10:46 GMT09 March 2021
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    Former US ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering said that Russia and the United States can return to better relations, addressing key issues, raised during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s morning press conference.

    WASHINGTON, December 19 (Sputnik) — Russia and the United States can return to better relations, former US ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering told Sputnik News Agency.

    “We [the United States and Russia] have had good relations in the past,” Pickering said Thursday in addressing key issues, raised during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s morning press conference.

    “If we work on Ukraine — building [its] economy and fair treatment of all citizens, and another reduction [in] nukes [nuclear weapons], plus real cooperation on BMD [ballistic missile defense], it can happen again,” the former ambassador added.

    During the Thursday press conference, President Putin emphasized the right of the people of Novorossiya “to decide their own fate,” and further emphasized his strong belief that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is committed to resolving the crisis in Ukraine.

    Pickering affirmed that these remarks by Putin, and similar remarks from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, indicate a willingness by Russia to stabilize and improve the situation in Ukraine. The former ambassador sketched out other signs of progress as “Lavrov [being] more pliable” and the Minsk “ceasefire being kept.”

    Putin’s statements on Thursday that Ukraine should remain as one entity also “fits with Lavrov that autonomy or federation [is] up to the Ukrainian people to decide,” Pickering added.

    At the same time, Pickering did not find President Putin’s criticism of the West as an imperialist power compelling. Putin argues “not very persuasively” that “US bases, budgets and ABM cancellation [US withdrawal from Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002] all point to imperial aspirations,” the former diplomat said.

    Pickering served as US ambassador to Russia from 1993 until 1996 under the Bill Clinton administration. Following the eruption of the 2013 crisis in Ukraine, he has been outspoken on the importance of maintaining open channels of dialogue between the US and Russian leadership.


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