Anatoly Antonov: Officials in Washington Are Far from the People
Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall, Bolshaya Tatarskaya 42, Moscow, Russia

After the Helsinki summit a lot of fake and negative news appeared in the Western media. The information space is still boiling. On July 20 Anatoly Antonov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the United States, was guest of the Valdai Discussion Club. He personally attended the Helsinki summit and spoke about how important the meeting between Trump and Putin was for the history of Russian-American relations.

The summit of the Presidents of Russia and the United States in Helsinki became one of the key events in international politics over the past few years, although due to a flurry of criticism in the US media and opposition in the local political establishment, it may seem that it created even more problems. According to Anatoly Antonov, on the eve of the meeting between Putin and Trump there were many fears and speculations, and it was completely unclear what its results could be, especially after the NATO summit in Brussels.

Paradoxically, the main result of the meeting was the summit itself and the fact that the two presidents could talk calmly about the pressing international problems, regional and global security, as well as the agenda of strategic stability and arms control. Therefore, as the ambassador said, this fact should be regarded positively.

However, the political elite of the US, especially in the Congress, showed their opposition to the summit, continuing to accuse Russia of meddling in the elections, and Donald Trump - almost in collusion with Russia. The American media are not inclined to dialogue at all: they are not interested in improving relations, they need to accuse all Russians. "The media had a lot of fake news, distortions and negative reports about what happened at the summit on July 16. Why do Western media think that the meeting of the two presidents was bad? In my opinion, it was wonderful! The stronger is the dialogue between our countries, the stronger is the security of European states, Russia and the United States," Anatoly Antonov said.

At the same time, this "accusatory" position reflects the interests of a small circle of people only. "Officials in Washington are far from the people, they do not know their real aspirations. And what they are doing does not embrace the interests of the American people," the ambassador said. The rating of public support of the US president is 47% now, but it is quite difficult to say what people  on the periphery, far from the capital think.

"Were all the issues resolved at the meeting? The speaker asked. "Nobody expected this, but it is important that we identified the problems need to be resolved." "We want the dialogue to become permanent and two leader to meet on a case-by-case but regular basis, to  know and understand the problems better and solve them," Antonov added.

There were a lot of questions from the audience, and they referred to details of the reached agreements - or "understandings", as the guest diplomatically put it. One of participants spoke about the so-called Russian meddling in the elections in the United States. During the summit, Vladimir Putin again proposed the creation of a working group on cybersecurity, which the presidents of the two countries announced at the meeting in Hamburg. However, this initiative encounters economic difficulties in connection with sanctions, as well as the unfriendly actions of the State Department, which not so long ago offered the embassies around the world to stop cooperation with Russia.

At the Q&A session the particular attention was paid to the arms control treaties (START and INF). Antonov reminded the audience, that the START Treaty was once called the "gold standard of negotiation practice", since the creation of this document resolved many issues - from missile defense and imbalances in conventional weapons to the weapons in space. The treaty ends in 2021, and if the parties want to extend it, the negotiations should begin now. According to the speaker, the closed-door consultations with the American colleagues are already underway. Despite the fact that Russia has questions to the US on fulfilling its obligations under the START and INF Treaties, the ambassador considers it a working moment and supports the continuation of the dialogue.

As for the prospects for the next summit between Putin and Trump that could take place this automn according to the media, the ambassador said that it is too early to talk about it. "We have tremendous work to realize common understandings between the two presidents", he said. - The task is not to multiply the number of summits, but to develop them, to move forward. We want the dialogue to be permanent and that the leaders meet regularly. The Russian side is always open to such proposals."