The United States should stop blaming Russia for every problem, that country’s ambassador to America said Monday.
“To see Russians behind everything that goes wrong in the United States or for the United States, it’s exactly what is wrong with our relations,” Sergey Kislyak said at a roundtable breakfast in Washington hosted by the Institute for Education.
During the visit, he said local media asked him if Russia was behind the Colombia prostitution scandal that has shaken the U.S. Secret Service. A radio show host implied, Kislyak said, that Russia had planted the prostitutes to spy on the United States.
Kislyak was quick to acknowledge that Russians are just as guilty of holding suspicions of the United States.
“When it comes to Russia, many Russians believe that the United States is guilty for everything that goes wrong in Russia,” he said. “I would claim that certainly they are in some instances, but not in all. We also contribute.”
He said both sides need to move beyond Cold War attitudes of suspicion and adopt an outlook of inclusion and partnership.
The ambassador spoke the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin was sworn in for his third term in an election that sparked some criticism in the United States.
U.S.-Russian ties have also been tense over trade issues, human rights and missile defense.
Russia has been pushing Congress and President Obama hard in recent months to drop the Magnitsky Act, which would impose sanctions on Russians involved in human rights abuses. It is named after lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian detention center.
Kislyak reiterated his government’s opposition to the legislation, arguing that the United States should trust Russia to take responsibility for its own human rights issues and not treat it with inferiority by imposing sanctions.
Senate supporters of the Magnitsky Act have been pressing to attach the measure to a congressional vote to provide Russian with permanent normal trade relations. The United States is required to provide Russia with the upgraded trade status upon Russia’s joining of the World Trade Organization this summer. If it does not, Russia could raise tariffs on U.S. exports to Russia.
The Obama administration opposes tying the two issues together, but it is not clear whether it would oppose the Magnitsky legislation as a stand-alone bill.
Kislyak also criticized U.S. efforts to build a missile defense system in Europe.
“We have a feeling of frustration, somewhat,” he said. “We say we want to partner with you on ballistic missile defense, but to partner as real partners — that means on an equal basis.”
Instead of being invited as an equal into discussions, or a “tent” of a partnership, Russia is being treated as an inferior, Kislyak said.
“I keep saying what is being offered is an invitation to what the Americans call, ‘the kiddy tent,’ in an adjacent room rather than the tent itself,” he said.