John Herbst – 2018 in relations between Moscow and Washington

John Herbst


John Herbst – 2018 in relations between Moscow and Washington


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The head of the Eurasian program of the Atlantic Council is convinced that sanctions against Moscow over the seizure of Ukrainian seafarers in the Kerch Strait will be eventually introduced

Russian service “voice of America” continues to summarize 2018 in the relations of the United States and Russia. Together with us the results brings John Herbst is Director of the Eurasian program of the Atlantic Council, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and Uzbekistan. In an interview with “Voice of America” the ex-diplomat and scientist says about the national interests of the United States and the possible responses of the West to Moscow’s actions.

Danila Galperovich: What are the main results 2018 in us-Russian relations? What has happened between Washington and Moscow in the past year, and what has remained the same?

John Herbst: I would not answer, and comment: I think you phrased the question incorrectly, however, most exactly formulates that does not make the wording correct. People always want to “measure the temperature” in US relations with Russia or with other countries. I think it’s worth asking: what are the interests of the United States in comparison with the interests of Russia, and that was made by the United States in 2018 reflect their interests? And, therefore, what Russia did to fulfill their interests in the form in which it defines them?

D. G.: Well, if you formulate the question this way – although I think it’s just another question – how are you going to answer it?

JH: If I answered so formulated a question, I would say: the interests of the United States was to stop the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine and to stop Russia’s efforts to change the existing world order – like relations with the West and in other regions of the world.

And in 2018 we saw a continuation of the same situation that existed in January 2017, when Donald trump entered the office of the President. There is a President who feels an inexplicable affection for the Kremlin – despite the fact that his administration is pursuing a policy that in respect of the same Kremlin’s steadily tougher to stop Russia’s aggressive policies.

D. G.: And if you look at the interests of the parties more broadly – what are they?

JH: US Interests lie in the maintenance of global stability that is a prerequisite of any prosperity. The Kremlin has pursued a policy consisting of the aspiration to change the existing world order, and in some cases – and to revisit what happened after the Second world war. This is contrary to our vital interests. Therefore, the policy of the United States and the West in General needs to be to stop these actions. At the present time, the West was not able to achieve. But Western policy is getting better – you can even see some significant, albeit insufficient, improvement in the politics of Donald trump, despite his strange sympathy for the Kremlin.

D. G.: Indeed, for 2018 it was noticeable that the legislative power in the United States tried to compensate those manifestations of friendliness toward the Kremlin, which you just said. If this ever happened for political reasons, or because Congress has formed a certain attitude towards Russia?

JH: the action of the Congress, of course, to a large extent was the reason you mentioned – political. But in their bulk, the Congress – both Democrats and Republicans are well aware of how dangerous Putin is. Thus, the actions of the Democrats is largely dictated by the results of elections in 2016, and this is the opposite of the cold formulation of U.S. national interests in foreign policy, about which I said before. But some of them understood a lot about Putin before: this is especially true in relation to Robert Menendez (democratic Senator – D. G.), who spoke about the danger posed by Putin, even before the election of 2016. If we talk about the Republicans, many of them understand this danger, with the minor exception of Dana Rohrabacher (member of the house of representatives – D. G.), which we will not see in the new composition of Congress, and Rand Paul (Senator – D. G.).

D. G.: What is your prediction of relations between the US and Russia in 2019?

JH: Many things will remain the same as it was in 2018. We will see additional sanctions against Moscow, for example, in response to the seizure of the Ukrainian sailors in the Kerch Strait. While our response is not impressive, but the pressure is growing, which is evident from the resolution of the Senate introduced on 20 December. Eventually this pressure will lead to new U.S. sanctions.

I think that in the field of arms control trump, no matter what, understands that Russia cheated and did so to the obvious disadvantage of the United States, which led to the decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty. This may pave the way for further talks, although absolute certainty is not.

I also think that the us response to Russian aggression will become more solid and high quality. Another interesting area – all associated with the “Northern stream-2”. Donald trump is very tough coming to this thread. Of course, this is partly due to his desire to put pressure on Germany, but this pressure directly affects Moscow. And it may force the Germans to think again over what to do with this project.

D. G.: will the perspective of the U.S.-Russia presidential campaign in 2020 in the United States? It’s in full effect will unfold in the next year.

JH: Only if we will see again that the Kremlin is trying to interfere with it. But I still don’t think in 2019, these elections will be a major factor in the relationship.

D. G.: What USA and the West can respond to a possible continuation of Russia’s actions to destabilize the democratic countries and the USA in particular?

D. H: There are two ways that we haven’t really tried. First – we might be able to counterattack in cyberspace: our opportunities are much more. But I am not an expert in this field, and those who understand have told me that because we are much more dependent on cyberspace than Russia, we are more vulnerable.

The second method is the sanctions, but there is also a problem: a large portion of the West remains blind to what he’s capable of the Kremlin. Therefore, sanctions for Russia’s actions in Eastern Ukraine was entered immediately and could not be entered at all. I think it would be good to the Kremlin as a result of these sanctions – even if not recognizing that its troops are in Ukraine – after quiet diplomatic negotiations left the Donbass.

  • Danila Galperovich

    Reporter of the Russian Service “voice of America” in Moscow. Cooperates with the “Voice of America” in 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and host of programs on Russian service Bi-Bi-si and “Radio Liberty”. Specialization – international relations, policy and legislation, human rights.


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