WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Moscow has directed six requests to the United States to set up a cybersecurity dialogue over the past six years but has gotten no response, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov told Sputnik.
“We have consistently put forward an initiative for Washington to establish relevant contacts,” Antonov said. “In particular, since 2015, six proposals have been sent to the American side to launch such interaction, including concluding a bilateral agreement on the prevention of incidents in cyberspace; exchanging guarantees of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, in particular in electoral processes, including with the use of information and communication technologies; inking a global agreement on the adoption of a political commitment by states not to be the first to strike using information and communication technologies against each other, etc.”
In addition, the ambassador said that on 25 September 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an initiative on a comprehensive program of measures to restore Russian-American cooperation in the field of information security.
“Unfortunately, no response has been received to any of our proposals,” he said.
Russia Open to Fair, Mutually Beneficial Cooperation With US on Cyber Security
Despite this, Moscow is open to a fair and mutually advantageous dialogue with the United States on cyber security, Antonov said.
“In any case, we hope that regular substantive communication will help to remove the concerns that have accumulated in this area,” Antonov said. “Russia is always open to honest and mutually beneficial cooperation, without politicisation and hidden agendas. We take a responsible approach to cybersecurity issues. The proof of that is that Russia became the first state to develop and submit to the UN, on July 27, a draft Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communication Technologies for Criminal Purposes.”
Relevant US, Russian Agencies Cooperating on Cybersecurity After Geneva Summit
Relevant agencies of Russia and the United States are actively collaborating on cybersecurity following the Geneva meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden, the Russian ambassador told Sputnik.
“As for the direct implementation of the agreement reached in Geneva, experts from the relevant ministries and departments have already begun to actively contact each other with the coordination of the Security Councils of the two countries,” Antonov said. “Representatives of the specialised bodies for responding to challenges in the digital environment, including the Russian National Coordination Centre for Computer Incidents, are also involved in the process. And this is very important.”
US Yet to Respond to 80 Russian Requests Regarding Cyberattacks
Russia has replied to 12 requests from the United States regarding cybersecurity attacks last year and this year, while a total of 80 of Moscow’s requests remain unanswered, Antonov added.
“By the way, the requests of the competent Russian authorities regarding cyberattacks remain without a reaction from the American side. In 2020, there were 45 of them, and in the first half of 2021, there were 35,” Antonov said. “For our part, we responded to ten requests from the United States last year and to two this year. All this suggests that our countries have something to work on.”
Russia, US Maintain Substantive Dialogue on Afghanistan
Aside from cybersecurity issues, Antonov addressed the ongoing escalation in Afghanistan against the background of the US troop withdrawal. He said that Moscow and Washington maintain a substantive dialogue on Afghanistan, which is aimed at reaching national reconciliation in the country.
“Russia and the United States maintain a substantive dialogue on Afghanistan. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken positively assess bilateral contacts at the level of special representatives. The coordination of efforts between our countries is aimed at achieving national reconciliation in the Islamic Republic,” the diplomat said.
The diplomat added that interests of Russia and the United States in Afghanistan mostly overlap.
“The interests of Moscow and Washington in the Afghan settlement are in many respects close. Given the escalation of the situation in the country, it is important to launch the process of substantive negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban [a terrorist group outlawed in Russia], and form a new coalition transitional leadership,” Antonov said.
Moscow Ready to Host Extended Troika With Afghan Government, Armed Opposition
The ambassador further stated that Russia, for its part, is willing to host another meeting of the extended troika on Afghanistan with the participation of both the country’s governments and the armed opposition.
“For our part, we are ready, when the necessary conditions are ripe, to hold in Moscow the next meeting of the extended troika with the participation of Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan [and] invite representatives of the Afghan government and the armed opposition to the event,” Antonov said, adding that it’s essential to discuss the specifics of the future Afghan government in a constructive atmosphere.
“It is important that the Afghan political forces agree on this without external pressure.”
Russia Sees Opportunities to Cooperate With Biden Administration on Syria
The Russian ambassador then moved on to another war-torn country, Syria, where Moscow sees opportunities for collaboration with Washington, including on humanitarian matters, anti-terrorism efforts and the return of refugees.
“We see prospects for interaction on Syria with the Biden administration in various fields, including post-conflict reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, the return of Syrian refugees, as well as in the field of anti-terrorism. Of course, strictly observing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Middle East state,” the ambassador said.
