Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov has met with just three members of Congress since arriving in Washington last fall, Politico reports.
His only confirmed meetings have been with three Republican senators, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Tennessee’s Bob Corker and Utah’s Orrin Hatch.
As a congressional aide told Politico, “After what happened to [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions, no member wants to be in the press for meeting with the Russian ambassador.” Sessions has been questioned by congressional committees about his meetings with Antonov.
Notwithstanding the cold shoulder, Antanov has engaged in a charm offensive: throwing parties, giving speeches, hosting podcasts and even lowering the Russian flag and the embassy compound after the Parkland, Florida school shootings.
The ambassador told Politico that it is just not a highwater mark in Russian-U.S. relations.
“The Congress, overwhelmed by Russophobia, is led by politically biased emotions, rather than a clear-thinking mind,” he said. “We are bluntly told they fear criticism.”
Antonov says he was expecting a little more engagement from American offficials, especially given his background in the highest echelons of Russian defense and foreign affairs. But he has been disappointed.
“All I hear is ‘meddling, interference,'” Antonov, told Politico. “I don’t know these words. I want to talk about friendship, cooperation.”
Antonov told Politico of a “warm and friendly welcome” from President Donald Trump and at the state department but little has changed policy-wise since the Obama administration in terms of retaining economic sanctions against Russia. Antonov regrets “the constructive attitude of my American colleagues does not turn from words into practice.”