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1 Dec, 2020 11:42

Lavrov says Russia will work with next US president, if there is ‘mutual respect,’ but Moscow isn’t holding out much hope

Lavrov says Russia will work with next US president, if there is ‘mutual respect,’ but Moscow isn’t holding out much hope

Russia’s top diplomat has told journalists the country is ready to work with presumed US President-elect Joe Biden provided basic commitments are met. However, a new poll shows most Russians believe things are unlikely to change.

In an interview published on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the Kazinform news agency, “We will accept any decision of the American people and will work with any administration. Of course, this can only be on the principles of honesty, mutual respect, and non-interference in internal affairs.”

At the same time, he refused to be drawn on what White House foreign policy might look like “before the official results are announced.” The Kremlin has similarly ruled out congratulating the likely future leader, Biden, until the Electoral College confirms his win or President Donald Trump formally concedes. Lavrov did suggest, however, given his previous statements on international affairs, that Biden’s stance would be similar to the one “promoted at the time by [former US President] Barack Obama.”

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On Monday, his deputy, Sergey Ryabkov, told the Russian-American Fort Ross Dialogue conference that the two countries had to do more to improve relations, but that issues such as the status of Crimea could derail any progress in talks. When it comes to the disputed peninsula, which was reabsorbed into Russia in 2014, “there is nothing to discuss,” he said. “If the US wants to escalate it further, please do. At some point, we will show that this policy is leading nowhere.”

However, a new poll of Russians, conducted by the independent Levada Center, shows the general public isn’t optimistic about the prospect of better ties between Moscow and Washington. Released on Tuesday morning, it found that almost half of those surveyed say relations will “stay the same” if Joe Biden takes up the presidency, with only one in 10 saying things would get better. By contrast, back in 2016, when Donald Trump scored a surprise electoral win, 46 per cent had believed relations would improve to some degree.

Putin has previously repeated that Russia was open to the prospect of a new US administration and potential room for negotiations around key issues such as nuclear weapons controls. However, he has also warned that Biden is at risk of alienating Moscow, noting “sharp anti-Russian rhetoric” during his campaign. 

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