Russia's Ryabkov on U.S.-Russia relations: 'We can offer tangible results, and we will do more in the future'

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 31, 2011; 7:15 PM

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who daily oversees relations between Moscow and the United States, last week provided interesting insight on issues such as Iran, Afghanistan and arms control in an appearance at the Nixon Center in Washington.

He set the stage by saying that President Obama's plan to "reset" relations between Moscow and Washington "has already happened." "We can offer tangible results, and we will do more in the future," he said.

On Iran, Ryabkov pointed to "unprecedented" coordination, citing Moscow's voting for U.N. resolutions on the issue, including the acceptance of sanctions on the Tehran regime.

He did make the point more than once that his country disagrees with the United States on sanctions: "One [the U.S.] believes in the result of sanctions, the other [Russia] doesn't." Sanctioning "only brings suffering to each and every nation that is being sanctioned."

And unilateral U.S. sanctions do not bring the hoped-for results, he said, and the move "only adds to strain of the international community."

Russia is not conducting separate negotiations with Tehran on the nuclear issue, he said, though Moscow has had bilateral discussions with the Iranians. "We speak to them frankly, as they do with us, and it is not always an easy discussion, but we see no alternative to dialogue," he said.

He called the present proposals to Iran by the P5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany) fine, but added, "We may in the end have some discussion of this sort [about their enrichment program], but it is premature." It would have to be preceded by a step-by-step road map, he said.

Afghanistan is another area where he said the United States and Russia are working together. Calling the cooperation "a success story," he noted that Washington and Moscow cooperating on supply routes, transportation, training and even economic support to the Afghan government.

Russia fully shares in the new strategy, he said, including support for Afghan national conciliation, though he added, "We would definitely not accept what is being called re-Talibanization."

Moscow does not want to give support to any radical Islamic movements, having enough trouble at home from such groups.

Another special interest for Russia is the threat posed by Afghan drug cultivation. NATO forces, he argued, should be doing more to eradicate production, interdict on roads from producing areas and eliminate precursors, which are chemicals used for processing opium poppies into heroin and morphine.

"What we are doing jointly and collectively is definitely not enough," he said.

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