The Obama administration should put pressure on Congress to tame its hostile attitude toward Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s foreign-policy aide said after a message delivered by the U.S. leader’s envoy today.
U.S. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon brought a message from Obama to his Russian counterpart that included an offer to deepen economic cooperation, Putin’s aide, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters in Moscow. The proposal encompasses issues of missile defense and nuclear arsenals, Interfax said.
“From one side we have a positive letter that has several interesting proposals, from the other -- an administration that’s taking no action regarding several figures that make our relations worse,” Ushakov said. “They are not willing to work with Russophobic Congress to align it with an atmosphere of cooperation with Russia.”
The former Cold War foes are trying to mend relations that have worsened since Putin returned to the presidency last year, with disputes ranging from democratic rights and missile defense to the conflict in Syria. Three days before Donilon’s visit, the Obama administration released a list of 18 Russians, drafted in Congress, who will be subject to financial sanctions and banned from entering the U.S. for playing a role in human-rights abuses, prompting Russia to retaliate by imposing its own ban.
Obama offered to establish a new format for cooperation and change the work of the U.S.-Russia presidential commission, Ushakov said. The proposals brought by Donilon are in contradiction to the move to blacklist the officials, he said.
The Treasury Department acted on April 12 under a law passed last year and known as the Magnitsky Act, named after a Russian lawyer who accused police officials of stealing $230 million from the national treasury. Supporters of Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested on tax evasion charges and died in jail in 2009, say he was tortured and denied medical treatment.
The Russian Foreign Ministry countered the following day by releasing its own list of 18 former and current U.S. officials that will be barred from entering Russia. The ban will extend to individuals suspected of human-rights violations against Russians abroad and includes people the ministry accuses of torture at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Donilon, is in Moscow April 14-15 for meetings with senior Russian officials to review and plan the next steps in U.S.- Russian relations. The agenda included foreign policy, security and economic issues, said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
The consultations come before planned meetings between Obama and Putin during the G-8 talks in Northern Ireland in mid- June and in Russia in September around the G-20 meetings, Hayden said in an e-mail.
Obama and Putin spoke by telephone on March 1, partly to set the stage for their meetings in June and September, according to a White House statement at the time.
The two leaders discussed Iran’s ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons, violence in Syria and ways to forge a political transition, international economic conditions and steps to widen trade and investment between the U.S. and Russia. The two leaders talked after Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov conferred earlier in the week in Berlin.
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