04:10 GMT28 January 2020
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    Carter Page's December trip to Moscow has prompted a lively debate about the genuine purpose of the visit of US President-elect Donald Trump's former foreign policy advisor to Russia. Page's major goals are to test the water and, possibly, to start building bridges, Russian political analyst Dmitry Abzalov told Radio Sputnik.

    Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to US President-elect Donald Trump's campaign, came to Moscow to test the water and, probably, build bridges between the US and Russia ahead of Trump's inauguration, Russian political analyst Dmitry Abzalov of the Center for Strategic Communications told Radio Sputnik.

    "I believe that the major purpose of [Page's] visit is to test the water so that he could act then as an intermediary," Abzalov suggested adding that Page's visit indicates the Trump team's interest in economic and political cooperation with their Russian counterparts.

    Still, it is unlikely that Page is pursuing a goal of a certain kind in Russia, Abzalov believes.

    "Before the inauguration Trump has a few instruments of influence," the Russian analyst highlighted, "therefore he is using his advisers and partners. I believe that one of [Page's] goals is to build bridges without leaving Trump open [to criticism]."

    In his Thursday interview with Sputnik Page specified that he had arrived in Moscow to hold several meetings with businessmen and "thought leaders."

    "I will be meeting with business leaders and thought leaders," Page emphasized.

    It is known that Page, an American oil industry consultant, maintained ties with Russia's Gazprom in the 2000s.

    In July, Page delivered a lecture in Moscow at the invitation of the New Economic School, prompting a storm of criticism from Hillary Clinton's campaign. Still, contrary to numerous allegations, Page didn't hold meetings with Russian officials.

    Likewise, in December he is unlikely to hold any top-level talks, according to Abzalov.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov signaled Thursday that the ministry has no plans to meet with Carter Page.

    "No, I have no comments on this. As of this morning, there are no plans to hold meetings in the foreign ministry," Ryabkov told reporters.

    For his part, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that there are no plans for a meeting of Russian presidential administration officials with Trump's former foreign policy adviser.

    "No, frankly speaking, we have had no contacts… and have no such plans," Peskov remarked.

    The crux of the matter is that Page's contacts with Russia's senior officials may harm Trump's interests, Abzalov believes.

    He highlighted that Trump's nominees have yet to be approved by the US Congress.

    Page's negotiations with high-ranking Russian officials would have attracted a lot of attention from both Trump's supporters and antagonists, the Russian analyst stressed, adding that it would have hardly played into Trump's hands.

    "It would be reckless for [Page] to meet, for instance, with [Russian] parties' leaders before [Trump's] inauguration. It is believed that it's against the rules set by the US State Department and it may also trigger tensions with the Congress. But if [he meets] with some thought leaders there won't be any problems," Abzalov assumed.

    At the same time, the Russian analyst continued, Page could meet with Trump's former business partners in Russia. This circle includes businessmen involved in construction and development.

    "Let me remind you that the major economic direction Trump has chosen is to support machine-building enterprises, real sector and raw materials… It is quite possible that meetings with [Russia's] fuel and wnergy complex's [representatives] are on Page's agenda," Abzalov suggested, adding that Trump's ex-adviser may also test the water in Russia's companies related to Rostec Corporation.

    According to the Russian analyst, Page's visit to Moscow resembles nothing so much as the so-called "public diplomacy" — communication and relationship building with foreign publics for the purpose of establishing a multi-level dialogue.

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    Tags:
    people's diplomacy, US foreign policy, diplomacy, cooperation, 2016 US Presidential election, United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation (Rostec), Gazprom, US Congress, Carter Page, Donald Trump, Dmitry Peskov, Sergei Ryabkov, United States, Russia
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