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Russia Trip: US Senators Testing the Waters Before Potential Trump-Putin Meeting

© Sputnik / Natalia Seliverstova / Go to the photo bankLeft to right: Bell tower of Ivan the Great, building of Senate in Moscow's Kremlin
Left to right: Bell tower of Ivan the Great, building of Senate in Moscow's Kremlin - Sputnik International
US lawmakers are reportedly about to test the waters in Russia while seeking ways to "have a better relationship" with Moscow. However, what could really bring hope for a new détente is a potential Trump-Putin summit in Europe in early July, scholars told Sputnik.

A group of US senators is reportedly going to visit Russia ahead of a possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart, Donald Trump, in Vienna, Austria, in early July.

While the forthcoming visit of the American lawmakers is unlikely to translate into a breakthrough in relations between the two countries, it is important nevertheless, Alexei Arbatov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Center for Global Security, told Sputnik.

"If Russia and the United States do not want to completely part company and then suddenly find themselves in a state of nuclear war, any contacts are welcome," Arbatov said.

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He recalled that previously, Moscow and Washington had maintained a wide range of contacts, including inter-parliamentary, government, business, defense and security, let alone regular top-level negotiations. All these activities have recently been brought to naught, the scholar highlighted.

Alexander Orlov, former Russian diplomat and director of the Institute of International Studies at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), echoes Arbatov: He believes that "contacts are better than a war of words."

"In my opinion, this is an attempt by a certain part of the US establishment to find some ways to establish relations with Russia. Inter-parliamentary ties between the USSR and the United States were preserved even during the Cold War, now they are completely frozen, and it is very important to restore them," Orlov emphasized.

On June 15, The Washington Post reported that US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman was arranging for a delegation of Republican senators, namely, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana and John Hoeven of North Dakota, to visit Moscow. It added that Huntsman "is among the few Trump officials who have actively supported engagement with Russia."

Having confirmed his interest in the upcoming visit, Kennedy told the media outlet that the visit could help understand how Washington can "have a better relationship with Russia."

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He added that the lawmakers would "try to figure out what Russia is thinking. . . what their attitude is [and] to what extent Mr. Putin really speaks for the average Russian."

For its part, The New York Daily News specified that Shelby, Kennedy and Hoeven are "on neither the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee or on the Senate Intelligence Committee that issued a report last month saying Russia tried to influence the 2016 election."

Responding to Sputnik's request, the US Embassy in Russia confirmed the upcoming event and expressed hope that the establishment of an inter-parliamentary dialogue "will serve to the development of Russian-American ties and positively affect the entire complex of our relations."

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Previously, in December 2017, two Republican Senators Ron Johnson and John Barrasso scrapped their trip to Russia after Moscow denied a visa to their Democratic counterpart, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, an ardent proponent of anti-Russian sanctions. As US rejected to grant visa "on a reciprocal basis" to any of the Russians who were under United States sanctions, Shaheen could not join her GOP colleagues, who subsequently decided to cancel the visit.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post also dropped the hint that Donald Trump may meet Vladimir Putin while in Europe for a NATO summit this July.

On June 19, Reuters specified that the Austrian capital, Vienna, is under consideration as the site of an expected summit, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter. The media outlet added that the meeting could take place before a July 11-12 NATO summit in Brussels.

According to Arbatov, the potential Trump-Putin meeting may bring hope for a new thaw and new détente between the countries, "especially if it leads to the signing of some important treaty: For example, on the next stage in the reduction of strategic weapons or on maintaining the agreement on medium-range missiles."

Following US President George W. Bush's decision to pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty on December 13, 2001, the two countries remain at odds on a range of issues concerning medium-range missiles, strategic weapons and the deployment of the US missile defense shield in Europe in close proximity to Russia's borders.

The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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