Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has isolated almost all things Russian around the world. That includes the country’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov.
The diplomat, in an exclusive interview with Politico, says he cannot get White House or State Department officials to agree to meet with him and that the cold shoulders extend up and down “Embassy Row” in Washington, D.C.
Antonov arrived in the nation’s capital in 2017 amid the growing controversy over allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. “Antonov is considered a hardliner in the Russian system,” Politico writes, “and his long experience includes negotiating nuclear arms treaties. Serving as ambassador to Washington may prove the most thankless task he’s ever had.”
He calls the current state of U.S.-Russia relations a “blockade.” “When I came to Washington, my idea was to use the word ‘improvement’” to describe his goals for the relationship, Antonov said. “Now I prefer to use the word ‘stabilization.’”
Antonov, who says he hasn’t spoken to Putin since he left for Washington, says relations between the two countries cannot remain in their current, frozen state.
“We are doomed to cooperate on various issues,” Antonov said. “It’s impossible to imagine even under such circumstances that problems of strategic stability, climate change, coronavirus, fighting against terrorism, fighting against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction could be solved without active engagement of the United States and Russia.”
The ambassador dutifully follows the Kremlin’s talking points and rejects the notion that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a failure. He is rueful about what he sees as an erosion of Russian influence in the post-Soviet Union world and says his country simply is trying to recalibrate international relationships. “It’s a very narrow approach to say the ‘Russian invasion of Ukraine,’” Antonov told Politico. “We are talking about changing the world order that was created by the United States, by NATO countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.”
When a reporter suggested that perhaps his “current lack of popularity in Washington is due to his unwillingness to acknowledge the realities about what Russia is doing to Ukraine, Antonov refers to the adage: ‘Every coin has two sides.’ In other words, he has his own facts he’d like Americans to consider.”