TALLINN - Russia is not expected to make concessions to the new administration of the United States, but Moscow is interested in restoring communication lines, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, Andrey Kortunov, said in an interview with BNS.
"I do not think that the Kremlin has an appetite for concessions to the new US administration, but there is an apparent interest in trying to improve the badly damaged relationship," Kortunov, who will participate in the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn at the middle of May, said.
"At least, Moscow hopes to restore communication lines to Washington that are either cut or blocked today," the expert said.
According to Kortunov one of the main accomplishments of Secretary Rex Tillerson's recent trip to Russia was the decision to put together a bilateral task force to do a thorough review of common, overlapping and diverging US and Russian interests.
Kortunov expressed hope that the forthcoming meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump will allow the two countries to turn the page and to start a new chapter in US-Russian relations, the negative inertia on both sides notwithstanding.
Kortunov told BNS that there are three urgent tasks that the two countries have to address together. "First, to preserve the strategic arms control regime, namely – to extend the New START Agreement and to secure the continuous implementation INF Treaty. Second, to work together on dangerous regional problems – such as Afghanistan, North Korea or Libya and, hopefully, Syria as well. Third, to explore ways for collaborating on fighting against international terrorism on the global scale," he said, adding that each of the tasks requires significant political investments from both sides which cannot be taken for granted.
This year's Lennart Meri Conference, entitled "Darkest Just Before the Dawn?: The War on Trust and How To Win It", will take place from May 12 to 14. The conference will consider the severe challenges facing the West and seek to identify the opportunities that may arise in these bleakest moments and will bring to Estonia EU high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, among others.
Among the speakers who will help find solutions to strategic challenges the West is facing at the Lennart Meri Conference are Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, EU high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini, Italy's former Prime Minister Enrico Letta, Italy's European Affairs Minister Sandro Gozi, Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis, Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller and India's former Foreign Minister Kanwal Sibal.
In addition to politicians and think tank representatives, the list of participants includes civil society activists from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Leading journalists active on social media, Michael Weiss and Ahmed Rashid, will help to give meaning to the topics of a post-truth era and information warfare. Stephen E. Biegun, corporate officer and vice president of International Governmental Affairs for Ford Motor Company, and writer and journalist Sarah Kendzior will be among the speakers to speak about the foreign policy of the new US administration. Other topics to be discussed include the future of the European Union, the impact of populism on democracy, Russia's growing militancy in the information space and cyberspace, the conflict in Syria, China's growing influence -- the topics that demand not only answers but also fundamental readjustment and changes in the present world order.
The conference is to kick off on May 12 at 4:30 p.m. at Radisson Blu Sky Hotel in downtown Tallinn and is to end on the afternoon of May 14. The discussions will be streamed live on the website of the event.
The conference is organized by the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) and the Lennart Meri European Foundation. The conference's media partner is BNS. The organization of the conference is supported by the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elering, Wihuri, NATO, Milrem, BAE Systems, Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Defendec, and Hanwha.
The Lennart Meri Conference is named after Lennart Meri, who was the president of Estonia between 1992 and 2001. The first Lennart Meri Conference was held in Tallinn in March 2007.