MOSCOW — An American foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump chided the United States on Thursday for an “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change” in its dealings with Russia, China and Central Asia.
Carter Page, an energy executive tapped by the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign for his business experience in the former Soviet Union, told students and journalists gathered in a Moscow lecture hall that Washington had missed opportunities to work with leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping because it had ignored principles of “respect, equality and mutual benefit.”
Page’s remarks put him, like Trump, at sharp odds with the Obama administration and traditional Republican policy circles, which have viewed Russia in more adversarial terms over the war in Syria, the conflict in Ukraine and other issues. The bilateral relationship has soured to Cold War-era levels in recent years.
Page refused to comment specifically on the U.S. presidential election, his relationship with Trump or U.S. sanctions against Russia, saying he was in Russia as a “private citizen.” He gave a lecture titled “The Evolution of the World Economy: Trends and Potential,” in which he noted that Russia and China had achieved success in Central Asia, unlike the United States, by pursuing a respectful foreign policy based on mutual interest.
He generally avoided questions on U.S. foreign policy, but when one attendee asked him whether he really believed the United States was a “liberal, democratic society,” Page told him to “read between the lines.”
“If I’m understanding the direction you’re coming from, I tend to agree with you that it’s not always as liberal as it may seem,” he said. “I’m with you.”
In a meeting with The Washington Post editorial board in March, Trump named Page, a former Merrill Lynch executive in Moscow who later advised the Russian state energy giant Gazprom on major oil and gas deals, as one of his foreign-policy advisers. Page refused to say whether his Moscow trip included a meeting with Russian officials. He is scheduled to deliver a graduation address Friday at the New Economic School, a speech that some officials are expected to attend.
Trump has not outlined a specific policy concerning Russia and the former Soviet Union, but he is broadly noninterventionist, questioning the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and calling for Europe to play a larger role in ensuring its security.
Page’s appointment followed criticism that Trump was thin on foreign-policy experience. Trump, in a March appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” was asked who his top foreign-policy consultant was. He responded: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things. . . . My primary consultant is myself.”
Page is an outsider to Republican policymaking circles. But he has regularly criticized U.S. intervention and on Thursday quoted Putin in Russian as saying that his country does not intervene in the internal politics of other nations.
In one article for Global Policy Journal, he wrote, “From U.S. policies toward Russia to Iran to China, sanctimonious expressions of moral superiority stand at the root of many problems seen worldwide today.”
Page wrote that the war in eastern Ukraine was “precipitated by U.S. meddling in the Maidan revolution,” a reference to the 2014 demonstrations that led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. U.S. officials have accused Russia of orchestrating the subsequent annexation of Crimea and of backing pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Page is not Trump’s only adviser with ties to former Soviet-bloc politics. Paul Manafort, his campaign manager, served as a consultant for Yanukovych before the Russian-backed Ukrainian leader was overthrown.