"This is such a naive, I must be polite, nonsense"
An interesting insight into the Russiagate clown show from one of its star personalities, the jovial and widely-liked Sergey Kislyak, the spitting image of a Russian teddy-bear.
Here is an extended 20 minute segment on Russia's leading daily talk show, 60 minutes, where he gives his take on Russiagate. Kislyak only speaks with approval from the Kremlin - he is still very much part of the foreign policy team, so what he says is indicative of how Putin, Lavrov and Co. see things.
Full transcript follows below, exclusively on Russia Insider - you won't find this original material anywhere else.
The hosts lay it on thick making fun of the psychotic witch hunt in the US, and everyone has a good laugh.
Perhaps the most important take-away - the Russians view the US like a child having a temper tantrum, or perhaps, a psychotic fit, and that they are determined to be the adults in the situation, and keep the door open for constructive talk, if and when the US comes to its senses. Meanwhile, belligerent US sabre-rattling is worrisome - how could it not be?
The show starts out with the hosts ridiculing the sex abuse witch hunt in the US, finding that bizarre and preposterous too.
It seems that the US is making itself the butt of a lot of jokes lately, and nowhere more so than among Russians, famous for their wit and humor.
Today in our studio we have a very special guest, who many are sure is responsible for this boiling over in Washington. Sergey Kislyak, we'll soon get to this.
But before that we'll talk about what difficulties are encountered by regular US Congressmen, they don't have it easy. Or more precisely it's not easy for Congresswomen, it turns out over the past few years, the Congress has paid more than $15 million to compensate women who were victims of harassment right inside the walls of the Capitol building.
Simply for these Congresswomen to stay quiet, not to spread the news of harassment outside, but they can't stay quiet any longer.
"It sort of happened over, over, and over until I finally said enough, it shouldn't be like this, it's not OK, it's not cool.
Such harasser propositions such as "Will you be a good girl?", display of genitals, and groping intimate body parts within the Senate walls.
He's chasing me around the table, trying to grab me.
Chief of Staff, grabbed my face, kissed me, and shoved his tongue into my mouth.
I had a colleague look at me and say: Those are great birthing hips."
But this is not a laughing matter for Congresswomen and for Congressmen too.
On top of that there's a secret list of about 50 most dangerous Congress members which women should stay away from, but for the new Capitol Hill workers, there are special trainings, how not to become a victim of harassment.
This seems like a hopeless situation, these are elected officials, but if each will be tried then the Congress' work will come to a standstill.
And good riddance, today Russia replied to the US. The promised tit-for-tat measures against the US media in Russia, were taken by the Duma in the final 3rd reading, and as we said, without exaggeration we have a unique guest today.
Sergey Kislyak, the legendary Russian Ambassador to the US, who, if the US media is to be believed, is personally responsible for Donald Trump being the US President, we are happy with this, Sergey Ivanovich!
You left the US on July 27, almost half a year ago, and here's what the Congress was doing at night, you left but your legacy remained, let's watch.
Ted Lieu, Congressman:
"So last year, how many times did you speak with the Russian representative Sergey Kislyak? I just need a number."
"All my international meetings?"
"No, only the meetings with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, how many meetings that year?"
"I spoke at the Republican Convention, when I left the stage many people were there, and we met for a few seconds. And a few month later in September I had a reception, but I met with 25 more Ambassadors besides him."
"You said under oath today that the meeting with Ambassador Kislyak lasted about an hour, that's pretty long. Was it more than 50 minutes?"
"Did you discuss campaign related items, such as Ukraine, with the Ambassador?"
"Well, that's not campaign related. Yes we discussed Ukraine, but that's because the day before, Ambassador of Ukraine was in my office, who was stating his arguments against Russia. And I raised the present question before Kislyak, his reply was classic: We did nothing wrong, Ukraine did everything wrong."
"You did have communications with the Russians, yes or not?"
"I had a meeting with the Russian Ambassador."
Let's remind the viewers that this is Jeff Sessions, Attorney General.
And out of curiosity, did your meeting last longer than 50 minutes?
