Russia. Evidence is never given.

A very remarkable point: according to the conclusions of American researchers, Russia is not one of the countries from whose information space the greatest number of cyberattacks is carried out. The United States, in turn, tops the list. It is obvious that our states equally face challenges in the digital environment. Cases with recent hacker attacks on the healthcare system of the Voronezh region and the American information company Kaseya confirm this fact. That is why we have consistently come up with an initiative for Washington to establish profile contacts. In particular, since 2015, six proposals have been sent to the American side to launch such interaction. Among them: to conclude a bilateral agreement on the prevention of incidents in cyberspace; exchange guarantees of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, including electoral processes, including with the use of information and communication technologies (ICT); conclude a global agreement on the adoption of a political commitment by states not to be the first to strike using ICT against each other, etc. In addition, on September 25, 2020, the President of the Russian Federation V. V. Putin An initiative was announced on a comprehensive program of measures to restore Russian-American cooperation in the field of information security.

Unfortunately, no response has been received to any of our proposals. By the way, the requests of the Russian competent authorities regarding cyberattacks remain without a reaction from the American side. In 2020, there were 45 of them, and in the first half of 2021 – 35. For our part, we satisfied ten applications from the United States last year and two this year. All this suggests that our countries have something to work on.

As for the direct implementation of the agreement reached in Geneva, with the coordination of the Security Councils of the two countries, experts from relevant ministries and departments have already begun to actively contact. Representatives of specialized structures for responding to challenges in the digital environment, including the Russian National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents, are also involved in the process. And this is very important.

American colleagues, however, speak from a selective position, preferring to focus consultations on issues of cyber extortion. We hope that the dialogue will nevertheless acquire a comprehensive character, since the problem of information security is much broader.

In any case, we hope that regular subject communication will help to remove the concerns that have accumulated in this area. Russia is always open for honest and mutually beneficial cooperation, without politicization and hidden agendas.

We take a responsible approach to cybersecurity issues. Evidence that Russia became the first state to develop and submit to the UN on July 27 a draft Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communication Technologies for Criminal Purposes.

Question: Did the United States ask to exclude them from the list of unfriendly countries? What was the reaction from the United States when Russia made the corresponding statement? Are there any prerequisites for excluding the United States from the list? What must happen for the United States to be removed from the list?

Answer: The final communiqué of the NATO summit on June 14 called for Russia to cancel the decision on the introduction of the United States and Czech Republic to the list of unfriendly states. As far as we understand, this is the official American reaction. We are not aware of any requests to this effect through bilateral channels.

I think our colleagues are well aware that this list was a natural consequence of hostile actions to worsen the working conditions of Russian diplomatic missions in the United States. In a ridiculous witch hunt, Washington has dramatically tightened visa procedures. We have been completely deprived of the consular presence on the West Coast of America, where tens of thousands of compatriots live. Mass expulsions of Russian diplomats are regularly carried out. We have been denied access to our own homes since the American authorities, in a gangster manner, took possession of six diplomatic facilities that are state property of Russia and have immunity.

In response to the next sanctions aggression on April 15, we were forced to take countermeasures, counter-expelling American diplomats and banning US diplomatic missions, as an “unfriendly state,” from hiring citizens of Russia and third countries.

By the way, our formulation is semantically not as radical as that of the Americans. Back in August 2017, Russia was declared “America’s adversary” at the legislative level. A similar hostile perception of our country is permeated with the fundamental doctrinal documents of the United States, which present an independent Russian course as a threat to national security.

Obviously, a revision of Russian decisions would require an adjustment of American approaches, which have become a generator of instability in bilateral relations. Don’t put the cart in front of the horse. We have given an objective and fair assessment of the US policy that has been pursued towards Russia in recent years. We do not intend to endure such treatment of ourselves.

At the same time, we constantly inform our colleagues that we are open to constructive cooperation to the extent that the American side is ready for this. How it will respond to this will be judged by specific cases in the context of realizing the understandings reached at the Geneva Summit.

Question: Is it worth waiting for the normalization of the work of diplomatic missions in the near future?

Answer: This topic is at the center of the bilateral agenda. The presidents agreed on this. Work continues on the line of the foreign ministries. We proceed from the expediency of “nullifying” on a reciprocal basis the existing restrictions on the activities of each other’s foreign missions. It would seem, what could be simpler? Alas, no light is visible at the end of the tunnel. The State Department is not even ready to discuss the possibility of a complete rejection of all introduced measures and countermeasures, insisting on a phased approach. However, this phasing is, in fact, a matter of prioritizing American issues. And the colleagues tend to postpone the solution of the issues that interest us. This approach is unacceptable. After all, these things are done as if you look at them professionally. You are interested in one thing, we are interested in another. It is necessary to draw up a schedule for mutual coordination. This is the usual way of doing business. Unfortunately, we do not see such a method here yet.

