Today, The Washington Post published an article on contacts between a member of Donald Trump’s campaign headquarters and the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).
While writing the article, The Washington Post journalist contacted RIAC program director Ivan Timofeev. The WP’s editorial board received a detailed commentary on the subject. Unfortunately, a significant part of Ivan Timofeev’s comments were not reflected in the final article. Essentially, the article adapted them in such a way so as to make them fit the mantra of “Russian meddling.” Given today’s situation when one conspiracy theory is rapidly followed by another, clear and unbiased work with facts is a must. This is why we deem it necessary to comment on the article by mentioning, among other things, the comments that have been omitted by The Washington Post.
1) George Papadopoulos, a member of Mr. Trump’s campaign headquarters, did contact the Russian International Affairs Council in the spring of 2016. The contact came in the form of unofficial emails to which RIAC program director Ivan Timofeev responded.
2) Mr. Papadopoulos put forth the idea of a possible visit to Russia by Mr. Trump or his team members. Given the RIAC’s established practice of hosting public meetings with prominent politicians and public figures from the U.S. and other countries, the U.S. initiative was a matter of routine for the Council. During his tenure as the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who was also mentioned in the WP’s article, had been a RIAC speaker as well.
3) In response to Mr. Papadopoulos’s inquiry, the RIAC requested an official inquiry concerning Mr. Trump or his team members’ possible visit. Making an issue official is an effective way to verify how serious the initiative is and to make it clear and transparent. It is particularly relevant with regard to an election campaign candidate or a possible meeting between Americans and members of Russian ministries and agencies that often participate in the RIAC’s events and welcome any forms of dialogue with key international partners. The RIAC also proceeded from their understanding of U.S. political traditions and culture and U.S. legislation, which limit foreign contacts among election candidates. This is why, while expressing its readiness to promote a possible dialogue, the RIAC insisted on an official inquiry from the U.S.
4) The RIAC received no official inquiry or request from Mr. Trump’s campaign headquarters. Therefore, the RIAC did not consider the issue of a possible visit to Russia by Mr. Trump or one of his team members or a meeting with him abroad.
5) The RIAC highly values the partnership it has with Russian federal ministries and agencies, the parliament, and the regional authorities. We value the demand among the Russian political community for the RIAC’s activities, which aim to establish a constructive dialogue with foreign politicians, public figures, business, and civic society. At the same time, the Council is an independent non-commercial organization. We consider idle speculation on any governmental “directives” concerning Mr. Trump or other American or foreign politicians to be unacceptable, just like any American research institute or “think tank” would consider them insulting.
6) The RIAC is open for contacts with any U.S. partners regardless of their party affiliation. Given the full-blown crisis in Russian-U.S. relations, we believe it is of utmost importance to maintain contacts between Russian and American professionals at the track one and a half level (prominent scientists and scholars, businesspersons, retired and working politicians). We have always considered and consider this work a priority for the RIAC with respect to the U.S. and other countries. A joint Russia-U.S. report on the future of bilateral relations published in 2017 and prepared by the RIAC jointly with the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) represents an important achievement in this area.
7) We understand that the media wants to further exacerbate this issue. They have to survive and compete for readers and advertisers. However, we believe that their work should be based on high professional standards. We hope for constructive and open cooperation with media outlets that share the principles of objectivity and impartiality.