You know, we have rules, we don't talk about our meetings, and not because we're hiding something but more out of respect for our connections, because it's up to them what they want to tell or not.
I will say that not in any meetings, neither with Sessions nor with anyone else, did we use any methods or arguments which I couldn't talk about publicly, but regarding our contacts, there are strict diplomatic rules.
But what went on yesterday, I saw that part at night, I was surprised and had a deja vu, because I already saw this in the Senate hearings. The questions are exactly the same, there's nothing new.
But most importantly, now it's not about us, or about me, or about our contacts, this is a war between the President's opponents and the President, and everyone around him.
Sergey Ivanovich, now that you are in Russia, tell us honestly how did you manage to do all this really?
How we were able to elect a new President for the US, and do you recall the day when you woke up and suddenly understood: "I'm toxic," and so now are we also infected?
I like your program because there is lots of humor.
The state of politics right now is such, that one can't do without irony.
You understand the thing is, all the conversations are about us electing the President. That we helped him in the US.
This is such a naive, I must be polite, nonsense that sometimes you listen to all this, and wonder if this is going on in the US, the country that is proud of its democratic traditions, of the strength as a paragon of democracy.
This is all very surprising, how low the political life has sunk in the US. It's toxic for them, I would say it's going through a period of unhealthy change to a new power landscape in the country, and this unhealthiness affects their relations with us very strongly.
Today, when you keep abreast of all this you understand how easily within the political upheavals and debates, the US Congressmen and political elites are refusing positive relations with us, how Russia and relations with it are becoming a bargaining chip, if not an instrument of inter-party and inter-group fighting in the US.
And so all of this is very sad, because the end result is a collapse in our relations to the level we probably haven't seen since the Cold War.
Both host simultaneously:
Is it too late?
I don't know, because...well look at what the Americans are doing, and with the President, which some argue we helped to win. The current administration continued what the last one started.
At their final stage, when suddenly the US discovered that Russia was a country that could stand up for its interests, and when it was necessary it would do so, a realization came, if not a fear, that if Russia wasn't stopped, I'm not speaking of us, but how they perceive us, then what would come next?
What would happen to the US exceptionalism and leadership?
And this is what was, and remains the main problem in our relations, everything else is secondary.
As a result, even under Obama, a view was approved, and not just approved but incorporated, of a new deterrence of Russia, but from what? From Russia believing that it can do a lot.
Deterrence which appears to be composed of 3 simple parts: economic deception - sanctions. Deployment of additional powers near our borders, and a massive propaganda campaign in the country.
Including with the purpose of undermining the internal political atmosphere in Russia.
So it turns out under Bush, because the ABM the system was being planned back then.
But if we go back for a second to that moment, when we became toxic, when Russia became toxic, do you recall it?
Maybe some article, maybe someone introduced the term, what happened?
You know, Russia became toxic in their political life when they started scaring themselves with Russia.
It appears to have started with a Washington Post article saying that I spoke on the phone with the National Security Advisor, of the then President-elect Trump.
But, so what? Which serious diplomat didn't try to establish contacts with a new President's team? This is standard diplomatic work.
But it was presented, all of this was presented as part of a sensational idea that went on, and it was followed by many speculations, scares, made up stories, a lot of falsehood, and it continues to live on.
And it was caught on regarding what I was speaking about, war between Democrats and Republicans, part of Republicans headed by their President, liberal press versus the White House, and in this toxic atmosphere, they made us toxic.
Sergey Ivanovich I think you noticed that our wish to answer the Americans is getting stronger. We expelled their diplomats, that was our reply, today there are retaliatory sanctions...
It was a major reply.
Not sanctions, it's wrong to call it sanctions, our tit-for-tat reply to US Dep. of Justice.
What's the logic of building up Russian-US relations, we'll never become friends will we be braver?
Or why is it that we always want to, but they always step back?
As if they do a lot, but we do little in return. I have this impression.
Americans have an expression, that someone in the neighborhood has to be the adult. The stakes are too high to give in to provocations from the US side.
But what happened with the flag is horrible.
It was an insult, and I don't think we'll forget it. And there'll be opportunities to remind the US about this.
