Just Playing Hardball? Recent Russia Visit Saw Pompeo Cool Down and Scale Back His Rhetoric

- What about Pompeo?

Maria Zakharova, Spokesperson, MFA: You clearly understand and know better than I do that the American political system is based on the concept, at least, it used to be, of checks and balances. The system of checks and balances, the various forms of restrictions that help maintain balance. I believe they're actively using the same concept in their foreign policy. The things we see as controversial don't seem controversial to them. They believe it's a kind of game.


- But does the fact that it was Pompeo and not Bolton means that they've realized that they can't talk to us in a harsh tone?

- I have no idea how they determine who goes where. Sometimes, their logic can be inconceivable.

- As Sergey Lavrov said, we're polite people.

- We believed that since foreign policy is the field of the Foreign Ministry and theirs is called the Department of State, then implementing their foreign policy is the duty of the Secretary of State. We were right to expect him to come. He arrived here and discussed multiple issues. The Finland meeting was an aperitif of sorts. It required some work to result in full-scale talks on a variety of issues. It's not some kind of a thaw, we're not getting closer, as some media agencies called it. It's just establishing contact.

- But Pompeo didn't dare to speak in the same harsh manner he used to when he wasn't in Russia, did he? "Russia must get out of Venezuela!" Did he behave differently?

- I've started with that: The aspects of the US politics we see as controversial don't seem controversial to them. That's part of their approach. First, they play hardball to win over a more lucrative negotiation position. Of course, it's not. Those wonderful and kind people who can talk and know what they talk about…

- Did they take matryoshkas, balalaikas, and ushankas back home?

- There was no reason to take them home this time. They'll get another chance.

- Did you at least establish some kind of dialogue?

- Sure. The thing is that it's not a thaw, not an improvement or some kind of global tectonic shift. We just need to establish a connection. When you call somebody and they don't answer, you realize that the phone line's been cut. The line must be repaired. So I'd say this meeting showed us that there's understanding and there's a specific contact- and connection-establishing process going on.

- Did we use the phone line to ask them about our diplomatic property in America?

- We asked them all the questions. We asked them all the questions.

- Did you ask about Butina?

- We definitely asked them all the questions on the agenda, both in terms of our bilateral relations and foreign relations in general.