Interview with Andrey Kortunov

Andrey Kortunov, Vice President for Russia of Eurasia Foundation joined Russia Today to comment on perspectives of the present Russia – UK political confrontation.

Russia Today: We have heard warnings of retaliation measures from Russia towards Britain but nothing concrete yet. What do you think Russia will do?

Andrey Kortunov: Well, I think that the Russian reaction so far is purposefully ambiguous. They want to keep all options open and probably they are also waiting for additional steps that can be taken by the British side. However it is evident that a couple of British diplomats will be expelled from Moscow. Maybe we will have four diplomats expelled in order to keep parity with the British. The rest is really a big question.

RT: So you are saying they have not made their mind yet?

A.K.: Well, you know, I think that they are thinking about the scale of retaliation because I think that both sides are concerned not about reciprocity, reciprocity is more or less given, but rather about escalation. Both sides are concerned that this diplomatic crisis might escalate into something bigger than just a diplomatic crisis.

RT: This showdown is not really just about the Litvinenko case. Do you think it goes back to something else?

A.K.: Well, unfortunately, I am afraid that the roots are much deeper than a specific case of Litvinenko. Unfortunately, we have rather tense relations with the British side and there are a lot of anti-Russian feelings flying high in London right now despite very good economic relations between the two countries, despite very intense exchange of people and a lot of cultural contacts between London and Moscow. We cannot say that the United Kingdom is a close partner of the Russian Federation that is regretful, definitely.

RT: Where do this anti-Russian feelings come from?

A.K.: It is hard to tell. I think that definitely we can talk about die hard sections of the old political guard in the United Kingdom. Of course, we can also mention a part of the Russian immigration which is not very helpful and sometimes this immigration is clearly anti-Putin. And in some cases I am afraid we, Russians, also make mistakes. Maybe we are not delicate enough, maybe we are not sophisticated enough, maybe we are arrogant and we should think about how we behave in London and how we behave towards London.

RT: Ok, going back to Litvinenko – Lugovoy case. How properly, do you think, is this politically and diplomatically to ask another country, meaning Russia, to change its constitution in order to extradite its citizens?

A.K.: Well, I think it is funny. I hope it was just a kind of aberration. But can you imagine, for example, let’s say Prime Minister Tony Blair claiming that the United States should denounce its Bill of Rights or something like that. I think it was an unhappy statement. I hope that it does not really reflect the British position. Maybe, you know, we have here a new cabinet, these people are new to their jobs and maybe they need some time. But definitely it was not the best statement that we ever heard from the United Kingdom.

RT: Keeping into consideration all the points you have just said, what do you think is a possible way out of this deadlock?

A.K.: First of all, I think what we have to do right now is to limit the damage, to prevent this crisis from escalating. We should somehow make sure that it will not affect our economic, social and educational relations, that it will be limited to a diplomatic field only. Second, when the dust settles down, we should probably look at what can be done. At what can be done in terms of the Litvinenko case, which is an important case in itself, but also what can be done in terms of bringing a new dimension and a new momentum to the relationship. I am sure that we can be very good friends with the British. I am sure that our two countries need each other but we really have to work hard on both sides to make it happen.