19:06 GMT +320 September 2018
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    A journalist speaks on the phone while Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures answering a question during his annual call-in show in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, June 7, 2018

    'US Threat to Apply Anti-Russian Sanctions to Third Parties May Backfire' – Prof

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    President Putin has wrapped up another one of his Direct Line Q&A sessions, answering dozens of questions on everything from gas prices to Western sanctions. Speaking to Sputnik, political science professor Dr. Nicolai Petro offered his takeaways from the event and the likelihood of the US ever lifting its sanctions against Russia.

    Sputnik: What is your impression of this year's Q&A session?

    Nicolai Petro: It seems to follow along the lines of his previous ones. I'm always impressed at his preparedness, his ability to answer the questions thoroughly. One of the innovations this year that I think was interesting was having governors and ministers directly on line, so that they could answer the questions that he was asked as well to follow up with greater detail.

    One of the things that I think Americans in general don't seem to grasp very well is how much this sort of interaction with people makes Putin a pioneer in what I would call the art of interactive diplomacy. There's really nothing like it that any other political leader does.

    Sputnik: How do you think this event will be covered by the Western media?

    Nicolai Petro: The mainstream media in the West and the United States does not provide the full text, so a lot of the nuances… are lost. But what they do is take certain expressions or phrases that strike them as newsworthy or provocative, something to make hay out of, and they lead with those.

    I wasn't able to listen to everything before this interview, so I didn't hear in the hour and a half I was listening (albeit it was mostly domestic questions he was answering), anything that stood out from his typical perspective that he's given recently to the Austrian media, to the Chinese media, and again now.

    Sputnik: Are you surprised by the focus, by the number of questions that Russians are asking about international politics this year? Is this unusual?

    Nicolai Petro: I wouldn't assume anything else, first of all because this is the head of state, and he is in a position to answer these questions. I also think that the issue of the West's bad relationship with Russia is very thoroughly covered in the Russian press. So people are concerned about where this could lead.

    Sputnik: But doesn't it seem like in the US too that there have been questions about the dangers of a Third World War, with what was going on recently between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump? People were getting a bit nervous at one point.

    Nicolai Petro: I live in a rural part of the United States, and I would say that if any of this strikes a chord with my neighbors, it is a very distant one. The vast majority of people outside a very small coterie of intellectuals who are specifically concerned with foreign policy simply don't have the time, don't have the interest, and would generally assume that the people in government are doing the best they can and leave it at that.

    Sputnik: Judging from the questions you're hearing, how different are US citizens' approaches to government, to international politics than those of Russians? Or do you think they're fairly similar?

    Nicolai Petro: I tend to agree in retrospect with the view that if governments got out of the way, people would get along just fine. So if Americans would just be allowed to conduct whatever business they felt was profitable in any country that they wanted to, then I think that all sorts of corollary issues would recede and we would simply find ways to understand each other and get along based on the mutual profitability of doing so.

    Sputnik: Of course there's been a lot of talk about the current sanctions; Vladimir Putin touched on the harm that the sanctions imposed by some countries have for both sides. Do you think we're seeing any nearing of an end to the sanctions?

    Nicolai Petro: I believe that US policy has put itself in a cul-de-sac from which it has no way out now. The sanctions that until last year were generally enacted by presidential decree have now been made law. As a result, it is simply unrealistic to expect that American sanctions in any foreseeable future  — during my life time, let's say — will be significantly reduced.

    The problem further arises with the extension of American law to third party contracts. In other words, the extent to which the United States desires to apply these sanctions to any third party trade that might involve any usage of American technology, finances, anything that passes through the United States or has some reference point to it — all of these can now be put under sanction as well. There are many reasons not to do so for the United States, because it would backfire very seriously and very quickly isolate the United States on the world arena. But the potential is always there.

    Nicolai Petro is a professor of comparative and international politics at the University of Rhode Island. The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Petro are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Related:

    Highlights of Vladimir Putin's Direct Line Q&A Session
    WATCH: Russian President Putin Held Annual 'Direct Line' Q&A Session
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