Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has stated that US actions toward Russia are moving bilateral relations toward a deadlock and Washington is responsible for that.
According to Ryabkov, US sanctions are affecting the Americans themselves in the first place. He went on to say that Moscow has not seen anything from the United States other than signals concerning the intention to normalize relations with Russia. Ryabkov noted, the United States is falling more into sanctions mania, as the country probably has no other levers of foreign policy.
"As of today, about 70 countries exist in the world, whose citizens and organizations are in this or that way subject to American sanctions. This is a problem of global planetary scale — the United States is undermining by its policy the bases of normal interaction," he said.
The deputy foreign minister mentioned the pressure on Moscow and attempts to change the country's policy through sanctions, calling them "regretful" and "concerning." Nevertheless, Moscow would continue to seek a way out of the current deadlock in Russian-US relations, he said.
"We will continue to seek, as far as possible, ways out of the current situation," the diplomat said. "We will try to return the Americans to reality and show that their interests are also suffering from this kind of methods."
Russian Diplomatic Property
Ryabkov has also commented on the seizure of Russian diplomatic property in the US, an issue which dates back to last sanctions imposed by the Barack Obama administration on Moscow. In particular, the sanctions included the closure of two Russian diplomatic compounds in the country and the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.
"Everyone remembers illegal visits to Russian diplomatic and consular institutions, seizures of these institutions… We reserve the right to respond in a mirror-like manner, [but] we do not stoop to such methods and actions, because we just respect international law," Ryabkov told reporters.
Back in December, Russian President Putin has taken a decision not to respond to sanctions imposed by the outgoing US administration and act in accordance with the relations, which would be built with the new US leadership. However, the US has not returned the diplomatic property since then.
In its turn, Washington urged Moscow to close down its consulate general in San Francisco and two other diplomatic entities in New York City and Washington, DC. Days later, the US conducted searches in the buildings of the Russian General Consulate in San Francisco and its trade mission in Washington in a move described by the Russian Foreign Ministry as a violation of international law, including the Vienna convention on diplomatic and consular relations.
Most lately, US authorities removed Russian flags and mishandled diplomatic archives, prompting Moscow's condemnation.
Senate Hearing With Tech Giants
Ryabkov has commented on the recent tech giants testimony under the investigation headed by Counsel Robert Mueller into the alleged ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia, saying that the companies were intimidated by the US authorities and confused in the responses.
"I am surprised at these Internet giants saying one day that, let's say, $5,000 was spent on some political advertising, and the next day they say that 40 million US citizens, US voters turned out to be under the influence of some Russian social and political ads," Ryabkov told reporters.
During the Congress hearing, executives from tech titans Facebook, Google and Twitter testified on alleged Russian meddling through posting dubious advertisements on social media. However, according to Twitter acting general counsel, the number of automated accounts that have been linked to Russia and that have been identified as posting election-related content during the 2016 US presidential campaign is small in comparison to the overall number of accounts on the platform.
According to Ryabkov, these developments may result in these platforms being used as political tools.
“These platforms were created and were developed as something that any person may use for various purposes. The openness of these platforms and their belief in the freedom of speech and free flow of information have been these platforms’ basis, their foundation. At the moment it is being challenged in a way … We are witnessing a downward trajectory now. I believe that if this continues, such platforms risk being used as tools in the domestic and external political struggle. These are very dangerous developments,” Rybkov said while aired by the RT broadcaster.
Sanctions Against Iran
Ryabkov has also mentioned recently expanded sanctions against 41 Iranian individuals and companies, including the air force unit of the Iran's Revolutionary Guards, calling them ineffective and illegal, as they are unilateral.
"Our approach to unilateral sanctions is universal. We consider such practices illegal, contrary to international law and the basic principles of interstate communication," Ryabkov told reporters when asked to comment on sanctions imposed on the IRGC Tuesday.
The statement comes less than a day after the US Treasury Department had announced the extension of sanctions on IRGC, imposed on October 13 over the guards allegedly "supporting terrorism," a claim strongly denied by Tehran. As specified in the published documents by the US government, these sanctions are introduced in the framework of the US work on countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Sanctions were introduced, in particular, against IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari, the drilling company Oriental Oil Kish, Sepanir Oil & Gas Energy Eng. Co. company, as well as one of the largest Iranian companies Tidewater Middle East Co.
According to Ryabkov, the United States is intentionally provoking Iran by escalating sanctions.
“There are no doubts that those in the United States who want to ceaselessly escalate the anti-Iran sanctions in spite of everything, in defiance of common sense and logic of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] are rather strong. We think that the United States intentionally provokes the Iranian side by acting like this,” he told reporters.
According to him, Russia would like to “avoid the situation where the JCPOA is being called into question due to such maneuvers.”
The minister underlined that the existing agreement on the Iran's nuclear program shouldn't be changed. According to Ryabkov, a basic concern now is "to fully preserve what has been achieved."
"I would not say that the US administration is directly threatening to get out of the deal. Strictly speaking, the US administration warns that if it does not achieve its goal in terms of 'improving' the agreement, then options are possible. But in our opinion, no changes, additions, adjustments to the current agreement are possible because it represents a very well-adjusted, delicate balance of interests and compromises," Ryabkov told journalists.
Ryabkov has voiced an opinion that the US would be responsible for the failure of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
"The situation is aggravating, because the mood in the US Congress is very, very anti-Iranian. But ultimately, the responsibility for the hypothetical collapse of the JCPOA will be entirely on the American side. They heard all the assessments from Russia, Iran, European colleagues, China. And they should understand that the consequences of reckless steps in this sphere will be extremely difficult," Ryabkov told journalists.
US President Donald Trump refused to re-certify the JCPOA, which was signed by six nations after years of diplomatic work, accusing the Islamic Republic of violating the spirit of the agreement. Despite the fact that Trump decided not to contest at the international level Tehran's compliance with the deal, he has not excluded the US' possible withdrawal from the deal in case if the agreement is not improved.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has concluded that Moscow expected to discuss the issue during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran
"The conversation will be about international issues, including taking into account the actions of the US administration, which is trying to increase the sanctions pressure both on Russia and Iran."
According to Ryabkov, Russia and Iran need to decrease their dependence on the US dollar, as well as the US banking system. He pointed out that many countries are beginning to understand this.
The minister underlined the Russia's intention to continue cooperating with Iran in sectors of investment and economy, as well as working on the hydrocarbons market.
“We shall continue to develop the economy, task ourselves with infrastructure projects, we shall trade, seek forms for investment cooperation. Work jointly on the global hydrocarbons market and lower the dependence on the US payment system and the dollar,” he said.