16 April 2013, 13:35

Lists published: Is Magnitsky debate over?

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In Moscow this morning top foreign affair advisors from the U.S. in Russia met to discuss the state of affairs and what each country is hoping for moving forward. Here to look at what's happening regarding bilateral U.S.-Russian relations is Thomas Nichols, he's a Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College.

Welcome, Dr. Nicols!

"Thanks for having me, Andrew!"

So what is the state of the reset?

"It's hard to tell, but it seems to be improving. I think the kind of reset that government wants to achieve and, again, I'm just representing my own views, but I think what the American side wants to achieve is a reset at the very senior level. I think it's the only way to do it - at the level that this meeting is taking place at."

So the fact that this meeting is taking place in Moscow with people such as Sergei Lavrov and Donilon is actually the key to this meeting being meaningful?

"I think it shows seriousness by both sides. When you send the Foreign Minister and you send the President's Top National Security Advisor, I think the meeting itself is a good idea."

One of the big issues from Moscow's point of view seems to be that of non-interference. What type of assurances do you think they're looking for?

"Well, the Russians have always been highly insistent on this. I think that this is kind of a hangover from the Soviet days where this regime was very sensitive to anybody telling them how to conduct their internal affairs. No major country wants to be told that, no country at all wants to be told how to conduct their internal affairs. But we do live in a community of nations. And how each country behaves, affects the perceptions of the policies of other countries. I would argue that the Russians and the Chinese are particularly sensitive to this. And I think that their reaction to American criticism of their policies was pretty strong."

I guess that takes us to the issue of the Magnitsky List. On Friday 18 names were published by the U.S. Treasury Department and then this weekend Moscow in turn published 18 names of people they considered to be American human rights violators. Is this going to be an accelerating issue?

"This is a difficult thing. And I'm not sure it's a good idea for either side to start making black lists of who should be allowed and not allowed into the other country, basing on investigations and matters like that. On the other hand, I think Russians have to be conscious of the fact that whatever happens inside Russia will be publicized. We live in a world of globalized information. Other countries will pay close attention to what happens there. We live in a very tight interconnected world. And so, engaging in what at least looks like human rights violations and then expecting a response from other major countries is unrealistic. The Chinese have this problem all the time. They're constantly surprised that other countries seem to know what's going on inside of China. The days when information could be controlled and cut off and managed, I think, are over. And that makes international relations a little bit more difficult, because things can happen faster than they used to. There's not a lot of time for deliberation about a lot of these things.

I don't think this war of the lists is going to go on. I think both sides have had their say, but who knows? The nature of international communication is such that it could start all over again."

And do you think this has been a real issue for the two governments or is this really an issue for public consumption?

"My person opinion is that this is not a serious issue. Obviously, human rights are serious, but is this something that should dominate Russian-American relations? Probably, not. And I think that it probably won't, either. There're things a lot more important going on, like the fact that there could be a war breaking on the Korean Peninsula."

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