The Cable

Kremlin Spokesperson: U.S. and Russia “Don’t Communicate With One Another”

Dmitri Peskov characterizes communications as "frozen."

peskov

Communication channels between the White House and the Kremlin are frozen, according to Russian authorities.

On Wednesday, the RIA news agency quoted Dmitri Peskov, Kremlin spokesperson and husband of the ice dancer who recently performed in a Holocaust concentration camp uniform, as saying, “Almost every level of dialogue with the United States is frozen. We don’t communicate with one another, or [if we do] we do so minimally.”

His comments follow U.S. intelligence officials’ accusing Russia — and perhaps Russian President Vladimir Putin himself — of being behind email hacks and leaks that took place over the course of the American presidential election, arguably to the detriment of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. So, too, do they follow U.S. President Barack Obama’s final annual press conference last week, during which he spoke of Russia’s cyber meddling and warned Moscow, “We can do stuff to you.”

Peskov’s comments also come a day after the Russian, Turkish, and Iranian foreign ministers met in Moscow to discuss Syria. Notably, this was the day after the Russian ambassador was assassinated in Ankara (some Russian officials have blamed the United States for the incident). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was notably absent.

Peskov added that the Kremlin did not expect U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to immediately reject NATO enlargement. Some might suggest that these comments were aimed at simultaneously maintaining a siege mentality in Russia while inviting the incoming administration to improve relations.

“The Kremlin is signaling that they would like to restart dialogue with Washington in the new Trump administration,” noted Agnia Grigas, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, “but they would like Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria to go unnoticed.”

Regardless of the intended impact of the statement, the reality remains that the frozen communications conflict is a departure from what was. Since the end of the Cold War the 25th anniversary of which is at the end of this month the United States and Russia have communicated in some areas even when things weren’t going well in others. For example, even when diplomatic ties were unraveling over crises in Ukraine and Syria, the two countries did not freeze over communications with respect to the Arctic Circle, and were strong partners in negotiating the Iran nuclear deal.

Peskov also said Kremlin officials are too busy with “work and with projects” to consider who is running for president in 2018.

Though opposition leader Alexei Navalny has already thrown his hat into the ring, many expect Putin to be re-elected. He has not yet announced his candidacy.

Photo credit: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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