Now the Americans have begun to complain at all levels about the aforementioned ban on hiring local personnel. They persistently raise the issue of unconditional issuance of visas to those whom they will send to Russia to replace the dismissed Russians. We are not against, but on the condition that attempts to emasculate our diplomatic presence in the United States will cease.

In order not to be unfounded, I will give specific examples. In December last year, the State Department unilaterally introduced a three-year limit on travel of employees of bilateral RZOs to the United States who have arrived since January 2020. By the way, such restrictions do not apply to other countries. Logically, this rule should work only after three years, that is, not earlier than January 2023. However, at the same time we were given a list of 24 workers who are ordered to leave the country by September 3, 2021. We have not received any intelligible explanations about the reasons for such a step, which in fact gives retroactive effect to the indicated “innovation”.

Calming us down and pretending to be compliant, the State Department assured us that they would promptly issue visas to our colleagues’ replacements. But in reality, most of the employees on this notorious list will be forced to leave without replacements, since the issuance of American entry permits is paralyzed. The issuance of visas is still locked by Washington on burdensome exchange schemes, which are proceeding extremely slowly due to significant differences in the structures of diplomatic missions of the two countries.

We have cases at the Embassy when some family members have visas, while others do not. The wife of one of the senior diplomats and his children had their valid visas canceled without any explanation at all. This is one of the odious manifestations of the policy of ousting our diplomats. How this relates to the postulates of family values ​​preached here with great aplomb is absolutely incomprehensible.

In total, about 60 Russian employees (with family members – about 130 people) are on the waiting list for the extension of expired visas, including the counselor-envoys. People cannot leave the United States for their homeland, even on urgent humanitarian matters. We have repeatedly proposed to agree to a mutual one-year extension of visas, but the Americans are “wrapping up” this issue. As for the applications of the State Department for visas for new employees to fill vacant positions, there is also no dynamics here. Such requests are sporadic. And this despite the fact that there is very little time left until August 1. We are ready to consider such visa applications as soon as we receive them. Naturally, based on the principle of reciprocity.

Question: What is happening with the seized Russian diplomatic property? Was this issue raised in Geneva?

Answer: There is no positive news. This question is being toughly raised by the Russian side at all meetings. The Geneva summit is no exception. We insist that the diplomatic property be returned to us without any conditions. Recently, we had the opportunity to re-emphasize this problem in conversations with senior representatives of the Administration. But in response they heard a categorical “no”.

Despite the seemingly promised right to request access to Russian facilities, we receive refusals from the Department of State for weekly requests to temporarily allow Russian operational teams to pass. Obviously, without proper care and maintenance of life support systems, our buildings fall into disrepair. More than 470 Official Notes have already been sent. All answers are negative.

At the same time, our references to Washington’s failure to comply with its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and violation of its own legislation on the inviolability of private property are swept aside from the doorway. The American authorities, according to established tradition, act from a position of exclusivity, considering themselves to be free in relation to any legal norms and principles.

Question: How is the dialogue on the fate of the Russians and Americans serving prison terms progressing?

Answer: This is one of the biggest irritants in Russian-American relations. In recent years, at the request of the United States, about 60 Russians have been arrested in third countries. Washington is shying away from using the bilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in criminal matters, preferring to grab Russian citizens around the world with the help of its allies. Many of the Russians detained and extradited to the United States were subjected to psychological pressure, harsh treatment and even torture. Our compatriots are constantly faced with denials of medical services and the provision of necessary medicines.

Let me remind you about a civilian pilot K. Yaroshenko, exported from Liberia and sentenced by a New York court to 20 years in prison on the basis of the testimony of dummy agents (for “conspiracy” to transport drugs, despite his poor knowledge of English). Then the State Department directly stated that since he did not admit his guilt, he would sit for the edification of other Russians arrested in the United States in order to force them to be more agreeable.

In a similar situation V. Bout, detained by the Americans in Thailand on suspicion of arms trafficking and after refusing to admit his guilt, was sentenced to 25 years. He has already spent 13 years in prison, and Yaroshenko – 11. We have repeatedly raised before the US authorities the question of the return of compatriots to Russia within the framework of the Council Convention Europe 1983 on the transfer of convicted persons, for which they were refused every time.

Concerning P. Whelan and T. Reed, for the release of which the American authorities are calling, then all the “oohs” and “oohs” in this regard, to put it mildly, look feigned. P. Whelan was caught red-handed during a reconnaissance operation. He is convicted of espionage. T. Reed is punished for the fact that, being drunk, he attacked a police officer. The guilt of these American citizens has been proven. They are provided with regular consular access and the necessary medical assistance.

