Russia’s new ambassador to the United States has had a hard time finding willing lawmakers to meet with on Capitol Hill and blames “Russophobia” for Congressional unwillingness to engage with his country, the ambassador said in new interview.
In an interview with Politico, Anatoly Antonov says he has been disappointed to find so few lawmakers willing to sit down with him, while those who did meet with him were unwilling to publicize the encounters.
“The Congress, overwhelmed by Russophobia, is led by politically biased emotions, rather than a clear-thinking mind,” Antonov said. “We are bluntly told they fear criticism.”
When he does meet with lawmakers, Antonov said, the conversations focus on allegations of Russian election interference in the 2016 election and upcoming 2018 midterms. The Russian government denies these allegations, and Antonov says such talk has stood in the way of discussing cooperation between the two nations.
“All I hear is ‘meddling, interference,’” he said. “I don’t know these words. I want to talk about friendship, cooperation.”
One congressional aide told Politico that the optics of meeting with a Russian diplomat right now in Washington are so bad that any meeting that took place with Antonov would have to be bipartisan.
Attorney General Sessions was attacked for meeting with then-Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 campaign, then failing to disclose those meetings during his confirmation hearing. Sessions denied the meetings awere were improper or related to Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics.
“After what happened to Jeff Sessions , no member wants to be in the press for meeting with the Russian ambassador,” the aide said.
“At least for now, any meeting would have to be bipartisan and publicly acknowledged. And even under those conditions, there’s not much common ground for a fruitful discussion.”