Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Matthew Rojansky, is no longer on the short list of candidates to be Russia director on the National Security Council (NSC), Politico reported citing three anonymous sources. According to the media outlet, several former and present US officials have convinced the White House not to hire Rojansky, purportedly arguing that his appointment will send the wrong signal to Moscow.
The reports of the Kennan Institute director's candidacy also sparked criticism from Kremlin critics, such as the Ukrainian-American organisation and financier Bill Browder, whom Russia wants to arrest because of a case of tax fraud committed in the 2000s. They stressed that the think tank led by Rojansky faced accusations of being an "unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference" by a group of Ukrainian alumni dissatisfied with the institution's stance on Russia and Ukraine.
Rojansky is known for his critical position on the present US foreign policy towards Russia. He argues that the sanctions cycle strategy is ineffective and slams the US fears of Moscow's malign actions in Europe and elsewhere a "Cold War-style paranoia about the Russian bogeyman". He is not suggesting Washington become friends with Kremlin, but instead, cooperate with it where possible and confront Russia only on the issues truly critical to US national security.
Several current and former colleagues of Rojansky, who spoke to Politico on the condition of anonymity, condemned the criticism of him as "unfair" and insisted that attacks against him are based on bias and emotions rather than on a deep understanding of the works he has done about Russia.
"He cares deeply about democracy in Russia and knows the country extremely well […] He would have been an asset on the NSC," one of the sources reportedly said.
The news about Biden considering Rojansky for the post of the Russia director of the NSC first surfaced on news website Axios on 11 April. It happened just days before Biden announced a new set of sanctions against Russia, which targeted diplomats, companies and sovereign debt. The sanctions affected only a primary offering of Russian bonds and did not limit the purchase of sovereign debt on secondary markets.
The POTUS stressed that Washington deliberately chose to limit its measures, which were implemented over Moscow's alleged involvement in the cyber attacks against several government departments and hundreds of American campaigns. Biden has been attempting to get both sides to be less confrontational and try to de-escalate tensions.
Moscow responded to sanctions the next day by targeting the US diplomatic missions in Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow was also imposing only limited measures against the US, which will not affect the American businesses.