If American diplomats want constructive talks with Russia, they will have to be prepared to treat their counterparts in Moscow as equals, the Kremlin has warned amid a series of increasingly combative exchanges with Washington.
In an interview with the Moscow-based Argumenty i Fakty newspaper published on Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that Russia would refuse a one-dimensional relationship with the US. “No one will allow America to speak with Russia from a position of strength,” he said. “This is impossible.”
“The Americans are now repeating like a mantra the idea that they will speak with everyone from a position of power,” the spokesman added. “Neither Putin, nor anyone else from the Russian administration, will allow the US or other nations to talk to us like that – it’s out of the question,” Peskov said.
However, the Kremlin official refused to be drawn on whether Moscow would break off relations with Washington if it was unhappy with the tone of discourse. “I don’t want to discuss extreme scenarios,” he stated.
In 2017, then-US Defense Secretary James Mattis said that relations weren’t unsalvageable between the two nations, but that an equal partnership wasn’t on the table in the short term. “We remain open to opportunities to restore a cooperative relationship with Moscow,” he said, “while being realistic in our expectations and ensuring our diplomats negotiate from a position of strength.”
Then, in November last year, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer sparked a war of words by repeating similar comments. “The Russian side has invested heavily in modernizing its armed forces, they have new weapons, and the threat has become much more evident,” she said. If Germany needs to negotiate with Russia, it must do so “from a position of strength, and we will have to strengthen our position,” the minister claimed.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hit back at the suggestion, arguing that Germany’s rhetoric failed to match the political and military reality on the ground. “There is strength there, but it isn’t yours, and you can’t control it”, she said, adding that Germany is “completely and utterly within the US’ military sphere.”
Moscow and Washington have exchanged blows in the media in recent weeks after US President Joe Biden was asked in an interview whether he thought his Russian counterpart was “a killer.”“Mmm hmm, I do,” Biden replied. Putin, however, was more muted in his reply, saying that judging other countries “is like looking in a mirror.”
“When I was a kid, when we were arguing with each other in the playground, we used to say, ‘whatever you say [about others] is what you are yourself,’” the president reflected. He also added that Moscow would stand up for its own interests on the international stage, and “the US will have to reckon with this, despite their attempts to stop our development via sanctions and insults.”
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