Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed allegations that the U.S.- Russian relations have deteriorated as of late over a range of issues, including Washington’s plans to build missile defense systems near Russian borders.
“I believe that the past few years in the history of U.S.-Russian relations have been the most productive,” Medvedev said in an interview with the Times newspaper in London, where he attended the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on July 27. The Times published the interview on Monday.
“I don’t think that we have entered any ‘new’ period, that Russia has taken a harsher stance toward the United States (as the media sometimes put it), that our priorities have changed and that the ‘reset’ has winded down without any results. This is absolutely wrong,” he said.
He hailed U.S. President Barack Obama for helping Russia enter the World Trade Organization (WTO) after some 18 years of complicated negotiations.
“I will always be grateful to Barack Obama for taking an honest position,” Medvedev said.
“Once, I remember, we were sitting in a car, talking without an interpreter, and he said: ‘You know, I will help you enter the WTO.’ And he did this. Such things cannot be forgotten. This means he keeps his word,” the Russian prime minister said.
Russia officially joined the WTO on July 21, becoming the 154th member of the global trade club when President Vladimir Putin signed the relevant bill into law.
Medvedev admitted that “real differences” still exist between Moscow and Washington on a range of issues, including the U.S. European missile shield plans, and warned that failure to reach an agreement on the issue by 2018 could lead to a new arms race.
Nevertheless, “nothing bad, nothing extraordinary has happened” to Russia’s relations with the United States, and any suggestions about such “changes” are mainly inspired by ideological considerations, he said.
“Everything’s OK,” he added.
Besides differences on the missile defense issue, Russia and the United States have failed to find common ground on Syria, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov frequently arguing over who is to blame for the continuing violence in the Middle Eastern country.
Another major sticking point in bilateral ties is the Magnitsky Act, which is currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress. The bill would impose travel bans and asset freezes on Russian and other foreign officials believed to be responsible for human rights violations.
The bill is named after Russian anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in pre-trial detention at a Moscow prison in November 2009. Officials say Magnitsky failed to receive proper medical treatment and died as a result of complications from untreated pancreatitis and a heart condition.
U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul told the Russian online daily Gazeta.ru last week that the White House considers the bill redundant, as there is already an official list of Russian officials banned from entering the United States because of alleged human rights abuses.