05:05 GMT25 July 2021
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    Russia-US relations deteriorated dramatically in the wake of the 2014 Ukraine crisis. Last month, Presidents Putin and Biden held a summit meeting in Geneva to clarify one another's positions and to try to find areas where the two countries might still be able to cooperate.

    US attempts to pressure Moscow into submission are likely to continue, but Russia nevertheless remains ready to try to improve relations with Washington where possible, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov has indicated.

    "It would probably be hasty on my part to say that some cardinal or tectonic shifts in Russian-American relations have already begun," Antonov said, speaking to Russian media on Saturday. The diplomat recalled that it's been 11 days since he's been back in Washington following the Putin-Biden Geneva summit agreement to return ambassadors to their respective postings.

    "We are trying to get to a situation in which it would become difficult to forget what our presidents talked about [in Geneva]. We are trying to implement those practical deeds, those understandings which I feel were demonstrated by our leaders. As far as our side is concerned, we are prepared for this," he said.

    Unfortunately, Antonov said, a bipartisan consensus appears to have formed in Congress to drive a hard line against Russia. This, he said, means that the US policy of trying to pressure Russia, including on the "human rights" issue, will continue.

    "It's obvious to me that the policy of pressuring us will continue. It's obvious to me that the human rights issue will be one of the central irritants in Russian-American relations," the diplomat indicated.

    Antonov added that since returning to Washington, he has requested meetings with several senators and House lawmakers, but has so far been met with "no's" or "impolite silence."

    He also indicated that it has been made clear to him by senior State Department officials that the diplomatic property illegally seized from Russia in 2017 would not be returned. On the topic of a possible prisoner exchange, Antonov said that unfortunately, work in this area has not yet moved into a practical direction.

    Antonov noted that White House officials have indicated repeatedly that the policy of pressuring Russia with sanctions would continue. "At the same time, they have assumed for themselves the right to be the judge, jury and executioner in this illusionary court against Russia. But there are places where gaps [in this policy] have remained, and it is in these lacunae where we are trying to find something positive and to try to move forward on this basis."

    Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden held their first summit meeting on 16 June, coming to an agreement on the need to preserve global strategic stability, returning ambassadors and discussing a broad spectrum of issues ranging from the Arctic and trade to human rights and the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. Both men agreed that the summit had helped the nuclear superpowers set the parameters for relations, although both also realized limitations in what improvements could be made. Commenting on his overall impressions after the summit, Putin said he felt he and Biden "generally spoke the same language, but this does not at all mean that we must look into one another's souls, into one another's eyes and swear in eternal love and friendship."

    At the same time, amid continued political and media pressure on Biden to take a tough position on Russia, Putin expressed hope that the president would be "allowed to work in peace," and his presidency would "not be a repeat of what happened in previous years," a likely reference to the Russiagate conspiracy which hounded Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, throughout his term in office, and allowed hawks in his administration to push him toward enacting hostile policies against Moscow.

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