MOSCOW, January 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has not received any official notification from the United States confirming its departure from a bilateral group on civil society issues, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.
“American officials told us they have made a decision to end this group’s activity. We first learned about this from public comments,” Lavrov told reporters. He said that Russia learned about the United States’ intention from last week’s comments by US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, instead of being given an official paper elaborating the decision.
In another sign of relations between the two countries souring, Nuland told a news conference on Friday that the move to quit the panel was prompted by what Washington saw as a crackdown on civil society groups by the Russian government. Nuland said that “the working group was not working.”
Lavrov pointed out that the panel was launched by the United States as part of the US-Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission established in 2009 by US President Barack Obama and his then Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, as part of the so-called “reset” effort in US-Russian relations.
“We can’t make them [the US government] preserve this group if they are no longer interested in it,” Lavrov said on Monday.
He suggested that the White House made its decision following Russian Foreign Ministry’s report criticizing human rights abuses in the United States.
“Maybe they think the report was sufficient for them to understand our position,” Lavrov said.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.