“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.
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.”
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.