February 7, 2020
RBC: How would you assess your appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Russia? Does it mean that the pressure on Russia will increase or is your mission to soften the situation?
Ambassador Sullivan: Thank you, Ilya, it’s a great pleasure to be with you here today and talk about my appointment as ambassador. I was selected by President Trump six months ago, and when I was, he told me that he wanted me to do all I can to work to improve the relationship between the United States and Russia, which has had a rough period particularly over the last six or seven years. So my charge is to do all I can to improve that relationship. There are several areas where we can work and are working cooperatively with the Russian government, on counterterrorism, for example, and some of the regional issues, like DPRK, where we’ve had very good discussions and cooperative work with the Russian government. There are many other areas where we disagree and disagree profoundly. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have – each government has – an obligation to communicate with the other side, and one of my principle goals is to make sure that there is open transparent communication between Moscow and Washington and I’ve pledged that to the Russian government leaders that I’ve met with over the last three weeks. I’ve been here only three weeks. I’ve been granted access to very senior leaders in the government and I’m very pleased by that. I think it’s a good sign for the start of my tenure as ambassador. And I’ve told everyone that I’ve spoken to that among my principle goals is to make sure that there is complete open transparent communication between Washington and Moscow.
RBC: What changes will you make to the political course which was being implemented by former Ambassador Huntsman?
Ambassador Sullivan: Well, it’s hard to improve on what Ambassador Hunstman did. He was a terrific ambassador. Three-time ambassador, actually. He was ambassador as a young man to Singapore, then U.S. Ambassador to China and most recently U.S. Ambassador to Russia. Very experienced, very able. I hope to build on the great work that he did and am looking forward to doing that. I’ve had a number of conversations with him both as he was transitioning out of his post here and since about ways that we in the United States can engage constructively with the Russian government.
RBC: What are the chances that the crisis in the U.S.-Russia relationship, which is called by many people the new cold war, will be resolved before the [presidential] elections?
Ambassador Sullivan: Well, I wouldn’t use that term, but I’ve said previously that I think our relationship at this point has hit about as low a point as it has since the Cold War. My former boss, Secretary Tillerson, came here to Moscow in April of 2017, and said we were at a low ebb in our relationship. And that’s almost three years ago now, and unfortunately I think our relationship has even worsened since then. My goal is to stop the descent in our relationship, work to improve it. I can’t put a timetable on how long it’s going to take, but it needs to start today. We can’t wait for an election in the United States in November of this year or other political events. The need for the United States and Russia to work together cooperatively is imperative today and that’s my priority. So I’ve been working hard since I got here in mid-January on doing just that – working to improve our relationship – and I will do so every day I’m here in this great country.
RBC: Thank you very much.
Ambassador: Thank you. It was a pleasure.