Russia and the United States have found themselves on the threshold of a new cooling of relations. On Saturday, the US State Department will make public a list of officials of the Russian Federation “responsible for violation of human rights.” In response, according to the Kommersant daily, Moscow has already prepared its blacklist of Americans, including its expanded version. The exchange of the lists will take place on the eve of the arrival to Russia of US President’s National Security Advisor Tom Donilon who will pass to RF President Vladimir Putin a personal message from Barack Obama.
No matter what the American ‘Magnitsky list’ happens to be like, its publication will be a serious blow to the relations between the two countries. A source of the Kommersant daily close to the RF presidential administration said: “Once the United States makes public its list, Russia will make public its own.” Moreover, according to him, Moscow has taken measures in case Washington’s list includes more than those 60 names, originally discussed in the US Congress.
Moscow has prepared an answer to Washington, as they say, for all occasions. According to the newspaper, Russia’s list of banned Americans initially included 71 people. However, now, as it became known, Moscow has prepared 33 more names to be included in the register. Thus, Russia’s expanded black list will include 104 Americans.
A Russian diplomatic source told the publication that the issue of the publication of the ‘Magnitsky list’ was discussed at a meeting of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with US Secretary of State John Kerry in London on Wednesday. According to the source, the Russian minister warned the colleague that this could create a very negative background for the visit to Moscow by US Presidential Advisor Tom Donilon, who will arrive in Moscow on April 15.
The fact that Donilon’s mission may coincide with the exchange of the blacklists, threatens to doom it. However, experts do not believe that a new “freezing” of Russian-American relations is inevitable.
“This coincidence can be regarded as an unfortunate incident: the US administration was obviously not planning to synchronise the arrival of Donilon with the publication of the ‘Magnitsky list’ and, apparently, during the consultations in Moscow will try to distance itself from those who lobbied the Congress decision,” Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Andrei Kortunov told the Kommersant daily. “It is more important that the visit of Donilon will be the first attempt to probe Moscow’s position on the most important for the second Obama administration issues – on the search for a compromise on missile defence, on Syria, the preparation of meetings of the RF and US presidents in the UK within the framework of the G8 Summit.”
According to the expert, the efficiency of Donilon’s mission, and therefore the prospect of Russia – United States relations will depend on how the politicians of the two countries distance themselves from the negative background, which will inevitably be created by the exchange of the blacklists.