- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
Late Monday, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned after inaccurately describing his December conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. That’s prompted some top lawmakers to further question the relationship between the Trump administration and Russia, and left Flynn high and dry.
On Tuesday, with Washington wondering what — and who — comes next for the National Security Council, Russia reacted to Flynn’s resignation with a mix of feigned disinterest and open displeasure.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on Flynn’s resignation. He did note that it is “too early to say” whether the Kremlin still hopes for an improvement in U.S.-Russian relations, given that “Trump’s team has not been shaped yet.”
Other Russian politicians, however, had more to say. Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov tweeted that Flynn resigned not because of a mistake, but because of an aggressive campaign against him. “Paranoia and a witch hunt,” he added. His colleague Konstantin Kosachev posted on Facebook, “Even readiness for dialogue with Russians is perceived by hawks in Washington as thoughtcrime (in the words of immortal George Orwell).” And the chairman of the State Duma’s foreign relations committee, Leonid Slutsky, called Flynn’s resignation a “negative signal” for U.S. Russian relations.
Russian state media was firmer still in its condemnation of Flynn’s self-inflicted ouster. Russian state-sponsored outlet RT published a piece blaming the mainstream American media. Russian news agency RIA Novosti put forth an article extrapolating on WikiLeaks’s explanation — namely, that this is all part of a destabilization campaign conducted among spies, the Democratic Party, and the press.
Russian state-sponsored site Sputnik took a different tack. “Flynn’s resignation will prompt Russia to think twice before trusting Washington and holding confidential talks on sensitive bilateral and international issues,” citing Vladimir Batyuk of the Moscow-based Center for U.S. and Canadian Studies.
In reality, Kislyak was not speaking with “Washington” during his December conversations with Flynn; the Obama administration was still in office. Nevertheless, Batyuk “did not rule out that Flynn’s exit may lead to a situation when the Russian side will be wary of contacts with representatives of the Trump Administration.”
The Kremlin openly cheered Trump’s election victory, hoping for a more constructive relationship than it had with Obama. Flynn’s willingness to work with Moscow made that seem more likely. But with Flynn out, and questions swirling over Trump’s intentions toward Moscow, Russia may end up regretting it.
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