We have long called on the American side to work out joint rules of conduct in this area on the basis of the existing legal mechanisms. We look forward to establishing an equal and mutually respectful dialogue to find mutually acceptable solutions.

Question: To what extent is the Syrian issue a priority for relations between Russia and the United States at the moment? In what context is it discussed?

Answer: The Syrian problem was discussed by the presidents during the June summit in Geneva. The meeting was followed by a constructive dialogue at the expert level. Both of our countries recognize the importance of maintaining the uninterrupted operation of communication channels within the framework of the deconflicting mechanism, thus avoiding unnecessary incidents between the military in the Arab Republic. It was also possible to find a compromise solution on the cross-border mechanism of humanitarian assistance in the SAR in the UN Security Council.

We see prospects for interaction with Syria with the Administration J. Biden in various areas, including post-conflict reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, the return of Syrian refugees, as well as in the field of anti-terrorism. Of course, strictly subject to the observance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Middle East state.

Question: How do you assess the prospects for Russian-American cooperation on Afghanistan?

Answer: Russia and the United States maintain a substantive dialogue on Afghanistan. S.V. Lavrov and E. Blinken they appreciate the bilateral contacts at the level of special representatives. The coordination of efforts between our countries is aimed at achieving national reconciliation in the Islamic Republic.

The interests of Moscow and Washington in the Afghan settlement are in many respects close. Given the escalation of the situation in the country, it is important to launch the process of substantive negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban. Form a new coalition transitional leadership.

For our part, we are ready, when the necessary conditions are ripe, to hold in Moscow the next meeting of the “expanded three” with the participation of Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan… Invite representatives of the Afghan government and the armed opposition to the event. In a constructive atmosphere, discuss the specifics of the future government of Afghanistan. It is important that the Afghan political forces agree on this without external pressure.

Question: How will the dialogue on strategic stability be built? How do you see the ultimate goal of the negotiations? How, in your opinion, should negotiations be organized to make them as effective as possible?

Answer: In the sphere of strategic stability, so many problems have accumulated over the past decade that one cannot do without systematic expert efforts to work them out. Comprehensive bilateral negotiations are needed on the future of arms control. At their June meeting in Geneva, the Russian and US presidents agreed to start such a dialogue. The first orientation meeting on July 28 in an interdepartmental format is devoted to discussing general issues of maintaining and strengthening strategic stability and the prospects for arms control. At a certain stage, the division of substantive discussions into working groups will become uncontested. This focused approach has been used repeatedly in strategic stability consultations in the past. It has proven its effectiveness in situations where the parties need to discuss a wide range of issues – and not superficially, but with an analysis of specific, often technical details.

Question: Are the parties ready to discuss tactical nuclear weapons, in addition to strategic ones, and non-nuclear ones, but possessing strategic potential? Deployment or non-deployment of the INF Treaty in Europe and Asia? Our newest strat systems? Missile defense? What about the nuclear powers – allies of the United States?

Answer: Russia is open to discussion on any issues in the field of arms control. There are no taboo topics for us. We are ready to discuss American concerns about our newest strat systems. However, such a conversation should not become a one-way street. The Americans will also have to listen to our claims and take into account Russian interests in the context of ensuring security. Dialogue will not work without an open, equal exchange of views.

As for Russian priorities. President Vladimir Putin and the leadership of the foreign policy department have repeatedly spoken about them. The Americans are also familiar with our initiatives. The relevant considerations were transferred to Washington back in 2020. At the heart of our proposal for the development of the so-called. the new security equation is based on taking into account the entire spectrum of offensive and defensive weapons in nuclear and non-nuclear equipment capable of solving strategic tasks. We believe it is important for both sides to focus on the systems that constitute the first counterforce strike capability. Those who can “reach” the targets on the national territory of the opposite side. It is also important to pay attention to promising technologies that allow solving strategic tasks without the use of nuclear weapons. It is long overdue to discuss anti-missile problems. Moreover, the principle of an indissoluble link between strategic offensive and defensive weapons is enshrined in the preamble of the START Treaty extended in February this year. Other priorities include ensuring security and preventing an arms race in space, and preventing the deployment of intermediate and shorter-range ground-based missiles in regions of the world.

In the long term, it will not be possible to circumvent the issue of expanding the membership of the arms control agreements. The highest priority seems to be the involvement of Great Britain and France… They closely coordinate military nuclear policy with Washington within the NATO alliance. This issue has acquired particular urgency in the light of the recent decision of London to increase the maximum level of nuclear warheads by 40% – up to 260 units.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and / or sentence structure not be perfect.

MIL OSI Russia News