Russia and the United States have begun a constructive expert dialogue on Syria after the Geneva meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, Antonov confirmed.
“Both of our countries recognise the importance of maintaining the uninterrupted operation of communication channels within the framework of the deconflicting mechanism, thus avoiding unnecessary incidents between the military in the [Syrian] Arab Republic. It was also possible to find a compromise solution on the cross-border mechanism of humanitarian assistance in Syria in the UN Security Council,” he said.
US Shying Away From Treaty With Moscow on Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters
The United States is shying away from a bilateral treaty with Russia on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, and instead chooses to “grab” Russian nationals across the world with the help of its allies, the diplomat told Sputnik.
“This is one of the biggest irritants in Russian-American relations. In recent years, at the request of the United States, about 60 Russians have been arrested in third countries. Washington is shying away from using the bilateral treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, preferring to grab Russian citizens around the world with the help of allies,” Antonov said.
US Categorically Refuses to Return Seized Russian Diplomatic Property
On the diplomatic front, the United States categorically refuses to return the ceased Russian diplomatic property, Antonov stressed.
“There is no positive news. This question is being toughly raised by the Russian side at all meetings. The Geneva summit is no exception. We insist that the diplomatic property is returned to us without any conditions. Recently we had the opportunity to re-emphasise this problem in conversations with high-ranking officials of the administration. But in response we heard a categorical no,” he said.
US Evading Russia’s Invitation to Agree on 1-Year Extension of Diplomats’ Visas
Moscow has repeatedly proposed to Washington to agree on a mutual one-year extension of visas for diplomats, however, Americans are evading the issue, Antonov explained.
“We have repeatedly proposed to agree to a mutual one-year extension of visas, but the Americans are evading this issue. As for the applications of the State Department for visas for new employees to fill vacant posts, there are also no dynamics here. Such requests are isolated. And this occurs despite the fact that there is very little time left until 1 August. We are ready to consider such visa applications as soon as we receive them. Naturally, based on the principle of reciprocity,” the ambassador noted.
Some 130 Russian diplomatic workers and members of their families have expired visas and are waiting for their extension, Antonov told Sputnik.
“We have cases at the embassy where some family members have visas, while others do not. The wife of one of the senior diplomats and his children had their valid visas cancelled without any explanation at all. This is one of the odious manifestations of the policy of ousting our diplomats. How this relates to the postulates of family values preached here with great aplomb is absolutely incomprehensible. In total, there are about 60 Russian employees, with family members – about 130 people, on the waiting list for the extension of expired visas, including minister-counsellors. People cannot leave the United States for their homeland, even to address urgent humanitarian matters,” the diplomat said.
The United States has sent to Russia a list of two dozen diplomatic workers that have to leave the country by September, while providing no explanation regarding the move, Antonov told Sputnik.
“In December last year, the State Department unilaterally introduced a three-year limit on the travel of employees of bilateral Russian diplomatic missions to the United States, who have entered since January 2020. By the way, such restrictions do not apply to other countries. Logically, this rule should work only after three years, that is, not earlier than January 2023. However, at the same time we were given a list of 24 workers who are ordered to leave the country before September 3, 2021. No clear explanation of the reasons for this step was received,” he said.
At the same time, the United States is objecting to meeting Russia half way on the matter of diplomatic missions and insists on a phased approach.
“The State Department is not even ready to discuss the possibility of a complete rejection of all the introduced measures and countermeasures, insisting on a phased approach. However, this phasing, in fact, comes down to prioritising American problems. And the colleagues tend to postpone the resolution of the issues that are of interest to us. This approach is unacceptable. After all, this is how these things are done if you look at them professionally. You are interested in one thing, we are interested in another. It is necessary to draw up a timetable for mutual coordination. This is the usual way of doing business. Unfortunately, we do not see such an approach here yet,” Antonov said.
Moscow Ready to Consider Issuing Visas to US Consular Staff
The Russian Ambassador to the United States told Sputnik that Moscow is willing to consider granting visas to US consular staff, and is calling on Washington to stop weakening the Russian diplomatic presence in return.
“Now the Americans have begun to complain at all levels about the aforementioned ban on hiring local personnel. They persistently raise the issue of the unconditional issuance of visas to those whom they will send to Russia to replace the dismissed Russians. We are not against it, but on the condition that attempts to weaken our diplomatic presence in the United States will cease,” Antonov said.