It's not necessary to do it immediately and in the same way, I don't think we need to sink to that level.
But we, are a great country. A country which understands its own responsibility in the world. Understands that a lot can be accomplished together, not for the US, but for us and for international stability.
Therefore, the extent to which they are ready to work on issues in our interest, we're holding the doors and will keep them open.
But we'll reply to insults. What was passed today in the Duma, I think will pass next week in the Federal Council. It's a tit-for-tat reply. It's forced, because it's not possible not to reply to such disrespect.
But we didn't come up with this, and I think there's no reason for us to initiate such things in the future.
Furthermore, note that America's actions not only towards Russia but in many areas increasingly push the US away from other countries.
Do you recall the words that Russia will be isolated, but now you start to think...
We remember the gas station, and our economy, torn to shreds, we remember everything.
We remember everything, that's right, and we'll continue to remember.
If it's not difficult can you list those with whom you met and spoke on the phone so that we know who will soon be put in jail, or at least be summoned for questioning? Flint, Sessions, who else?
There are 2 problems here. First, I'll never do this, and second, the list will be so long that I won't be able to tell you in 20 minutes.
Let's look at the photos we have, here's one, will they get to him? -To Secretary of State? -Yes, to Tillerson.
Here's another great photo, Lavrov after the talks with Tillerson, you're already at a meeting with President Trump.
The best picture is when Trump points at you with his finger, we don't do this, but Americans do it, we won't condemn them for this, - It was without malice.
But tell us please what was Trump saying that it was so funny?
I won't say but it was clever.
Yes, clever. But what about the mood, Huntsman has recently said that we all smile here, that he has friendly meetings. Trump says that he wants to normalize relations, but in politics everything is the other way around.
This great mood, will it ever encourage a real improvement of relations?
Or will it remain the same, shaking hands, smiling, but in the end nothing changes?
I'm afraid that it won't change anytime soon, because we shouldn't judge by the smiles.
Mr. Huntsman, he's a charming person, experienced Ambassador, he's a good statesman on the US scale, and he knows how to do his job. And he does it right, he makes contacts in the country he's posted in, that's the work of every Ambassador. He establishes contacts, let me stress, that's the work of every Ambassador.
And also of the Russian one to Washington, it's my work, and my successor's Anatoliy Antonov. It's normal. The question is, what's behind all this?
Behind the polite smiles that we see and hear now on the screens I don't see an actual change, the sanctions law was signed by the President. It was adopted almost unanimously in the Senate.
The military build-up is underway. Today the new budget has been approved to allocate $4.6 billion I quote, "to help or strengthen Western armed forces in the European theater." Against whom?
All this is today's reality. And we need to look not only at the smiles, but at what's behind them.
But the fact that people can smile, at least creates a possibility of a normal conversation, and later we'll see.
We have little time left. What could cooperation consist in? Syria, North Korea, or Ukraine? Where are any opportunities? We're ready in all the places.
We are, but are they? We'll see, but there are difficulties in Syria. Much of what the US is doing is still unclear. Or maybe it's clear and thus disappointing. Because a lot has been done to break ISIS.
It's practically broken, in Syria, at least.
At least in Syria, but pockets are left, pockets which sometimes hide behind the Americans, pockets of bandits which afterwards begin to respond to the Syrian government forces.
North Korea is, of course, a difficult problem, but it doesn't have any but a diplomatic solution. And everyone understands this, despite all the bravado and loud threatening statements. Therefore negotiations will come, and all sides must take part in them. Russia may also play a very serious role here.
Ukraine. We have a great interest that a reasonable order would resume. But our American friends, they are so stuck on the idea of covering the Ukrainian government in all its actions including those that go against the Minsk Agreements, or blocking their implementation, that no quick solution is visible, but we still must talk with the Americans. Although our main partners in the West are the Minsk Agreements participants.
Thank you so much for coming.
Thank you for inviting me.
Senator, Russian Ambassador to the US, thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you, now we're also officially toxic. And through shaking hands we know Donald Trump himself.
You're watching 60 Minutes, and this is the legendary Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak. We'll return soon, thank you.
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