Russia, US Should Zero Out Restrictions Related to Diplomatic Missions Work
Antonov told Sputnik that it would be reasonable for both Moscow and Washington to zero out on a reciprocal basis existing limitations concerning the operations of diplomatic missions.
“This topic is at the centre of the bilateral agenda. The presidents agreed on this,” Antonov said, when asked if normalisation in the work of diplomatic missions should be expected in the near future.
“The foreign ministries of the two countries continue working on this. We proceed from the need for “nullifying”, on a reciprocal basis, the existing restrictions on the activities of each other’s foreign missions. It would seem: what could be simpler? … Alas, no light is visible at the end of the tunnel,” Antonov continued.
US Sent No Official Requests to Be Removed From Russia’s Unfriendly States List
Antonov has also revealed that the United States has not sent any officials requests to be taken off Russia’s list of unfriendly nations.
“The final communiqué of the NATO summit on June 14 called for Russia to cancel the decision to add the United States and the Czech Republic to the list of unfriendly states,” Antonov said. “As far as we understand, this is the official American reaction. We are not aware of any requests to this effect through bilateral channels.”
US Removal From Russia’s Unfriendly States List to Require US Policy Adjustment
Meanwhile, the possible removal of the United States from Russia’s list of unfriendly countries will require an adjustment of the American policy.
“Obviously, a revision of Russian decisions would require an adjustment of American approaches, which have become a generator of instability in bilateral relations. Don’t put the cart in front of the horse,” Antonov said.
“We have given an objective and fair assessment of the US policies that has been pursued towards Russia in all recent years. We do not intend to endure such treatment of ourselves. At the same time, we constantly convey to our colleagues that we are open to constructive cooperation to the extent that the American side is ready for this. How it will respond to this, we will judge by specific cases in the context of realising the understandings reached at the Geneva summit,” the diplomat added.
Moscow Ready to Discuss US Concerns Related to Russia’s New Strategic Systems
Russia is open for any discussions with the United States on arms control, including its new strategic systems, and has no forbidden topics, Antonov told Sputnik.
“Russia is open to discussion on any issues in the field of arms control. There are no taboo topics for us. We are ready to discuss American concerns about our newest strategic systems,” the diplomat said. “However, such a conversation should not become a one-way street. The Americans will also have to listen to our claims and take into account Russian interests in the context of ensuring security. A dialogue will not work without an open, equal exchange of views.”
Russia, US Must Discuss Ways to Ensure Security in Space
The United States and Russia should discuss ways to ensure security in space, and to prevent the deployment of intermediate and short-range ground-based missiles, Antonov told Sputnik.
“It is also important to pay attention to promising technologies that allow for strategic tasks to be resolved without the use of nuclear weapons,” Antonov said. “It is long overdue to discuss anti-missile problems… Other priorities include ensuring security and preventing an arms race in space, and preventing the deployment of intermediate and short-range ground-based missiles in the regions of the world.”
“In the long term, it will not be possible to circumvent the issue of expanding the membership of the arms control agreements. The involvement of Great Britain and France seems to be the highest priority,” he added. “They closely coordinate military nuclear policy with Washington within the NATO alliance. This issue has acquired particular urgency in the light of the recent decision of London to increase its maximum level of nuclear warheads by 40% – up to 260 units.”
Russia, US Need To Engage in Complex Negotiations on Future of Arms Controls
Russia and the United States need to engage in complex talks on the future of arms control, Russia’s Ambassador to the United States told Sputnik.
“So many problems have accumulated in the area of strategic stability over the past decade that it is impossible to address them without systematic expert efforts. Comprehensive bilateral negotiations are needed on the future of arms control,” Antonov said.
Russia-US Security Equation Must Include Entire Spectrum of Strategic Weapons
The security equation that Russia proposes to work out with the United States should involve the entire spectrum of strategic weapons, Antonov said.
“[Russian] President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Foreign Ministry have repeatedly spoken about Russian priorities. And the Americans are also familiar with our proposals… Our proposal on the new security equation is based on taking into account the entire spectrum of nuclear and non-nuclear offensive and defensive weapons. We believe that it is important for the two sides to focus on first strike counterforce capabilities that can reach targets on the territory of the opposite side,” Antonov said.